More on 3d printing for your layout

Well my curiosity over 3D printing caused the usual amount of abuse and rude emails.

It’s pretty much the same when I mention anything on my posts – and it just goes to show how different people are.

Take the surveys for instance. Here’s the site I found on them.

Seemed like a good way to make some spending money to me, so I gave it a go. Yes, it’s very time consuming, and yes, I got plenty of mails saying lots of rude things too. But I’m not alone. Here’s a mail from Ian on them:

“Firstly, thanks for the modelling tips – they’re really helpful although I haven’t started my layout yet – just waiting to save enough money to make a start! I’ve got the engines, rolling stock and track, but nothing to put them on, so I haven’t come up with any ideas of my own yet.

Now to the matter of surveys. As a guide, last year I earned AU$700 doing this and I’m in the 60-69 bracket. Obviously, if I was younger, I’d probably earn a lot more because the survey content, quite often, is aimed at a younger age group or at people with different interests to mine.

Your correct in saying that you have to supply a good deal of information about yourself and family, and this can involve giving some very personal details about medical stuff and the like, but if you want to do surveys then it becomes necessary to ‘bite-the-bullet’ and just go for it. The only warning I’d give is to make sure that the survey site has a decent Privacy Policy and guarantees to keep your information private!

But I hope this wont distract you too much from the primary objective of Model Railway information and tips.



And what about the woodworking site? Exactly the same. Some sent abuse – others were the complete oppostie. Here’s what Geoff said:

“Hi Alastair

I found the woodworking guide helpful as my plans for a loft layout in the main part of my loft have now needed  to be drastically altered – the space I had originally specified being unsuitable as my arms aren’t six feet long. Currently everything is on hold due to the current storm which has breached one of my upstairs windows so flood recovery is in progress . When I arrive at my plan using Any Rail I ‘ll put it on your site for constructive criticism.

Kind regards


And then there is my latest dalliance – 3d printing.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, imagine a printer that doesn’t eat paper, it eats plastic. And out the other end comes an actual model of your design.

Anyhow – same reaction.

I found a site that struck a chord. It’s here. Maybe it’s just me, but I loved the guy’s story of how his son couldn’t finish his lego model because a block was missing. So he printed one out.

Next thing you know, he’s made some Iphone covers for friends and family. Fast forward a month and he’s selling bucket loads.

And to me, it’s all about starting small and starting simple (that’s how this site started).

Take tunnel entrances for instance. Surely being able to print out a tunnel entrance of your design would be fun and satisfying?

But there’s a spanner in the works, and her name is Mrs Lee. Perhaps my good lady’s point of view is something you are familiar with?

“You want to start another blog on dogs. Now you want to start one on 3d printing too. And you’re short of time now with just one on railroads…”

I have to concede, she has a very good point.

But I’m determined to press on! I shall keep you all posted. Please do get in touch if you’ve ever printed out anything in 3D – I’d love to hear from you.

Until then, I’ll just stick to my boy’s print out scenery. He’s just added some wonderful new models, you can see them here.

And if they’re not for you, there’s always the latest ebay cheat sheet to bag a bargain with.

Rant over. Normal service resumed next time.



67 Responses to More on 3d printing for your layout


  2. funny that you brought up 3d printing. the past couple of days i have been checking into 3d printing, and now you mention it here. Ol friend that i never met you just made up my mind i’m going to do it. i’m am retired from the kennecott copper mine after 35 years as a shovel runner (loading trucks and trains) lots of trains and would like to have some of their ore cars on my layout but none are avable because they made their own cars. 3d printing will allow me to have these cars because i will be able to make them.
    thanks for this isue is has perfect timing. I see no problem with 3d printing i could save a ton of money and maybe make some money.

    best to you and keep this comming i read it every day

    Bruce: in Kearns, Utah, U.S.A.

  3. I don’t have a problem with your dalliances with matters not strictly railway oriented. In fact I’m quite interested in the 3D Printer possibilities. I do indeed have a tunnel entrance that I believe would be a good candidate for 3D printing. Getting the design work done is the big issue, if you don’t have a 3D CAD program, or the skills to use one, how do you generate the required print file? Are there people/companies that will do the work and what about the cost? Perhaps balsa and card stock is the way to go!

