Monday, February 2, 2015

A New Approach About CN Woodchip Gondolas



I’m actually thinking about ordering custom decals for my 3D printed CN woodchip gondola. These aren’t actually cheap to produce. In fact, when ordering, you try to cram graphics all over the small decal sheet to make sure you get the most out of your money. At this point, I’ll end up with more decals than I need for CN gondolas.

This brings us to the next step. When I rebuilt my gondola last weekend, I kind of love the results even with its obvious shortcomings. With Canadian dollar taking the plunge recently, it would be wise to print more gondolas. I would expect each shell to cost about 80$ now, without shipping! No way. But when you think about is, this gondola design is quite simplistic. My main problem was sanding flat surfaces smooth. So here’s the idea, why pay for smooth surfaces when you can build them with styrene. I could only print the required details at a lower cost and glue them on a generic styrene shell. Better, I could invest my money in a better and smoother printing material.

There are only a few parts on this model that are annoying to scratchbuild:
  
First, the underframe could be 3D printed with brake details, little cast on details and coupler boxes. Basically, that will give me a flat car on which I will build the superstructure. If you look closely at prototype picture, it is exactly what those gondolas are: a modern flat car with extensions.

  •  Second, I would print the post. Why? Because they have intricate fasteners that are very small and tiresome to cut and glue if done in styrene. One could only print the lower part and glue styrene shape for the rib but I don’t think it would be significant in terms of cost and assembly time. Also, the end result would be a little bit less neat depending on the skills of the builder. And think about it, if you have 3D printed ribs on hand, you can virtually build many woodchip car variations with a single style component.
  • Third, I would print the car’s top rib and its numerous small ribs. This part is a little could be scratchbuilt, but depending on the price, it’s worth to see what could be the final price.

On the other hand, it could be totally possible to print the car as a single piece. You would get a structural skeleton into which you had the styrene sheeting inside to complete it. The final touch would be to add horizontal bracing on car ends using styrene profiles cut to length.
If possible, I’d like to remove least 50% of printed material to cut the cost by 50% at least. If feasible, I’ll lower that ratio as much as I can, maybe by reworking the underframe thickness a little bit. The big idea is to take advantage of 3D printing for what it's good at; details.

When we start working with this interesting technology, we are all intoxicated by the ready-to-run mirage. Full of wishful thinking, we believe we will get the perfect prototype in one part. That may work for some model, but for larger scale needs, you have to take an alternate road. In fact, 3D printing shouldn't be a convenient way to free us from scratchbuilding and kitbashing, but another tool in our hands.

Once again, we have to be a little bit creative to work innovative solutions around. At least, it’s worth a try. If it works, that will be a fine way to build a larger modern CN woodchip gondolas fleet. I do like the roofless boxcars and their distinctive style, but I love the real gondolas with their ridiculous “CN Rail” logo. They are the one I saw in my childhood and I’m not alone in the club to have a soft spot for them!

Oh! By the way, I had a few friends visiting yesterday. They are mainly interested in wargaming models - namely Warhammer 40 000 - but it was a good occasion to discuss and do some scenery work. While chatting, with them when they played their game, I prepared another set of 4 roofless boxcars and built one more model. I'm following George Dutka's pictures to build them. I still have another shell lying around, so if I'm in the mood, I could get as much as 10 cars.

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