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! 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Recent Projects

I've been working a lot on finishing up some prototype models including an FP7A, GG1, and F7A.  Probably the most exciting is the GG1, which is designed to accept a custom drive mechanism designed by fellow T-scaler Joe Malinchak (Joe has also done some amazing steam engines in T-scale).  My version is a static model,but could be switched at some point;  I mainly just wanted to work out how the etched details (pantograph) worked and if I could do a respectable Amtrak paint scheme. 
The FP7 is sitting in the background;  Neither model has been weathered yet.  I also designed the catenary for a PRR installation as well as a PRR signal bridge and CPL signal heads... another project on the schedule.

Currently I'm painting up a true "classic", the ATSF "Warbonnet" passenger paint scheme on an F7A.  The F-unit was an old design I recently updated, and it's actually been updated since with louvers.  This was mainly a challenge on the decorating side because the warbonnet scheme is pretty complicated and light colors like yellow (or even a good solid red) can't be done on any color other than white.  So I masked all the colors, even the thin yellow and red striping.  The lettering and black pinstripes are inkjet decals.  I'll post pics when I finish it up.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Etching Successes and Plans

Recently I noted I was going to have some detail items etched, and after receiving them (in a very short turn around from PPD Ltd in the UK) I think it was a success.. here are the crossbucks and handrails on the SW1200):

SO now, as the GG1 takes shape (literally) there are a host of accessories and additional scenery items needed if the big electric motor's going to reside in a prototypical world on a layout or diorama. 

First of all, the prominent pantographs are needed... Altough Eishindo makes some respectable tiny panto's, they are just too small for the GG1 motor.  I've designed some pantographs that are a one-piece etching to be folded into the diamond shape.  The upper portions of the G' had to be modified as well to accept the pantographs.

In addition there is catenary, and signalling.. The trolley wire is one thing..not sure I'm going to even try the wires.. but the poles and supports are needed.  They'd need to be somewhat sturdy, and I don't think Shapeways' FXD plastic is up to the job on that.  There would certainly be warping as well with long, thin parts.  Styrene or brass would be better;  I found some 1mm square styrene rod online, and that will serve as the poles.  The crossarms will be etched parts with insulators included.  Insulators will get a healthy coating of paint to give them depth.

There are also PRR signal gantries;  These will also use the 1mm rod for the main cross braces, but they will be sandwiched by etched lattices with tabs for mounting PRR CPL signal heads.  These will be 3D printed in the variety of styles needed.  Here's a rendering of the under-wire signal mast. 
So several projects are converging, and some interesting modeling is ahead!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Latest Projects aka the Back Shop

Here's a quick summary of recent developments and projects.

1.  Handrails for the GP40, GP38 (new), and SW9/SW1200 in etched stainless steel.
2.  Crossbucks, with and without warning flashers, gate arm, and with a cantilevered flasher in etched stainless.
3.  New GP38/GP39 model at Shapeways
4.  New ACF 2700 cu ft 2-bay hopper at Shapeways
5.  Improved 40' boxcar
6.  Improved 60' boxcar
7.  Modified GP40 so it can be built with or without dynamic brakes.
8.  Continued work on the GG1, which will have a powering kit available that is being developed with another modeler
9.  Testing a design for a thinner drive mechanism that will fit in the GP40
10.  Custom run of Netzlof design decals for a variety of roads is being done.
11.  AAR type "B" trucks completed, now working on a U25B shell.

Some pictures:

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Challenges and/or Jousting at Old Stations; PRR Torrence Road Station in 1:450 scale.

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and belong to a local Facebook group for railroad enthusiasts.  We share comments and photos of local interest.  Recently a fellow posted some photos of the remnants of an old Pennsylvania Railroad station in the area--basically bits of the foundation and some concrete.   This was the Torrence Road Station, built in 1907 and closed in 1933.  The main structure has been gone for years and the site was (until recently) heavily overgrown with brush.

In the discussion I mentioned, "Wouldn't it be cool to do an augmented reality of the old station".. This way, you could experience what it used to be like.  This got me thinking .. step one is to build the 3D model.. and being the (somewhat) OCD person I am, I ventured "there goes the next 3 days..."   Sure enough I started into a project to build the station--although it actually took 4 days.

Here is the current site (Photo by Dave Rohdenberg):

Here is what the station used to look like:

Obviously a very interesting structure, but these were the only photos I could find.  I didn't even have much in the way of measurements although an old survey map was available showing some general dimensions and layout:

I started with the foundation and built it up "from scratch" using some estimates (like door height) and eyeballing proportions.  Next the main station building, and the tower were constructed.  I had to do a little guesswork on window and door placement on the trackside walls since no good photos exist.  The tower housed an elevator for taking baggage and passengers up or down to cross the tracks.

