Friday, July 17, 2020

CN Woodchip Car - Toward Production

Last time I wrote about the CN woodchip car project, it was back in early February when the pre-production models were unveiled during an informal RPM meet in Ontario kindly organized by Hunter Hughson. Since then, COVID-19 happened and my professional workload skyrocketed due to a new exciting heritage project. However, some readers have contacted me about the cars, asking when they would be available. I feel I have a moral obligation to stand by my words and thus decided to make a last push to see this project reach a satisfying conclusion.

However, the  delay isn't a bad thing because it helped me to get access to better technology while addressing issues raised by the pre-production model. With the help of some people in Quebec City area with good 3D printing knowledge it will make developing the project both faster and better. Also, doing thing locally helps me to keep an eye on quality and reduce costs to some extend.

That said, let's address the issues and flaws found in the pre-production models:

First, the underframe small I-beams were extremely brittle. I tried to make them as close to scale as I could and it was a mistake. A few people with knowledge in 3D printing told me to make them rectangular to make them sturdier and easier to print (no reliance on too many supports). I know it is a trade off, but it's the underframe and I know most people won't care as much as a few ones about that. If I was producing a resin craftsman kit, be assured no shortcut would be taken, but it's not the case. I'll live with this decision, knowing it makes the product easier to sell.

Second, I know have access to a larger 3D printer that can print a full car as a single part body. This is a great news because it removes a lot of assembly steps that were a little bit tricky. Assembling an open car from flat panels may be not that great for many people. Also, it makes the car sturdier once again. With that said, I'm experimenting with a shell on which ladders, platforms, stirrups and other details like brake chain and fulcrum are molded on. If it works, I'll go that route, if it don't, nothing loss and I revert to my original option with separate parts.

I've got to be pragmatic because people don't want to assemble models and most people interested in operating these woodchip cars aren't the craftsman crowd. That said, I've taken great care so most details visible are accurate, making it possible for modellers with higher standards to improve by adding additional separate details like brake rigging under the car.

I should have a second pre-production model to show soon. And honestly, I'd like to have everything ready for production starting this September.

I'm also working on CN 156000 series 65ft gondolas. The 3D model is ready for pre-production and decals are made. However, that will happen after the woodchip cars are done once for all.


  1. This is very exciting! Thanks for the update, Matthieu.

  2. I'd be quite interested in a couple of those 156000 series gondolas, so I'll certainly be watching out for updates on those.

    Jim at JSSX.