    Enjoy the emails, Dangerous Dave’s a real fun guy!


  4. Al,
    Seems there are trolls everywhere that like to find something to complain about. Of course, they already know it all and have a superior intellect and cannot put up with us.
    Sir, you should know that you are appreciated and I’m sure many of us look forward to your posts.
    Those that complain should talk about it on their own blog and website… that’s right, they don’t have a blog and website that anyone would pay attention to because they are WHINERS! Nobody likes them anyway.

  5. Great article. I’m inspired to see if I can print a prototype of my latest invention. You can check out Lapcooler on eBay to see another. Now back to the trains.

  6. Al,
    I am with Joe above, though we are not the same person. Sites like yours are meant to be informative, and instructional. I have enjoyed your postings for quite some time now, and I read every day.
    For those south bound ends of north bound horses, why don’t you all start the complainers international website and you can all carp, gripe, abuse, insult, practice rude behavior, be authoritative, know it all, and generally make complete raving fools of yourselves. We would be very appreciative of not having to deal with your rude stupidity on a site that is not only fun, but valuable as well.

  7. Alastair;
    You have a very unique column here. There are people from all over the world reading this, sharing info. I’m from suburban Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA. Bruce Webb ( above ) is from Utah, 2000 miles west of here. Others are from the Land of Oz. Many, seem to be from Great Britain. Most others, I have no idea. Some are fantastic modelers, the rest of us learn and get ideas from them. I for one look forward daily to hearing from your little band of miscreants. As for the trolls, if they were standing face to face with you they would have nothing to say. So, Thanx Al. Stay calm and carry on…. oh , and bring some extra ammo if you can :-)

  8. 3D printing would solve a LOAD of problems – you can offer items that are no longer in catalogues, be-spoke items in all scales (copyright issues tho come to mind on say scanned and re-‘printed’ Hornby items! – in fact the list is endless. I’ve used 3D printing to make limited runs before commercial production – some pointers for your ‘clients’ tho – its MEGA expensive compared to paper and glue! Colour – cheaper in one colour, too much like a plastic kit that requires a LOT of weathering for realism, and they are weak!! it’s NOT the same as injection moulding, so old, arthritic fingers may end up crushing a truck when all the owner wanted was a casual inspection!

  9. I agree everyone about who submits ideas and it is always worth looking at and appreciated. We all don’t have the same tastes but Ideas can always come from layouts and train ideas that are submitted and translated to your own ideas.

    So keep those great layouts coming and please keep all comments positive because it will always help us all. Keeping your mind opened to new and different ideas willl always drive our hobby in the right direction.

  10. Hey, Al! I think your “dalliance” into 3D printing brings up some ideal model railroading thoughts! from tunnel portals to homes, and possibly, to locomotives! I can see printing a shell for a locomotive that wasn’t around in enough numbers for the big manufacturers to re-create, then all you’d need is a chassis/motor. Keep up the good work, but, for goodness sake, don’t work yourself to death! Play with your trains and take a walk now and then! we need you around for fresh ideas!

  11. Very well said Joe K. and Alastair you site is very informative thank you for taking your time on informing the rest of us, well done sir.

  12. I like the information BUT, my layout is O GAUGE. I see very few examples of buildings in this scale.
    Aren’t there any others in the same situation?
    I am adding to my layout now (2 4×8’s) in an “L” shape.


  13. Sir your feed back items and informTion is always very posative concise and in contents even the 3d printing is so very relative to what you do keep up the good work and keep your posative attitude and don’t worry about others and what they might want to say. If they don’t like it nvite them to unsubscribe or as it is within your powers just take them off the mailing list
    Well done this is great and just what I need for my interests

  14. Hello Al normally one of the silent majority but I find your post very interesting and your efforts are appreciated . I view your post as a place to go when I need information or to see how others do things . great job

  15. Al.
    I have been following your site for a long time now. At 70 (71 tomorrow!), I have been modeling in trains for over 60 years. And I still find new ideas and options on your web site.

