Merry Christmas

Santa Comes to Liberty Village! Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. I hope this finds all who read and follow my blog well and in good spirits with loved ones as we near the end of another challenging year. Its been a long one for me for many reasons, but as I celebrate Christmas with my family, I also think of my friends who read my blog, and those of you I’ve never met, and I hope you are all well.


Back at the Workbench

It’s been a funny year for me, modeling wise and real life wise. As anyone who reads the blog knows, we bought a house this year, massive change #1, which however brought me the room to start building benchwork this summer and start making a layout in my home a reality. Great news.  Then, after what seemed like forever this summer in the interview process, I made a second life altering decision, this time in my professional life, and at the end of summer, I left the consulting firm I had been at for 15 years since graduating from University for a job in the public sector. Also great news, but very daunting, and I’m still on a steep learning curve after a month in the new job.

This past week, I realized that as much as I’ve done in the layout room since we moved in June, I hadn’t done as much modelling as I’d like.  I’ve done things here and there, but I don’t have any of my normal range of little projects going, either for the layout or because it interests me. I normally have at least one project out on the workbench, so if I walk into my office/layout room, and feel like filing or sanding or painting or whatever for five minutes here and there, I can.  I’ve let the room and the workbench become a bit of a mess even in just a couple of months, by not focusing on the things I needed to do still post move, mainly more cleaning and organizing of stuff to try to find more things that could be donated away/sold/thrown out/recycled as appropriate. I finally took a serious stab at that on Saturday, and feeling quite proud of myself, before I start one of the growing pile of freight car kits for the layout that are collecting in a workbench drawer, I went back and pulled out a project that was left in mid-stream before the move.  I started to seriously work on the interior of the British Railways Mk1 First Class Coach.  Turns out I’d managed to paint the car before we moved, but packed it away before building the interior.

IMG_6538Actual modelling in progress. Painting seats, tables and interior partitions for a British Railways Mk1 Coach kit.

While I’ve spent most of this afternoon working on the interior and fettling the fit and finish of the parts so that it can all be assembled when the sub assemblies are painted, I will now be leaving this out on my bench so that Monday, Tuesday or whenever, if I have a few minutes, I can do a little bit of work to move another project toward completion.  It’s nice to have reclaimed my workbench for modelling projects!

Getting GOing again on a Project

I haven’t worked much on the first test of the Hawker Siddeley single level GO car since last fall.  The discovery of the CAD error in the first print in October (see here) has kinda set me back, as despite the quick fix in the 3D computer model, I haven’t really felt like spending the money to re-print the first sample body until I was certain any other issues were found out.  For now and for me, for my first sample and the model that will be in my collection, for the moment, I can live with the wrong window radius.  This weekend, I finally got off my rear end and said I’m sick of looking at the half finished bits of this car.  Lets actually paint the fine details, and look at what needs to be done so the car is presentable.  Ordinarily, the upcoming Barrie-Allandale Train Show on the February 17-18th would be cause for motivating me to have had it done, but the Toronto Railway Museum isn’t able to attend the show this year, so my models won’t be out on display.  Their next major outing is likely now Doors Open Toronto at the Roundhouse on May 26-27.  That gives me more time for getting any parts I discover I need, but to figure that out, I actually need to work on it.

IMGP6672RawConvTinting clear styrene window strips with Tamiya Clear Smoke paint. It looks better when done and dry than this mid way though shot makes it look.

With the window error, and this being the largest 3D printed body I’ve designed, along with a completely 3D printed interior and underbody, there’s lots of learning experiences in this project. Not only fit and clearance to make sure the parts still fit when assembled and things like clear window glazing are added, but making sure you can even do things like finish the car and assemble it and have it run.  It has all fallen down on the have it run, my first attempt at 3D printed trucks are to be kind, garbage, but as they are easily swapped out, the only thing really keeping me from moving forward was myself.  I’ve also discovered some parts of the body and underframe have warped over time, even with the strengthening brass in the frame.  This is something I’ll need to examine more, though the longer I have looked at and worked on the car, I suspect that if I ever manage to bring it to the market, it will be by using the 3D prints as masters for resin castings, not as a fully 3D printed car.  The 3D printed material is just posing too many issues for something of this size thats designed to actually run on your layout.

