Well, this weekend’s show was an interesting experience in a lot of ways, positive, neutral and negative.
First, the positive, the Hawker Siddeley Commuter Cars in HO Scale are the first 3D printed model railroad item I have designed that I can honestly say anyone else has expressed any level of interest in. I had a lot of people asking when it would be available this past weekend at the Brampton Model Railway Show. I’m very happy that people are excited by the prospect that the car could become a reality for them and their layout, and that I could potentially help with that. That certainly gives me a lot of motivation to keep working and push them forward to a point where others can buy them.
The Toronto Railway Museum Display at the Brampton Model Railway Show, you can see the GO car on the right in the Railway Village diorama
The neutral, is the news that it likely will be at least a year (and possibly more, I couldn’t even begin to commit to a date) before I am in any position to consider selling them, either via Shapeways or some other means (i.e. using the 3D print as a master for a Resin Kit). There are plenty of issues and hurdles for me to overcome before I would want to sell this to anyone, as it is not a beginners level build (nothing I design is, there are lots of things in my Shapeways account that aren’t for sale as I wanted them, and decided that the likelihood of failure for purchasers assembling them who didn’t understand what I’ve done was far too high. And, I just don’t have the time to write/prepare detailed instructions for every kit/model I design or offer ongoing customer support). My willingness to spend money on parts or bits and pieces for a project I really want is likely a lot higher than someone who wants single level GO cars to run on their layout and to obtain them relatively easily.
At a high level, the following issues need to be tackled to get anywhere with making this car available in the GO Transit/AMT versions (never mind those asking for the modified Ontario Northland versions):
- Availability of Decals – Need to look at working with a produced (likely Highball who already does GO decals) to produce a custom set for the cars)
- Availability of Wheels – The cars have 30″ Diameter wheels. The first source I have tried are from Cal-Scale, but their website says they are being discontinued when sold out. The sets I got are also not great rollers, they aren’t particularly true and they don’t have bearings to help them roll. I may have to make a compromise and design for 33″ wheelsets which are a bit more readily available.
- Availability of detail parts. If people are going to want to buy these, I need to make sure a reliable source of castings for the bell and horns are out there for them to buy.
- My ability to design inside bearing trucks that will function as something other than sleds (i.e. accept the axles and roll), and be easy for end users. My first attempt would win the gold medal for lousy HO Scale inside bearing trucks from the Athearn BiLevels and Rapido LRC Coaches that currently are the owners of that dubious honour.
- Corrections to the design for things that didn’t work as planned, or where I made errors in the CAD work creating the 3D model (more on this in a bit).
- Further design on the CAD for lighting. The first cab car shell has LED sized openings in the headlights, and means to light the numberboards, but I haven’t put a lot of thought beyond that into designing to hide wiring, or provide for electrical pickup.
- Windows, right now, when I do glaze the car, the glass won’t be close to flush with the body side. The ability to notch inside the body is limited by the requirements for minimum thickness for Shapeways to print. The glass should look about flush with the aluminum sides with the gasket slightly raised, right now, the window will look offset into the car using styrene sheet to create the glazing.
So as you can see, there is a fair bit of work and consideration to do, all of this potentially adds cost to a project that is already in my mind, too expensive to ever sell. I don’t see people lining up to spend $300+US on an unfinished 3D printed kit designed by an amateur.
And now, the negative. Feedback is a good thing. Getting it is something I appreciate from my friends and fellow modellers on projects, but, there is a way to provide feedback. And it isn’t how people appear to think its appropriate to provide feedback on a model. The worst part is, I’m literally talking about one single interaction on Saturday that just left me going do I even want to keep designing my own parts and models and sharing them with anyone? Do I care if any of my work can help the community of model railroaders I am proud to be a part of? It took me nearly 20 years to be willing to take any model I built anywhere and show it to others whose work I’ve seen and hold to high esteem for fear of rejection or unkind criticism. I never thought anything I built was worthy of anyone else’s attention. It took me a long time to get over that. On Saturday, even as he said how much he wanted to have single level GO cars, his comments abruptly changed to but you’re model isn’t right and you’ve got the windows all wrong on the side of the car and I know that just from a quick look at your model. As the conversation was happening Saturday, my emotions went on a roller coaster ride…
- Defiance – No the windows aren’t too square, I measured and had pictures and blueprints….
- Consideration – ok, maybe he’s right, let me look at the pictures on the museum slideshow when he’s gone and compare to the model, don’t blow your top at him, listen then think about it
- Frustration – OK, the windows aren’t round enough, not a big deal, that won’t take me more than an hour or two in the 3D model to fix, but man was he ever making me feel tiny they way the feedback was delivered.
- Anger – I am really PO’d about this. Is this really how we treat manufacturers of things we want? No one has ever tried as far as I am aware to do this car and the response is to belittle it on something identified as a prototype? It’s not like I’m advertising the car with the windows wrong for sale, it was literally a first prototype to show it is possibly coming.
- Calming – whatever, you know what, i’m upset, but my model is going to be better for him catching the error on the windows. I’ll get it fixed and keep plugging away!
As my emotions returned to a more balanced level, all I could think of was I had just received the real world equivalent of this…
Over the years, I have made some very good friends in this hobby, some of whom work for manufacturers. I don’t know how they do it when they go to a show and announce a product and scores of people froth at them with varying degrees of politeness. I was put off by a single interaction. I’m sure they come to develop thick skins and get used to it, but it was a frustratingly new experience for me.
The good news is, as I suspected, it only took me a couple of hours over my lunches on Monday and Tuesday to revise the windows. I’ve gone through the 3D models for the four versions of the car (As Built Cab & Coach, AMT Modified Cab & Coach) and corrected the side windows on them all.
The actual preserved Coach; A render of the first version sent to print; the first print; and, the revised with more rounded windows. The difference is noticeable on the top and bottom, but it’s subtle, almost imperceptible, but the modelled radius was closer to 3″ when it should be 9″ from measuring on the actual car (and even having done this revision from my notes, I intend to go down and re-measure again to be triple sure).
So, with that, I’ve learned my first lesson about being a pseudo-wannabe model railroad manufacturer and in dealing with the public. Be polite (which I think I was), and try not to take feedback delivered in a negative way to heart. The feedback was important and has improved the model in the long run, even if how it was received left me feeling disheartened and angry at the time (and clearly still 3 days later as I’m finishing this). The experience is certainly going to ensure that if I ever had feedback to deliver to a manufacturer, that I am going to do my damndest to make sure it’s delivered in a positive way in relation to their hard work.