    So far as 3D printing, I have looked at it and feel it is a great way for a modeler to create a local bulding or other feature that would locate it’s locaiton to the viewer. My son, a modeler in O scale, has access to a high end industrial printer and has tried to print out some items. It is not as easy as it looks. He ended up with a blob of plastic. My company uses one for sales models and it is great. I too have looked at purchasing one for home to do models. Especially for my G scale buldings where weather is a problem. For the HO, it is getting detial that otherwise I could not model.

    Keep up the good work and exposing new ways, new technologies that can be used in this great hobby.

  16. I am very interested in learning more about 3-D printing! I.E., equitment needed,sources of supplies, Can anyone advise a book or anything that I can get to start at the basics? this is totally alien to me been under a rock on the sublect I guess! and also, AL,I can say I have learned so much from your members postings!! Thank you so much!!! Sincere thanks!…Mike Wilson

  17. Al,
    As for 3D printing… It will turn out to be no different than using a dot matrix, ink jet, or laser printer. Many people will doubt it’s usefulness, Some embrace it, and yet others will invest in the technology of 3D software and hardware and make tons of money. In the end, they will be as common as the ink jet printer in our homes.

    As for you mentioning them in your Model Railroading site – good on ya! Model Railroading is a pastime that utilizes many skills. The more skillful folks, wth the best tricks, get the best results, and those who try new things, eventually teach us all how to make our layouts easier to make, and even less expensive. I’m sure that the first person to suggest using plaster for scenery, or foam as a building material were though to be a little off.

    We have three choices in this hobby. First we use what’s on the shelves of hobby shop stamped and sold for model railroads. This limits our ability to model what we want to. Second, we can scratch build using “conventional” materials and methods, and take our layout to whole new dimension, and third, we can embrace new technologies, for example – plastic for rolling stock instead of tin, solid state devices, LED’s, digital control, printed out building that are inexpensive and easy to make, and yes 3D printing, to take our hobby and it’s possibilities into the future.

    We look to folks, just like you, who will help us in our everyday hobby needs, and introduce us to what’s new and upcoming in the hobby. Keep up the good work.

    Those folks who insist on keeping their feet planted firmly in the mud, and scoff at those who would lead us to firm ground, don’t have to follow your site. We will do just fine without them. They can opt out any time they like.

    If you want to blog about dogs, or anything else, I for one will be just fine with what you do find time to share with us. To try and stop you from your own dreams would be a pretty selfish act. Especially after the huge effort and all of the quality information that you have been so generous to share.


  18. Al, never mind the rude people, I think you are doing a great job running this website. I for one appreciate what you are doing and I find 3D printing for models very interesting, and think it would be a great way to make models that are not available from the kit manufacturing companies. Keep up the good work, Jim

  19. 3D printing? I have a printing company so it knows all about graphic design on computers so I am thinking of making and investmet in a system. I have a colour printing machine which cost £30,000 but the output from it will match and exceed that of a £250,000 four colour regular printing machine.There are no messy chemicals or cvleaning down, or printing plates to deal with. It outputs colour from my Apple machines where the graphic designs are put together. As we have the expertise in design work and output, it could be something I would like to do.

  20. Greetings Al;
    I also am intrigued with the idea of the 3D printing. Above Bruce mentioned being just retired after working many years at Kennecott, I also am of the same mind after working many (36) at Euclid who sold trucks to Kennecott. The possibilities are limitless. I have a brother-law who teaches at the community collage who teaches CAD. I will get his advice on a program for the computer compatible with 3D printing with a photo option for enhanced design. Thank you for your work and keep up the good work.

  21. It would be a nice toy to have the 3d printer , but a lot of trains could be bought for the price of them …

  22. love the scines and addivese im pushing 70 im thinking one way some comes up with a little diffrent vesion keeping an open mind reading helps alot ty

  23. go for the gusto, I am 66 and have been working on my second layout. my first didn’t get completed cause my wife go rally sick and passed away, but now after moving to iowa from California, I have a 4×8 dcc one engine and rolling stock. and working on my second building, wanting to learn how to
    scratch build both plastic and wood. I enjoy your articles so don’t let what other people say, do what is in your heart. that is what counts. opinions are like rumors, they really are jealous cause they didn’t think of it first.
    have a happy railroading . your friend charles

  24. Al:

    Recently ran aross a website for a company called Shapeway. They specialize in 3D printing. If you look under the heading Miniatures in the menu bar, you will find a section for model trains. This section has a variety of offerings in many different scales.

