Wednesday, October 16, 2019

In Praise of Destruction

Looking back on the last 7 years of T scale (yep, 2012..) I can't begin to count how many 3D printed models I've broken, cracked, muffed, gouged, spattered, or otherwise rendered "junk".  In this scale, especially when designing from scratch or using new techniques, there are bound to be errors.  I've learned to embrace these failures as stepping stones to better models.  Those corner braces that were too thin (oh I can replace with a bit of brass) were modified on the design and the next time they came out perfectly sound.  That time the lacquer paint was sprayed on to the 3D printed model and it never really cured brought about the coating with Future to establish an inert "base coating".  How many versions of the CCE knuckle coupler have been made?  Well pretty soon there should be another new one!  But each time the coupler gets better looking, and more functional.  Do you really want scale corrugations on that Amfleet car or does it look better with somewhat oversized ones that you can actually see?  The long story short is that as T scale model railroader, you can't be afraid of failure;  better yet, expect it and welcome the progress that invariably comes out of it.

Updates for the week:

89' flatcar:  Received the 2nd test print with "longshank" trucks.  It came out ok but still needs a little tweaking.  As you can see there was some destructive testing done;  The end platforms did warp a bit and refused to bend (but not break) after a soak in hot water.  This was not an issue on another copy with more robust supports under the model so that will be the new standard.

Amfleet coach:  This model looks ok (well the carbody and interior), but the internal bearing trucks didn't come out as intended.  Once again, modifications were made and revised models are on the way.  These acutally have 3D printed wheelsets, and it will remain to be seen how they work on the track.

Plate F boxcar:  I designed some TTX "FBOX" decals, most of which is black so not a problem on the inkjet printer.  The logo however is another matter.  It's blue and red.. Blue is dark enough to print and be mostly opaque on a yellow (TTX yellow) background.. but the red isn't .  If I tired to print in red it would come out looking orange.  What's the solution?  CMY color is the key..  Magenta and Yellow make red.  So the decal is printed in magenta for the red parts.  When applied, it looks red.

Sharonville engine shop building: I cut off the sprue, and so far-so good.  Notice how thin the window mullions are!  Some have broken but that's ok--the real one has a few patched windows as well.  There are a pair of inspection pits as well.  I hope to get going on this model in the next week or so and make a small display.  The turntable is designed but will have to wait for etched bits. which will also be needed for the C40-8 model also coming soon.

C40-8W:  Body design is done, the fuel tank, underbody and trucks are in process.

Coupler:  I got the 0.25mm square magnets, and they did indeed fit into the specially designed coupler.. with some difficulty.  However they didn't really have the pull needed to be more automatic.. I've now decided to try a more simple mechanical version.. similar to this:

- Jesse

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Things keep moving along, so I wanted to document progress and new developments.  As always, any ideas or suggestions are greatly appreciated and if you're interested in buying anything, the product price list is at the top/right of the blog.  Email
  • Coupler:  Received prototypes and magnets, and they were a dud.  One of the components is (was) a 0.25mm cube magnet.  Now I don't mind working with small stuff, obviously, however this magnet is about the size of a grain of salt.  And I wanted to orient it by polarity, in a 1mm coupler, using steel tools... uhhh nope!  The magnet was really too weak as well.. so, I'm moving on with an alternate design.  The good old trial and error process.  I must say, in any case the "standard" articulated coupler works pretty well too, so this automatic coupler work may all be somewhat moot. 
  • Updated models:  Amfleet coach and TOFC flat car are en-route, I also redesigned the track roadbed to have slightly better detail and print more easily.
  • New models:  Decided to do the GE C40-8, it will have a choice of wide or standard cabs.  And etched brass handrails as well, and oh yes 3-axle trucks.  It's in the early stages of drafting.
  • Coalporter:  This one should be done within the week.  It's basically patterned after the Bethlehem CoalPorter, or Conrail G52 series.  It will be the 12-panel one.  Many roads had/have this rolling.
  • Sharonville EF:  Received the locomotive shop building and it looks good (this is how it comes off the printer):
     This is the prototype scene.  Now I couldn't do this scene without the turntable could I?  So that's in  development.  It will have etched brass handrails and other details and could be motorized.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Re-Design Update

I completely re-did the Amfleet coach to include better detail, and interior, and much improved internal bearing trucks that can be built with standard wheelsets (with the ends filed down flat) or with the included 3D printed wheelsets.  I have done this a couple time previously with "some" success but still needs to be fully vetted:  I have not run 3D printed wheelsets so can't attest to them being good for operation.  But it opens up a new page of opportunity... different wheel sizes, more accurate flanges.. etc.

