Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"T" easers and Pleasers

It seems like I have too many projects going on, but progress is being made.  There's just so much testing and re-testing that needs to be done until I'm satisfied (I'm probably one of Shapeways' best customers...) but the pace should settle down once I have the basics covered.

Trucks are on the list.  I need trucks that are substantial enough to take some abuse, hold the wheelsets, and still look reasonably good.  I have the latest batch of test trucks on the way.  There's a suspension that holds the axle in place a bit better and is actually sprung.  I call this the Union Jack suspension since it has several cross-shaped support structures.   I have Blomberg B's, some AAR switcher trucks, and internal bearing test subjects coming.  These are in 2nd or 3rd generation at this point and getting better with each try.

I also am trying horns (and bells) again.  Cross your fingers.  I made some jewelry recently that shows the process (lost wax) is capable with the dimensions I  need, but previously SW declined to try.  Maybe they will print them now??

Oh and this experiment is also on the way (inspired by a post on Facebook..).  It's a dummy but, it's a step towards something functional.  It should work for a fixed line turnout anyway with Code 40 rail, which would be fine for my non-switching layout (the way I figure it, functional turnouts can be located behind the scenes for changing the line of trains).   If it works, I could make straight or diverging versions..

I also made a section of tie strip with roadbed.. the ties are really very fragile, so the roadbed should help make them more rugged and it's designed for a ballast coating to make it look realistic.

As if all this wasn't enough, I'm still refining the GG1, I did an SW9/1200 (SW7/8 if you chop a stack off), and refined the GP40.

Stay tuned, I'm shifting into more of a modelling mode (less computer design) to do some work on a dome car project/small display.  I can't afford all the Shapeways orders anyway!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Next Up: Trucks

aka Bogies..

The needlepoint wheelsets fit into the new trucks, but they aren't all that solid.  If you put much presure on them, they'll slip--the sideframes are just too thin and flex a little bit.  So, still not perfect.

Some time ago, I made some prototype "internal bearing" passenger trucks to fit on the Amfleet coach which incorporated a "snap fit" for the axle between the wheels.  Test #1 was too small and snapped, not quite rugged enough either.   I then got distracted with other projects and tabled it. 

Recently, I was putting wheelsets into a set of Blombergs and I having a heckuvatime keeping the wheelsets in.  This isn't acceptable-- there must be a better way.  So I combined the idea of the internal bearing truck with a tab that holds the wheelset in place.  Prototypes are on the way..  It only takes a few iterations to get it right, aka persistence pays off as shows with the coupler.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Introducing the CCE #3 Coupler

A package arrived in the mail yesterday, this one containing the prototype #3 couplers.  This project is a big deal to me--I've been wanting better-looking yet functional couplers in T-scale for a long time.  And to cut to the chase--I think these are a qualified success!

Appearance is good.  They are a knuckle style (aka Janney) coupler common to the US and other railroads around the world.  Although slightly oversize from prototype, this is not unusual for the world of model trains.  They come in a self-enclosed draft gear since I body-mount my couplers.  I  will also make a version that can be snapped into the existing coupler pocket for talgo style/truck mounted couplers. 

Functionality is good.  They pivot internally (once snapped free, as shown in the video) so that cars should be able to maneuver curves and turnouts built with the body-mount style in mind.  The jury may still be out as far as durability, but they seems pretty tough.  Check out the video: 

One design actually has a split shank so the coupler has a "spring" action, and so should be able to automatically couple-- but I found this didn't seem to work.. the split was too narrow.  I may have to re-test (to the point of destroying a coupler) because it might also snap free like the pivot action. 

I'm designing my railcar models now to accept the draft gear in a slot in the pilot, or even integrating the coupler on the model itself if necessary, and will be converting all older models to use the CCE #3 coupler. 

If you want to purchase a set click here: CCE #3 Coupler Set

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Pipeline

The past several months, I've been in a fever pitch to design new T scale (1:450 scale) models that are more accurate and appropriate for the North American prototypes I am interested in, primarily modern railroading from the 60's through modern time.  This includes a track system, couplers, trucks, modern hood diesels, structures, and some details such as truck trailers.