    I decided to purchase an On30 diesel engine shell for for an Athern mechanism I had on hand. Two weeks after placing the order the shell arrived. It is beautifully detailed. However, there are some drawbacks:

    1. There are no pre-drilled holes, or dimples for mounting handrails.

    2. The mechanism had to be modified (i.e. coupler boxes/mounts had to be
    cut off flush with the frame) so that the shell would properly fit the

    3. Only cerain types of adhesives, such as CA can be used

    4, The plastic is unsealed and must be sealed before painting

    5. Only acrylic paints (either solvent based, or water based) can be used

    6. Details such, as exhaust stacks, air tanks, bells, horns, whistles, fuel
    tanks, hand rails, and handrail stanchions, are not included.

    7. There are no suggestions or directions on how to secure the shell to the

    Other than these………

  25. oops, across

  26. When I go on to this site, I want to see layouts and video of trains going down the tracks.

  27. I am an active TV and Film Production Designer in Hollywood, and an O scale modeler. I’ve gotten a number of 3D printed items made recently for the shows and commercials I have been designing, as well as some personal railroad items. The company in Pasadena that I use that is quite happy to produce new and exciting doodads for diehard railroaders.

    The company is called Deezmaker. They also make and sell the 3D machines themselves. The machines they make are not impossibly expensive for a railroad modeler to purchase. Interestingly, the 3D machines they produce also make parts for the other 3D machines they make.

    It is like magic to watch the machine produce a 3D object right before your eyes. It doesn’t take long either. You do need some skill producing vector drawings. Of course, Deezmaker can make those for you for an additional cost, as long as you can provide them with sufficient and specific information regarding your finished product. Rather than taking hours (or days) struggling with casting molds, the 3D process is really fast. Smaller items can be combined to make a very large product. Welcome to the 21st Century

  28. Model railroading is a hobby that incorporates a wide diversity of things, from carpentry to electronics. So pointing out sites etc. devored to these ancillary disciplines is quite well taken. Hey, if you’re not interested, you don’t have to go to the site or read your post.

    While maybe the survey thing was a bit down a branch line, who couldn’t use some more coin of the realm for their hobby? Again, if the survey thing isn’t for you, ignore it.

  29. Good Morning Al

    To those who disagree—–

    The site is Al’s and he can print whatever he chooses.
    you have a choice–either don’t watch and don’t learn or watch and learn.

    It is unlikely that I will ever have a 3D printer BUT I am always open to learning about just about anything in the world.

    Thanks Al for giving us so much.

    Regards and Aloha from Maui, Hawaii

    L David

  30. Never ever despise meager beginnings.
    This model railroad site is something I look forward to each day. What each person has contributed to this site
    is without a doubt what makes this site unique. Sharing what one has experienced … through trial and error, and then willing to share and to help someone else. And then Al you taking the time to sort it all out and then share with each of us. Hey caring and sharing you just don’t get much better than that. I applaud you all.

    About dog sites … man’s best friend! 3D printing … it will assume its space in technology. surveys … you can take it or leave it, pictures/video … keep them rolling!
    Priority is the most important item to remember. It is not about what a wife or anyone else says, remember they do not set your schedule … however they need to be considered. It really falls back to your passion for something … you feel; want; need’ to do. Somehow for some reason it all works out in the end. Let me put it this way, if you never try you will never know but you might regret that you did not try … and that is the biggest disappointment of all.
    Al, may all that you wish for be the least that you receive. Thank you for this site.

    best regards,


  31. I am 56 years old. On a disability pension.
    I bought a 3d printer about 10 months ago. Best thing I have ever bought in my life.
    I model n gauge and ho. The detail is superb. At around $1000, relatively cheap and getting cheaper.
    Like Don said in an earlier post, they will become common in every home.
    Not only common but, a necessity in every home.
    I predict within the next 2 years you will all want, and likely, need one.
    The models are not weak as suggested in another post.
    For those who cannot use a simple cad program, you can buy a 3d scanner for less than $500 and that can create your model for you.
    Wouldn’t say I could make much money from it though, too busy printing heaps of stuff for myself.
    Costs me less than $3.00 for an detailed intricate building for my model railways.
    Bought one, never looking back. Might buy a bigger one even.
    Thanks Alastair.