I also completely re-did a 89' TOFC flatcar I had previously designed to also be better detailed and have the new/improved trucks and movable 5th Wheel Stands.  It's very much like the Bethlehem 89' flatcar used by Trailer Train in the 70's and 80's.  It has talgo style roller bearing trucks.  This is a test to see how it turns out..the first was ok, this one should be much better. 

Also working now on a 100 ft turntable.  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 23, 2019

A Couple Developments

A prototype of a new automatic version of the CCE knuckle coupler is on the way... if it (or subsequent iterations) actually work, it would allow automatic coupling and uncoupling with a hand-held tool.  It uses magnets to achieve the automation.  We shall see, but I think it has promise.

One of the downsides to this is I will need to update virtually every "kit" model I've made (which include couplers.)  I needed to do this anyway due to need for many kits to have the new roller bearing trucks added, and the updated detail on the couplers.. but wow.  I'm thinking maybe I should leave trucks and couplers off the models and just sell them separately unless they are highly specialized trucks.  I have standardized on a 1mm bolster pin for the trucks.

I revised and updated a model I never actually sold in the 89' flatcar commonly used for trailer train service.  It could also be the basis for an autorack car and others.

A model of the Sharonville (Ohio) engine house, built by the New York Central and operated up into the Conrail era is on the way.  Most of it is 3D printed, but the roof will just be sheet styrene.  I'm planning to do a small diorama of the engine facility there to display models.


Friday, September 20, 2019

New Developments and Buying CCE Models

It's been a busy month or so and I apologize for not updating the blog more often!  There are several new developments with my T scale modeling and how CCE Models are offered for sale. 

Changes to CCE Knuckle Coupler and Roller Bearing Trucks:

Improved (v.2) CCE knuckle coupler.  The v.2 coupler has been enhanced to offer an articulated clasping movement, so although not automatic, it is more workable. Gently rotating the models to either side works to uncouple, and you can usually push gently together to couple.  I'm still tinkering with ways to automate this or at least allow automatic coupling.  One idea uses a very tiny metal "air hose" but that I forsee will just create more issues with catching in trackwork, etc.

The coupler also has improved detail, so it looks more accurate.  And on a related matter, since I do a lot of talgo-style trucks with couplers: I improved the look of the roller bearing trucks to have a more realistic profile and springs.

New Models:

50' Plate F Boxcars:  At the request of a Facebook T Scale group member (Michael Doll), I designed a pair of modern Plate "F" (hi cube) 50-foot boxcars.  One is a Greenbriar prototype and the other National Steel Car;  The main difference is the NSC version has horizontal outside ribs as well as the vertical ones.  These are pretty common today, and should fit onto one of the powered mechanisms if you want to add power to your trains.

PRR Signal Gantry:  After the initial proof of concept, I have refined the etched brass PRR signal bridge to have accurate bents and improved detail such as cross-bracing on the bridge.  This will be available in 5- and 4-track variants;  I may do a 2-track but I think it could be kitbashed to a 2-track without much trouble.

How to Purchase CCE Models:

As of September 2019, I no longer drop-ship through Shapeways.  I will still manufacture with Shapeways for the time being, but will ship from my stock.

There are a couple reasons for this.  Mainly, it is because I push the limits of Shapeways design parameters, so every time I add (or change) a model I have to fight them to print it.  I always must use a feature called "Print it anyway" which puts the risk of a failed print on me.  Although my designs have been 100% successful when I have used this feature, Sheapeways still doesn't allow customers to order this way.  The result is that about half the time when someone tries to order a CCE kit, Shapeways cancels it because of "thin walls" or "thin wires" in the design.

It's really frustrating and they have not been willing to do anything about it, I have decided to just sell and ship directly.  This allows me the additional ability to inspect models and ensure they are perfect before I ship.  I am also including additional details, such as etched brass handrails on certain models.  I'd like to get some more professional looking packaging as well. 