IMGP6673RawConvMagnets to hold the body and frame together and in alignment. A trick I learned while designing D-1, but taken from an Athearn/Roundhouse coach I was using for parts on that project.

The two biggest tasks were installing magnets to hold the frame and body together, and finishing the windows.  The Magnets are 0.125″ diameter round magnets, that are set into circular openings in the frame and body prints and held in place with CA. I’d use epoxy, but I have concerns with the bit of heat it generates as it cures warping the 3D printed parts, CA doesn’t have this side effect.

For the windows, it was a slow and steady couple of hours lining the window frame gaskets black, then inserting the windows with a smoke tint.  One thing I realized from this is the full interior gets lost with the smoke.  This is good for the future as not having the interior would reduce the cost of the 3D prints substantially.

Progress on GO Cab Car 104 as preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum. Need to sort out the cab stripes, then I can finish the front end details.

At times today, it felt like every two small steps forward I took, I took one big step back.  It took four attempts at figuring out how to get a number board into place in the cab.  I’d designed them thinking I could light them.  Same for the headlights above the cab.  Both of those have been non-starters because of other design decisions in how the pieces went together, that whole learning by doing with the 3D designing of models I mentioned above.  For future prints I’ll be making some changes to the design of the interior to leave more clearance for fitting it in when the windows are glazed, and to make installing the number boards a bit easier.

I also discovered that somewhere along the line, I ruined the screw holes for mounting the couplers.  That resulted in me having to go at the front end of the car with my Dremel to drill through the brass bar that forms the spine of the car to let me create new mounting holes for the coupler screws.  It worked, but only just barely was I able to create new holes and tap the brass bar enough to take the screw.  Again, this kind of error doesn’t hurt as bad on my car that will likely never run on a layout, but I need to sort out what I did wrong in the design to make sure someone else doesn’t have that problem if I sell them a print.

All in all, despite many frustrating setbacks, I managed to advance the model a lot.  I certainly know some spots where I need to go back to the 3D model and make adjustments before any future prints of parts of the car are attempted.

Update on the Hawker Siddeley Cars and the Brampton Show

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…

Image result for nelson muntz haha

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.

GOWindowComparisonThe 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.

Hawker Siddeley GO Transit Cars (aka the Mystery Rail Car Project)

This is it, the big project that has been causing me to stress with Shapeways and Airbrush Compressors and all kinds of things.  My current project for a low volume model to be available through my Shapeways Shop is the Hawker Siddeley Single Level Commuter Coaches in HO Scale.  These were the original coaches constructed in Thunder Bay Ontario for the launch of GO Transit, the Toronto area commuter railway service in 1967.   Most regular readers of my Blog could probably have guessed what this was from my hints and the knowledge that a lot of my models are of vehicles preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum.

IMGP8489RawConvThe prototype.  GO Transit Cab Car 104, purchased and restored by Metrolinx and donated to the Toronto Railway Museum for GO’s 50th Anniversary in 2017.

They came in three varieties, but I am only designing two. I am designing models of the Cab Car Coach and the Regular Coach.  I am not modelling the self propelled cab cars which were a part of the initial order for 1967.  In total, GO Transit owned 123 of these cars, 9 self propelled (later converted to just cab cars), 8 cab cars, and 106 coaches.

Following their replacement by the now ubiquitous Bi-Level Cars on GO Transit, the cars found new work with MBTA in Boston, MARC in Maryland, the Ontario Northland Railway and AMT in Montreal.  The cars were in service with AMT until 2010, and several remain in service with the Ontario Northland Railway.

3D printed Body Shell for the Cab Car (with a coat of primer so details are more visible).

Through a combination of drawings of various quality found on the internet, and the ability to literally walk up to the existing car to take measurements, this was the kind of project that makes sense for me as a non-manufacturer doing 3D models in my spare time.  One that I can literally walk 15 minutes from my office after work and get a missing dimension or a picture of something to make sure I’ve got a shape right or a detail in place.