  32. Hi Al,
    I like the idea of 3D printing.
    You do what you want to do. The rude/abusive people don’t deserve your time and they can unsubscribe if they don’t like it, in fact you should unsubscribe them.

    Cheers Paul.

  33. Hi Al
    Thanks for the heads up about 3D printing. I have checked out the possibilities for this and find in it another technique for customising model railway items such as gear boxes, fittings and track-side equipment.
    It appears that the old caution “you get what you pay for” applies as well as the safety issues since molten plastic produces heat and vapour not associated with normal ink and paper.
    There are dozens of sites where you can see pure trains but this is the your page and that,s why we check in here to see what has caught your attention this week.
    Keep up the good work but don’t over work yourself.
    From the other end of the Earth.
    Cheers Ralph

  34. It seems some people get their kicks out of belittling other. I always assume such folks don’t think well of themselves so they need to put others down to feel better. Personally if I am not interested in something and receive an e-mail, I just ignore the matter and say good for the other guy. If everyone liked the same horse, there wouldn’t be any horse races.

    I enjoy your postings

  35. Rude emails? WHY!!!! If someone wants to try something new, I’d say go for it. Maybe some will say this is not Train oriented. I’d say, YES IT IS. With 3-d printing, can you imagine the buildings you could print out? And what about terrain for a layout? I dont know to much about 3-D printing, but the things you can do I would imagine are endless. for those that are rude–get a life. Remember when trains were toys? Now DCC with full sound (someone was thinking outside the box for that one). Keep posting. I want to learn as much as I can.

  36. Al,

    Love your emails. I look forward to them every day. I run O gauge trains and though you don’t have many post for O gauge, I still enjoy what I read, see, and learn. Post what ever you want. It is your site. I love it.

    Sanford, FLorida

  37. Poor, pitiful Mrs. Lee sounds as though she may complain about a lot of things, based on my past experiences. I so look forward to all your information. I am 77, my husband is 78, but we have not been modeling for 40 or 50 years. Rather, we are just beginning, and don’t know what we would do without all the help we get from you and all who contribute.

    Surveys? I just checked into that, and can see the potential there, with no harm to anyone.

    As for dog blogs, why not? That’s a whole other subject, and I don’t see it interfering with trains. Instead, it has reminded me of how I miss the big, black dog we had to have put down, and that perhaps it’s time for another one. Thanks for that, too.

    Then there is 3-D printing. What a marvelous idea, with endless possibilities, for certain.

    You, Mrs. Lee, would do well to read and re-read Joe K.’s suggestion. I absolutely love every word, Joe! Perhaps she should also be mindful of all those who are disabled, and so look forward to this and other helps as an aid to keeping their (our) lives going on a positive note.

    In short, if it’s not too late to be brief, thank you, Alistair, for everything! Keep up the good work.

    Marion in Mississippi

  38. Let the wingers rant, it makes the rest of us feel righteous! Please keep up the good work,its a good site, I find it very useful. I would like to hear more about 3D, I want to try it. D/

  39. Hi Al,
    Interesting comments. Please keep.on with Technology good work,


  41. I know a little bit about 3D printing and have used a REPRAP to print a couple of object and I use 3D modeling software daily but I should clarify a few points made by the original author.

    In order to print something you either have to “build” a model in 3D or download a model.

    Firstly, do you know how to build a 3D model? Do you own the software which would allow you to do that? Microstation, AutoCAD,Rhino etc? Do you know how to use these software packages?