Speaking of crossing the tracks, President William Howard Taft lived a few blocks west of the station and surely travel through the station from time to time.  In fact, this is probably one reason such an ornate station was constructed at this site (his presidency was 1909-1913), and why is disappeared not long after Taft passed away.

Another interesting feature of the station is that there is a bas-relief sculpture built in to the retaining wall on the west side of the site adjacent to the tracks and under the overpass.  Here's how it looks today (D. Rohdenberg photo):

An artist named Karl bitters was commissioned to do 10 terracotta sculptures depicting the 10 largest cities the Pennsylvania RR served, to be placed at the PRR Broad St.Station in Philadephia.
When it was destroyed by fire in 1923, they gave each sculpture to the applicable city, so this came to live in Cincinnati.

Back to the model:  I kept on building up the structure, tweaking as needed.. and finally (ta da) I have this;  I'm fairly satisfied:

It seems a print on Shapeways would cost about $75 not counting "test prints" and it would probably have to be split into modules;  In addition, I would do certain details in PE like the fence, signs, etc.. But, since I don't model 1930 Pennsy I really don't have a use for any it.   So the whole project was for.. the challenge, and the fun of it!   So, if you're interested in a model please let me know because it could be made, and it could be re-scaled easily enough to Z or N as well.

-- Jesse

Friday, February 8, 2019

How to Buy Jesse's / CCE Model Kits

I have continuously striven to improve my models which typically means adding finer and more details to my 3D printed designs offered on Shapeways (CCE Models).  HOWEVER.... Shapeways is not consistent in what it will print and sometimes even the quality of printing-- although my experience has usually been positive.   I have yet to see a home-based printer that offers this quality and convenience.

Not long ago Shapeways started offering a service called "Print It Anyway" for designers who push the limits of the technology--basically shifting the risk of trying to print something very small or fine (such as 1:450 scale air horns) onto the designer.  This service is NOT offered to the general public, however.  The end result being that I, as a designer, can order models that the general public cannot.

I recently had a customer order the SW1200 model kit only to be rejected by Shapeways.  I have printed this model at least three times previously and have constructed the model successfully.  I expressed my frustration to Shapeways however they are stuck in their procedures.  My solution is to make the models myself and ship them directly to customers.

So if you want any of my models on Shapeways, just drop me an email and let me know ( what you want.  I will quote you and upon approval will order them myself and re-ship to you.  I will accept payment via PayPal.  As an added service, I will also clean and primer the models, and even do custom assembly and decoration if you so desire.

Best Regards,


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Shapeways Model Start-to-Finish

I wanted to explain and illustrate my process for creating a model from a Shapeways 3D printed kit, along with some tips and hints for the new (or experienced) T-scale modeler.

Given that there are extremely limited options for modelers in T-scale to find accurate scale model trains and accessories--especially of North American/US/Canadian prototypes--I have embraced 3D printing as a means of producing my models.  As many of you know, I create and sell various T-scale items in my "CCE Models" store hosted by 3D printing service bureau Shapeways.  Shapeways is a leader in this area and their Finest Detail Plastic material is simply the highest resolution 3D printed material available on the mass-market right now.  I have been extremely impressed with their quality, service, and pricing.

My favorite railroad is the former B&O lines of the Chessie System Railroad of the 1980's.  GP40 and GP40-2 locomotives were common on the Chessie System, and so I designed a T-scale model.  It has since been improved upon several times and I sell it now as a "kit" including a choice of trucks (Blomberg B or Blomberg M), dynamic brake, horns, bells, CCE knuckle couplers, and a Chessie "signature" accessory--the rock plow pilot.  The locomotive can be built as a GP40 or a GP40-2.

Here's what the kit looks like:

The main body and components are attached to a flat base by a series of sprues.  When you get the kit from Shapeways it will be in a small poly bag, typically enclosed in bubble wrap in a large outer box.  The preparation of the model begins with a wash to remove the oily/waxy gunk left over from the printing process.  I go into detail of my washing process in a Blog post and it's also in the "Information" section of the Shapeways shop.

I separate the main shell from the base by careful cutting with a hobby knife and prep it for painting.  Here's the "raw" shell-- it's a translucent acrylic material.

I drill a small (between 0.5 -1mm) hole or two in the underside of the model at this point for a couple reasons: First, it provides a point to secure a toothpick which is used as a handle for the shell during the finishing process.  Second, the holes serve as a mounting point for the small (3/16") neodymium magnets I use to create a positive downward "pull" by the model to the tracks.  If you are going to run these models--even as unpowered dummies as this model is-- they are so light they require added weight to stay on the track.  The magnets provide artificial "weight" to the model.