I'm particularly happy with the track, and the fact that now I can get decent-looking trucks using the needlepoint wheelsets. 

Yes, there is a great deal of testing still needed and other innovations..  powered Blomberg trucks, 3-axle trucks, turnouts--although another modeler on Facebook is hand-laying some beautiful ones!-- and working couplers (mine are press-fit/dummy..but I can envision a working system.)

Still, this progress feels good, and my enthusiasm is strong as ever.  I feel more and more that T scale is viable.  Maybe not as an operators scale just yet--we need automatic coupling/uncoupling-- but at least as a modelers scale with through trains on realistic curves.

Nearly every single day I think of something new that I want to design, or an old model I need to revise, to the point where feel my effort is getting diluted by too many projects.  The main limiting factor is time, and my spending power at Shapeways for new test printing!  Below is a list of models either somewhere in the design process, that I have designed and prototyped, redesigned/revised, or are now for sale on Shapeways in my store .

D = Design work started but not completed
P = Prototype testing/revising design in progress
F = Finished/tested new model.
R = Revised old model

Freight Cars
--60 foot boxcar shell -F
--50 foot outside post boxcar shell -R
--89 foot flatcar (TOFC flatcar) -P
--NE Caboose -P/R
60 foot boxcar in Bessemer & Lake Erie "Savings Bond" scheme. Decals from CMR Products/Netzlof Design

Passenger Cars
--Amfleet coach --P
--Celestory roof heavyweight coach --D

--GP40/40-2 -P/R
--SD40 -D
--GG1 -P
--RDC-1 -R
--RDC-4 -F
--F40PH -D
Test GG1 shell decorated with decals from CMR Products/Netzlof Designs
Trucks (bogies)
--Roller bearing freight trucks -P
--Inside bearing passenger trucks -P
--Blomberg B trucks -P
--Blomberg M trucks -P
--AAR type A switcher trucks -P

--North American Tie Strips for Code 40 rail -F
--Knuckle coupler (dummy/press fit)-P
--53 foot dry van trailer -F
--45 foot dry van trailer -F
--40 foot dry van trailer -F
--Pennsylvania Railroad "Corridor Style" Tower, per Nassau Tower -F
Milwaukee Road 45' TOFC trailer with home-made decals (inquire if you want some).

On the drawing board:
--Open windows in all models such as passenger cars and locomotives
--More kits (shell plus trucks and couplers)
--EMD switcher
--Passenger trucks
--Powered bogies

I find the research and design process extremely enjoyable, but also getting the prototypes in-hand and doing the fettling and decorating is great as well.  I'm planning a diorama or possibly a "window box" type layout in the (near?) future with a back loop/train staging area with a front viewing box.

If you have an interest in any of these models listed above, or one you'd like me to design, please email me at  Some of my new models are available on Shapeways, several of the old ones, but some are not there because I have not thoroughly vetted them--if you have interest in being a guinea pig and testing them out, I'd love to hear from you.

- Jesse

Friday, October 5, 2018

T-Scale Track

The out-of-scale ties and tie spacing on the stock flex (and sectional) track was always a shortcoming of T-scale..  I developed a flexible tie strip system that, when combined with Code 40 rail available at, and ballasting and weathering, can produce respectable looking North American style track such as this:

Here's an example of the (painted and ballasted) stock flex track.. not great eh?.
It's ok--but not a great representation of North American railroad track as seen here.

When started selling their code 40 rail, I started thinking I might be able to craft some decent looking tie strips to use with the rail to better create accurate tie size and spacing.