    Secondly, It takes for EVER to print anything of any significance and even then, you are limited by the size of your printer. In order to print a building eg, a Platelayers hut you would use a lot of filament and secondly you would need either a very large and expensive printer or you would need to print the hut in a series of horizontal sections then glue them to-gether.

    The cost of the filament and time to print would outweigh the purchase price of lets say, a Metcalfe card kit and this would look so much better than the printed hut.

    You would also need something like a Raspberrypi and an understanding of software in order to pull it all to-gether. Do you know what a Raspberrypi is?

    An interesting little computer which has a lot of potential for doing lots and lots of things.

    So before you all run off talking about 3D Printing, you should check out the equipment first but I am happy to read there are so many of you interested in the technology

  42. You are never to old to learn,so carry on with the good work. At 67 I love both old and new ideas of solving problems in our hobby. Colin, Dartford UK

  43. 3d printing neat.
    High quaility 3d printing, such as you need to print detailed 3d models of trains etc = expensive.
    A classical filament printer won’t do the job decently enough. Resolution of print even at best settings is not good enough.
    So you end up in DLP resin printing or similar.
    Different price range…
    Then there is the question on making decent 3D drawings = very challenging if you want to come close to reality.

    So in all I would conclude that printing 3d model trains and parts is something for the very able 3D designer and for those with a big pocket to afford a high quality printer.

    I’ve been looking into doing this on a small production scale for the Belgian market and above is my conclusion.

    Good luck though to those who want to give it a try.

  44. I saw a demo of 3d printing,by a professional, I was gobsmacked by what he could do, a ball within a ball inside a cage, only 1″ square. Both balls were pierced so you could see through them. He showed me carriages, wagons, tram and loco bodies. This is the future!

  45. thanks for all they are great

  46. Hello Alastair , I am from Victoria, Australia.
    I have been checking out your website for over a year, and some of the model layouts are great.
    I’m into 5 inch gauge (ride on) but used to do HO in my younger days (about 60 years ago)
    3D printing has enormous potential for one-off models or patterns for castings (which the large gauge blokes seem to favour)
    I have seen a few printers working, and like everything else, you get what you pay for..
    keep up the good work.

    John A

  47. I have been looking into the more affordable 3D printers recently for my business. If all goes well we should have one within a couple of months (Might be an opportunity to mix business with pleasure). If I had bought one of the cheaper ones when I started my layout I recon it would have just about paid for itself by now. Not for everyone obviously but if you can use computers and CAD they have great potential.

    What I have learned so far about the cheaper ones is as follows:
    Some print with PLA which is good for prototypes but the final models can soften and melt if it gets too hot (as it does where I live).
    Others print in ABS which generally does not print quite as well but is stronger and has a higher melting point (I am leaning towards this)
    You can also get ones that will print a dissolvable medium as well as the solid stuff to enable you to make more complex shapes (I am also leaning towards the ones that does this)
    The ABS and PLA consumables are quite cheap especially for the average OO scale model.

    I will keep you posted as to which way I go and how it works out.



  48. I find your site fascinating and very enjoyable. I enjoy many of the layouts and videos of people who are making on going transitions and changes. Great stuff, loaded with ideas and tips! Now you have just put a new thing on my list of to do next is to read up and investigate 3D printing. Thank you! I have no problem reading or seeing things that are not pertaining to model railroading, I enjoyed the ones with animals especially about dogs. It’s a great human touch to this site and it’s content. I do appreciate the additional attention that you did by allowing enlargement capabilities of the photos. I hope I was the one who made that suggestion a few months ago. We older people even with the assistance of glasses appreciate it very much! Thank you for sharing everything and please continue on, there is no problems here!