After some basic clean up and sanding, the shell gets a coat or two of brushed-on Future acrylic clear floor polish, then a spray on coat of Tamiya fine surface primer.  Imperfections are much easier to see after the primer.  I sand areas that are too rough lightly between coats.  I also try not to put on too much of either the Future or primer, because there's really some great detail that you don't want to obscure--fan detail, louvers, etc.  There will likely be some layering/lines visible from the printing process but until technology improves further, I find I can live with some minor imperfection--and the models look fine from normal viewing distance.  Here's what the shell looks like after primer applied and a little sanding:

Next we are on to main assembly, detailing, finish painting and decaling of the main shell.  But of course--I always do research on the prototype before this.  In fact, research is one of my favorite activities.  In this case I am modeling Chessie/B&O GP40-2 "GM50" which was a unique paint scheme to honor the 50th Anniversary of GM's ElectroMotive Division, the locomotive manufacturing arm of General Motors.  The internet has tons of reference material, just type in your subject in any search engine and you will likely get a ton of hits.  I found this picture as it shows a lot of details, the color scheme, and placement of lettering.

Notice this unit has dynamic brakes--evidenced by the bulge above the "Chessie" and extra roof fan.  The kit has the option to build the GP40-2 with dynamic brake or without.  You will want to add these on now if you didn't before, as well as any other major components such as the rock plow (although on this build I forgot until later).  I use regular ACC to attach such items.

On to the subject of lettering and decals:  There just are not many choices for decals in T-scale.  At my request, CMR Products has been great about reducing their line of decals by Netzlof Design to 1:450.  You can order them upon request (and you can even select 1:450 on the website now).  Even better, they are also working with me now to custom design some other new decals for Chessie and Conrail and N&W in 1:450 scale.

The GM50 wasn't one of these available at CMR--I designed and printed these myself on my trusty inkjet printer.  In fact, most dark color lettering can be adequately produced on store-bought clear decal film for inkjets.  Lighter colors/whites are basically impossible at this point as inkjets use the "white" of the paper or background, not a white ink.  Blacks/Blues/Greens are typically opaque enough.  The Chessie lettering is (technically) a very dark blue, but I use black because it really looks like black.  My design work and printing is done with PhotoScape software, but there are many options.  I just create a .jpg file--no need for ultra precision because these are reduced to such small size that it makes up for minor imperfections.  Here's the GM50 decal image file, which you can use if you like;  and technically there should be two of the 50th anniversary logos, one goes on the rear of the locomotive as well:

It takes some tweaking to get the size and printout quality correct--I print drafts on a sheet of plain white paper until I get the correct size, then do a "run" of 5-6 sets on the decal film paper (usually a single line across).   I trim off  the strip of decals then save the rest of the paper for another project.  I find there will be at least a few smudges or bad printing on each set--about a 75% ratio, so I always print extra sets.  Of great importance, after printing, the decals must be sealed before using--I use Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic coating (#1303).   Here's what they look like when printed and sealed.

Finally we are ready for finish painting.  The base color is Tamiya gold--it's actually a very simple scheme.  Here's the shell with it's gold paint applied two light coats.  It's starting to look solid!  (Pardon the pun..)

Once the finish coat is on you can apply the decals and it will start to look like it should!

It's coming together, but we still need to add couplers, trucks, and finishing details.

Since I forgot to add the Rock Plow pilot earlier, I trimmed off the footboards and added them now to the front and rear pilots.

Add the couplers.  CCE #3 couplers will pivot freely about 45 degrees left and right, but must be gently snapped free from a tiny pin inside the draft gear.  I did a short YouTube video showing how to do this.  Once working, slide the draft ear into the slot in the pilot.  They should fit snugly with just a press-fit.  I usually secure with a tiny bit of Future or MicroScale Krystal Klear.  This is because it's water soluble and if I ever need to remove the coupler it can be loosened and removed.  ACC wouldn't work because it would be stuck-tight!

Underneath the model, there are pilot holes for the trucks.  Drill these out with a .75-.80 mm bit--the trucks are designed to be secured with a 1mm screw.  I get my screws on Amazon and are sold in bulk for eyeglasses etc for a few dollars.  You can add the pin-point wheelsets before or after mounting the trucks.   I used the Blomberg "B" style trucks to suit the prototype.

I add the neodymium magnets at this point, and secure with a bit of Krystal Klear.  I have many uses for this water-soluble clear goop!  I hold them in place with a bit of tape until it dries.

Paint the trucks and couplers--gold for the trucks and I use Roof Brown for the couplers.  The final step is to add the miniscule horn.  I pre-painted it on the sprue and added it to a small hole in the cab roof.  I put to in the kit for a reason--I destroyed the first one.  As a finishing touch, I use Krytal Klear for small windows like the door and windshield, and use decal film for the cab side windows.  You can apply weathering at this point although this unit was special so please keep it light!