I had a couple prototype tie strips made, and the latest results are very promising.  I intend to use this system to make a working module/diorama in the future. Here's a short test strip I made and painted;  Compare this to the stock flex track and prototype:

 The tie strips were made in Shapeways Finest Detail Plastic material;  Since it was a test, I made strips only 10 cm long, however they can be added together to make as long as you need (the code 40 rail comes in 50 cm lenths).   For printing--I will lengthen them to whatever is reasonably printable in Shapeways for the price.  Here's what it looks like after trimming from the sprue:

I'm obviously still trying to figure out the best technique for this track but here's what I have so far.

1.  Prep:  Wash the strips as with any 3D printed model.  First, using a soft brush I wash with acrylic airbrush thinner (it cuts the acrylic "goo" remaining on printed models), then wash gently in soapy water.  Let dry thoroughly.

2.  I give a brush coat of Future. 

(The above two steps apply to all my 3D printed models from Shapeways).

3.  Trim the sprues and any broken ties off and arrange in as straight a line as possible.  (I will be getting some double sided tape to use for this step to hold ties in place, but it's not necessary.)

4.  Get a rail and using the first section of ties, hold the rail in tweezers and gently press into the slot in the ties.  Make sure the "fat side" of the rail (look at the cross section) is down.  It should click into place with a tiny bit of pressure.

5.. Continue to the end of the rail, arranging more ties (even onesy-twosey) and click into place.

6.  Repeat for the 2nd rail.

7.  Apply another coat of Future which gently adheres the rail to the ties.  Here's the end result:

...  The rest is un-tested...

Sections should be joined by rail joiners or soldered.  Not sure what soldering would do to the ties, so heat sinks should be used.  The strips appear flexible enough to bend to a prototypical radius, but I haven't tried to see how tight it will curve.  I plan to adhere the track strips with a good contact cement to the roadbed.  Ballast can be applied using conventional techniques.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Windows in T-Scale

Some time ago I created some passenger coaches and decorated them.  At the time, I had made the coach windows "open" instead of just recessed into the car body as an experiment.  I wasn't sure if this technique would yield good-looking results. I had intended to use Microscale "Krystal Klear" to do the windows.  I tried it and they looked ok but not great.  There was a noticeable concave look to the windows.  

Since my decorating technique utilizes decals for much of the paint as well as lettering, I have a ton of spare decal film laying about (as do most modelers) and thought--well that stuff is clear-- I wonder how it would do as window glass?  I applied a band over the windows and surprisingly it turned out looking great.

I recently revised the RDC-1 model and decided an RCD-4 would be a good model, but this time make the windows "open" and try the decal film glass technique.  I made a prototype of the RDC-4 and along with finding some things to correct, painted up the shell to test the glass.  

Below are some tips on this technique.  Oh and all my models will have their windows "opened" over time..

1.  I use the generic "MicroMark" or other clear decal film, but any film should work.

2.  The interior of the body and especially window frames are painted black.  The exterior is then painted--in the case of the RDC, it's silver.  Notice how "hollow" the windows look without "glass".

2.  Next, I cut the decal film to fit, with a healthy (20% or so at least) overlap.  For single windows (like the end door, or baggage or passenger door) I just cut a square, or for consecutive ones (like the 3-in-a-row) I cut a strip. 

3.  Decals are dipped in water, and MicroSol applied to the window frame, and the decal slid into place over the window frame.  Another healthy application of MicroSol is applied after in place.  In the picture, you see one side completed but still wet with MicroSol.  The decal will sag as the solvent does it's job as on the door window.

4.  After drying, the decals shrink and tighten up in the frame to form nearly flat looking glass.  However, they are almost too clear!  The final step remedies this. 

5.  A shot of Dullcote gives the windows a more consistent sheen.  End results:


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Northeast Corridor Items

I have the preliminary designs completed and waiting for test models from Shapeways of the following:

  • GG1 body and chassis
  • Amfleet Coach
  • "Corridor Style" Tower (based on Nassau tower at Princeton Jct., NJ)
I have so many projects but feel I'm making good progress but perhaps getting divided into too many.  I always like to make a test print to validate any models before releasing them, so it may be some time before they are for sale to the general public.  If you have interest in these please let me know.