  49. Al, As a disabled veteran with only the right side of his brain & living in a veterans home I say keep doing what you want to do. I try to learn new things every day & your site is one of my go to places. I really enjoy all the tips you pass on. Unfortunately no layout, but lots to wooden HO scale models. Most are bridges or log homes. Living in the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of both to model. My models are real rough compared to what I see on the net, but they are getting better. I use the Free version of Sketchup to draw what I want to model. I have been interested in learning about 3D printing for a few years now. To me it looks like the future of modeling, especially for us with handicaps. Please keep up the great site (work) that you have. And for those that do not like it, they are no big loss if they go away. Thank you again! “Hat”

  50. Allister, I have folders and folders of your e-mails and would not even think of deleting any of them. You and your friends are an encyclopedia of all types of information and should be darnd proud of yourselves. I drop into your folders when I have time for inspiration and amazement. You have done a wonderful thing here and balancing everything, my gosh a circus entertainer couldn’t do better. Beyond the accolades, I have a quest for information. I am building two twelve stall engine houses (HO scale) out of Lunde Studios Quick Flats. I love them for bashing all sorts of structures. I have 12 overhead doors each structure, for the engine entrance from the transfer table, they run up and down in channels I built out of Evergreen at each pilaster. They are built in far enough to pass the window glazing and as of now, I can only come up with an inverted Y harness out of light fishing mono, running up through the roof and at full raised position, I plan on crimping a small spit shot, drag it across the roof to a comb like structure to hold it in place. I am trying to find a way to make the doors open mechanically with an electrical switch or something to operate a small type of motor for smooth even opening and closing. Ramble, ramble, If anybody can direct me to a site, give advice, or tell me their secrets to accomplish my goals, I would be forever indebted to you. Thanks for the space and your time. Keep up the wonderful work Alastair. Eric

  51. I love this site i have learnt so much, seen some great layouts the howtos have been great. Until i got on this site i had no idea how popular model trains are please keep all the ideas pictures and videos coming i am nearing
    retirement and want to expand my layout. Thank you to AL and everybody who will make this possible.

  52. It seems impossible to post ANYTHING on social media without getting some pretty vile responses. You just keep up the good work! As for 3D Printing, I had a friend who made commercial signage, his company had a computer controlled lathe that made 3D raised (letters, emblems, etc) from wood. We were talking about using it to carve out a layout when he passed away. With my connection to the company gone, the idea remained just that. I still wonder how it would have turned out. Their sighs were close to works of art in their detail.

  53. Keep up the good work, Al! And I have seen a bit of 3-D printing results and it’s pretty interesting! I like to check out all the train layouts from the guys, no matter what gauge they are. I have only “N” gauge equipment but it’s great to see what folks do with all the different styles.

  54. Hi Al,
    I am a graphic designer by trade for over 40 years now and have had a keen interest in model railroads since I was a small child by grandson has revived my interest and as part of layout build we regularly read your interesting articles and love to see other layouts in development or indeed any of the ideas your patrons post. In relation to the 3D printer article, this is a new and upcoming technology that in time will be as common as the home PC and in home printing most homes have today, however there is a drawback and that is in the software required to create you own designs ie Tunnel portals, Even base entry CAD software is quite expensive and as a user of CAD and other Vector based programmes they are complicated and add several thousand euros / dollars to your cost so have a 299 3D printer is brilliant but to move on from just making phone covers to designing tunnel portals could be more expensive than buying off shelf, for what it is worth I taught I would just add in this word of warning.

    Please keep up the posts on railways and other interesting blogs, I for one will o stop loving this site for the great ideas and suggestions and money saving tips for patrons have to offer.
    John Whelan, Dublin Ireland

  55. Steroe lithography and moer recently 3D printing have been around for about 15 years but the technology and equipment have gradually come down in price so that over the last few years secondary schools in the UK are able to invest in one as part of the more modern teaching of design & technology (the old woodwork/metalwork and tech drawing subject) and also computing and programming studies.
    To use this equipment you have to be able to use 3d computer drawing software to be able to draw the product you want to enable the computer to tell the printer how to make it. Not something you can pick up in 5 minutes even if computer savvy.
    My suggestion is to find a friendly DT teacher and get him/her interested in helping you and by using the school’s equipment save a lot of heartache and hard earned cash.
    Paul, a DT teacher who’s school is just about to buy a mchine and the drawing software. :-)

  56. HI MATE, You ARE Doing a great job, many thanks

  57. Dear Mr. Lee…
    There will always be those who are insufferably self obsessed.
    Do not let such individuals ruin your minute, your hour, your day, your month, your year, or any other such fraction of time.
    As for myself… I can see your son offering new printable 3d structures…. Soon!