Here is the CCE Models Product List 
It's just a rudimentary list for now, but I will be enhancing it with descriptions, pictures, etc. shortly.

To order, emai your request to  I will confirm your order, manufacture and ship to you via Priority Mail.   Payment (prior to shipping) may be made via PayPal.  Shipping & Handling charge is a flat $8.00 for up to 4 kits (in USA).  I will quote shipping on anything larger or  international.  If you have any other requests, such as custom build/paint, or a custom design, just let me know.

Jesse/CCE Models

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Products.

I wanted to share some updates.

Latest new models:

--GP38/39/-2, with etched handrails.  This model can be built with or without dynamic brakes. I made the decals myself, printed on an inkjet.

-- 2-bay and 4-bay Covered Hoppers.  The 4 bay covered hopper can be built with either grain hatches (long rectangular ones) or round hatches on top.   The 2-bay hopper pictured here features decals from CMR Products.

-- I couldn't remember if I posted pictures of the FP7 model, but here's one I did in Conrail patch paint job.  This kit allows you to build with several different variations of fuel tank skirt and nose details.  These are also CMR/Netzlof Design decals.

-- I saved the best rolling stock for last.  The GE U25B.  This features AAR-B type trucks, and etched brass handrails.  The decals are from CMR Products (and can be used on most Conrail diesels.)   Also notice the little searchlight signal I threw together on a whim.  I made this out of a piece of .03 nickle silver rod and a target from one of the etched crossing signals.  The hood is .05 tube cut in half.  The target is actually quite small--should be 2.5-3mm, however would be prototypic for a few applications like on the NYC.

Some other things I have cooked up in preparation for the Princeton Jct. module are etched brass catenary and PRR style signal gantry.  The side braces for the signal gantry need to be corrected but the catenary looks decent.  That is 0.5mm styrene square rod for the poles.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Case for T Scale

 Today's post is more of an editorial comment than anything else.  Below are some of my thoughts on the advantages of T scale versus other model railroad scales.  Essentially, it's a summary of  why I like modeling in 1:450, along with some thoughts on where it will go from here.  If you would like to reply and comment, please do so!  I'd like to hear from others who visit my Blog.  - Jesse

     Years ago, I picked up a copy of the charter "N Scale" magazine published by Bob Hundman (July/Aug 1989).  In it there was an editorial titled "The Case for N Scale" which outlined why N scale could be a great modeler's scale-- this was in the years before there were a multitude of highly detailed RTR models, good track, electronics, structure kits, etc. available;  Kadee's "MicroTrains Line" was a leader, and Atlas has a decent array of rolling stock.  Kato was pretty new to the scene.  Track was pretty terrible (Atlas flex), but Micro Engineering had some great flex track.  A lot of scratch building was still necessary, and detailing was nowhere near the level of today.  DCC was in it's infancy.   But you could tell N scale had potential, from the brilliance of Pete Thomas' module to the beautiful brass Shay on the back cover.  I think T scale has that same potential.  Here are my main reasons why I find T scale (1:450) a great choice for scale model railroading:

1.  You can model scenery to scale.
     Because T scale is so small, it makes faithfully scaled-down scenes possible in a reasonable amount of space.  For this reason, 1:450 is a popular scale for architects, civil engineers, and ship modelers.   At the very least, much less "selective compression" is needed to capture a scene like the prototype.  Curves can be made much broader, turnouts longer, spaces more wide open..  I'm currently planning a small diorama/module of Princeton Jct., which faithfully represents the station, full ex-PRR 4-track mainline, and a bit of the Princeton branch, in only 8x30 .. inches.  I will probably shorten the platform a bit and move a highway overpass to cut off the scene but this is still a highly accurate representation of the area.

2.  It makes modeling possible in small spaces.
     Many of us don't have large basements, garages, or even spare rooms to semi-permanently convert to train rooms.  Or, if we did we might not want to dedicate so much space to hobby use.  T scale can be modeled in the smallest of apartments, layouts carried in and out doors without hassle, niches found that can harbor models without much ado.  I do all my modeling in a corner of my kitchen in my apartment.  All my models fit on a quarter of a single shelf in a china cabinet.  Granted, it's only about 10 pieces of rolling stock, a couple structures and some dioramas but try that in HO or O..   T scale is extremely space efficient!