The first attempt at 3D printed Trucks (not very successful), the underbody/frame piece, and the car interior.

The cars are a little ways away from being available for sale.  There are some technical issues to be overcome, including a reliable source of wheels to direct people to.  I know there is a market for these, though they won’t be cheap, and certainly won’t be for the faint of heart when it comes to assembling and running, but I’m hopeful in the coming months that I can work out these issues.  In the short term at least, I will be looking to prepare a short train of coaches for display at the Toronto Railway Museum as part of the ongoing GO 50th Anniversary Display (though it will likely be several months before they are available for sale to others, as I find time to work through issues and test things before offering them up for sale).


Learning to Solder… again or properly, or both?

I learned to solder in high school in electronics classes, and have over the subsequent 20 plus years, more or less completely forgotten everything I learned.  I was by no means an expert in high school, but I could competently connect wires.  Over the years, I’ve done a bit of soldering on basic stuff, feeder wires, lights here and there, but its a skill that has so many applications in model railroading that I need to get better at.

IMGP2611RawConvEtched brass grab irons and door handles on a British Railways MK1 coach.  Working on soldering them on.  The brass door hinges just didn’t make sense and I couldn’t manage the size, so I replaced them with 0.020″ styrene rod pieces to look like hinges.

I have a bunch of wiring projects to do, but I am currently working on building a Southern Pride Models British Railways Mk1 Coach.  I recently gave up on the etched brass door hinges, but the etched grab handles and door handles needed to be done, as there isn’t an obvious replacement for them.  These are nicely etched, but very small, and need to be fitted into the holes, soldered from behind to the brass car side, then the soldering filed down so the side is smooth for mounting to the clear interior that forms the cars sides.

I’ve never managed to solder brass parts together, and one of my friends has offered to give me some soldering lessons (and I will be taking him up on that when we find a date that works), but I wanted to keep making process, so decided after watching some YouTube videos, that I would at least take a stab at soldering on my own.

I bought a new soldering iron last year, and haven’t really used it.  This would be a fiddly project, but I recently got some new liquid flux, to help clean the material as it heats and get the solder to flow into where I want it to go, so I figured I would at least have a fighting chance of soldering six handles and six handles.  After some time fiddling around, I did actually manage to start getting solder to flow into where I needed it to go.  Having not done it before, I was being gentle not wanting to apply so much heat that I warped or damaged the brass car side.  By the time I had one side done, I declared the night a success and will do the 2nd side another night!

Soldered in, and filed/sanded down to flush on the back.  It would appear that my solder joints have held after filing off the excess solder and etched brass parts.

My solder joints, while strong, had a lot too much solder.  Finding the handle on getting a little bit of solder to run into the opening around the etched parts is certainly something I need to work on.  That said, after getting the parts hot enough for the solder to run into the opens, and even after filing down my largeish bits of solder the joints held, and the handles are still in place, and the etched brass car side still fits smoothly on the clear plastic inner side.

IMGP2616RawConvOne side done, one to go.  The only damage appears to be a ripple in the car side from where some dolt dropped it to the floor while soldering.

I’m very curious about others experiences with learning to solder and taking their first shots at something.  I see so many amazing modellers that I know and follow online who make it look so easy.  I’d really love to hear some of their story’s of failure and learning, as that’s what this is for me.  A learning experience.  It probably took me 30 minutes to get the first joint done, and I wrecked two etched door handles and three etched hand grabs in the process.  Normally this would generate a lot of swearing, but in this case, the etched fret for the kit has such a large supply of etches, that I’d have had ample extras for the two sides if I’d wrecked three times as many trying to get the technique right.  Fortunately, the next two doors went much quicker, probably 15 minutes for the 2nd and 10 for the third.  With three more to do on the 2nd side, I think I can have it down to a reasonable 5 minute job per door.  Once I do the 2nd side tomorrow night, I can wash the two sides and hit them with some primer to protect the brass and get ready to paint it.

IMGP2612RawConvOne fully fitted out car side, ready to clean, primer and paint, once the 2nd side is done as well.