  58. 3D printing will allow me the ability to scale, draw, and incorporate actual buildings from the era that I am modeling directly into my model. It will greatly enhance the accuracy of my modeling techniques.

  59. Keep going the 3D printing. Our local library in Aurora, Ontario, has acquired a MakerBot, and has a maximum per-job cost of CA$8.00 or 9.00. There is a maximum time allotment of 2 hours to print. That’s not a big issue with N gauge items.
    For building models, SketchUp has a fairly straight-forward user interface, although the application of patterns such as brickwork for scale buildings is a challenge if you want to make detailed models. There are some techniques to learn for the modelling (i.e.: overhanging bits can be problematic), and you need a programme to compile the model for the printer, but these are available for free online.
    A tunnel portal would be the ideal first project in any scale!

  60. Hi Al
    3D printing is a no brainer! If any numb nuts says there is no future in it, he (or she) have their heads up their backsides! 3D Printing is the next major generational thing to happen on Earth. I hear they are building houses for folks to live in. Imagine what that alone could mean for many countries less well of than us. Bring it on, cant happen soon enough.
    As to using it for modelling, I saw (2yrs) ago, a 4 wheeled Sn3.5 waggon with 2 decks of sheep there in. How many sheep? 90! 45 on each deck no less! Bloody fantastic, and all done from the ground up using 3D printer!
    Western Australia

  61. i went to a 3D printing expo a couple of weeks ago and I realized immediately that railway modelers will be getting all their figures and scenic elements, sign posts, canopys and things like that out of their personal printers. Also duplicating favorite items will be done there. I imagine it will be that one buys the file from Bachman, Hornby or Lionel and then one prints it at home. Items of steel and the like will come from factories, but eventually your machine will make it. I think we have a very long ways to go till it all really works well. That’s my 2.

  62. Amazing that anyone would complain that Al is not discussing only what they are interested in. Let them find another blog where the owner gives so much of himself.

    I use a MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer. I’ve had it for 1 1/2 years now. I’ve printed small bridges for fording rivers and streams. They have required some artistic additions of putty and some carving, but this printer can be had now for about $2100. It can print in two colors at once. I use an old version of SolidWorks CAD software, and it does wonders. I have another application that can render out an image of the design very nicely. Both programs produce the STL file that most printers require. AutoCAD has a set of free software that lets you produce shapes using primatives (basic shapes). The software that comes with the printer shows you exactly how it will look before you print. I found you had to exaggerate a bit in the depth of lines between blocks in a bridge or portal for them to show. I’ve printed out footings and the upper structure for a trestle, including holes properly placed to add “timbers” to the bents. Right now I’m experimenting with printing out railroad signals – targets with various aspect combinations. I’ve ordered a lot of 5mm diameter LEDs from China in the basic signal colors. This should be interesting. One thing that I did do was add an exhaust fan and ducting to the outside, as in some cases the ABS plastic does give off fumes when heated. ABS glues together very well with a bit of acetone mixed with chopped-up ABS bits. Better than using ACC.

    My favorite 3D printed item is a wonderful figure of “Grumpy Cat” in full color. She’s just great. She was printed by the afore-mentioned Shapeways, which has all the right printers to do amazing things in a lot of materials. Check them out. They even have a “Sad Little Keeanu” figure of Keeanu Reeves sitting on the edge of [whatever]. The real Keeanu likes it.

    Ken in Fullerton, CA USA

  63. Hi Al,
    As an admirer of your inkjet printed structures and the expansion of the concept into the 3D printing world, I can imagine a hybrid process of 3D printing the bones for your 2D structures that can be inkjet printed onto ‘book stock’ in full color. To this end, materials costs and printing and assembly time may be greatly reduce. Also the simpler 3D, and very accurate, printer files may be sold as accessories to the 2D color inkjet files.

    Across what pond? You are here on my computer every day. Thanks!


  64. 3D printing for the model RR hobbyist is too soon. I would rather see layout examples and construction techniques.

  65. Thank you for this website. I look forward to the daily posting.

    Jim S. NYC USA

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