3.  It's a low cost scale.
     T scale is actually relatively cheap to model in.  First, because of the size of the models, any supplies go a very long way.  One Dullcote rattle lasts for scores of models.  Paints, cements, landscaping materials, scratchbuilding supplies... all last a very long time.  One small bag of ballast can do miles of track!   Yes the mechanisms and components can be comparable to other scales (ie. $40 for a locomotive mechanism) but the rest is highly cheap.  And because there is so much scratch building that also minimizes the "expensive RTR model" issue.

4.  It's a  modeler's scale.
     There is basically a tiny smattering of RTR models available in T, most are European and Japanese prototype and the lone US model (a "GP8") is an overscale, clumsy representation of the prototype.  (I'll never know why they picked the remanufactured GP8... why not just a GP7 or GP9?)   In any case, in order to have accurate North American models I have had to design and build them basically from scratch.  I employ 3D printing however I have seen other nice models made from styrene and brass bits.  I recently built a Santa Fe semaphore signal-- 0.3 brass wire, a modified bit of an etched crossing gate and a bit of 1mm styreme rod.  In other scales, there's a tendency to just buy off the shelf, ready to run models and scenic accessories..  because you can!  In T, there isn't anything like that so if you want them, you just have to make them.  I discovered this process is fundamentally rewarding.  That U25B or GG1... I didn't just assemble it, I literally created it from 3D blueprints and brought it to reality.  That process is part of the fun that I think many modelers in other scales miss out on.  You also need to hone your painting and drafting skills because there are very few decals (there weren't any until I convinced CMR Products to make T scale decals of their designs to order).. so complex paint schemes must be masked and/or hand painted. 

5.  It broadens your modeling horizons.
     Because there are so few T scale modelers in the world, the community is by necessity compressed and comprised of modelers from all corners of the globe.  Consequently, there is a very interesting and beneficial cross-pollination among modelers.  I've interacted with T scalers in the UK, Germany, Japan, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.  The Orbost module is a landmark, Doug Kightly's amazing "Bridge", and Ewe Fenk's fantastic hand-built locomotives all have provided inspiration.  David K. Smith's models were the inspiration for my early attempts at US prototypes in T.  And since then, I've built models of the British Railways' Deltic, Class 67, Class 66, and the Victorian Railways "S" class diesels.  I built models of the RhB ABe 4/4 iii and learned about the Bernia Loop in the process.  I was generally unaware of these fantastic railroads and locomotives until I delved into T scale.

6.  The Coolness factor.
     Ok, I'll admit it.  I like being able to say "I make the smallest model trains in the world."  Or seeing eyes pop when they see how tiny these models really are.  We T scalers are definitely part of a select few.  In a sense, we're the odd bunch, the modeling purists, the tinkerers and engineers who will find a way to do things just to see if we can in 1:450 scale. 

Post Script:
     Harsh reality must be faced.  It is not a great operating scale.  I rarely even run models at all because they just don't given the light weight and track issues.  Rolling stock must still be used to push unpowered locomotives due to space limitations in the loco shells.  True, pulse transformers have helped, and have made for reasonable running at scale speeds but commercial track is still quite oversize, clumsily rendered, and oxidizes easily.  Tie size and spacing is altogether wrong for North America, and the commercial turnouts are terrible.  The coupling system is similarly awful, being oversize, not prototypic at all, and not automatic (my 3D printed ones are better but are dummy couplers).  The electric motor and drive mechanism are just a bit too large to work in hood diesels.   
     Frankly, T scale is nowhere near where N scale was in 1989 right now.. It may be closer to N scale in 1969..  My wish list is for the next 5 years is to get a manufacturer to take the plunge and make those above components and perhaps even some North American rolling stock models (although 3D printing is making rapid enough advances that rolling stock isn't such an issue for me.)  Those "infrastructure" components are the real issue if T is to gain popularity as a scale.  What a world of difference good American flex track, working #8 and #10 turnouts, and a working semi-scale knuckle coupler would be..!  Add an economical 2mm diameter 4v motor (or complete canned drive mechanism less that 3mm thick) that could be worked into the shells of hood diesels..

Well, back to the drawing board!