3D Printing, a work in progress.

Just getting started in 3D printing, picked up a Creality Ender3 v2 from Amazon. Using Cura slicer, and Blender for 3D modeling as I already knew it from previous projects. Biggest learnings so far:

1. preparing models in 3D software, ensuring they are manifold and clean geometry,

2. preparing models in Cura, picking the right support settings and using the preview view to check the model for issues (issues with model at import, issue with model when scaling down, etc.)(also don’t always trust STLs you find on the internet, some are crap),

3. knowing your printer inside-out, things are going to go wrong and break, so knowing how to troubleshoot and fix is very important (I’ve already replaced belts, extruder, fans, tubing, build plate), also know the printer limitations, some things just aren’t going to print, or print to your expectations.

4. Calibration! really just printing a calibration model and tuning your machine to achieve better results, I print a calibration cube every month to check my printer,

5. bed leveling – I use the paper test, others use hardware, either way keep it level,

6. know your material settings and material properties, and keep your filament dry,

7. bed adhesion, if stock glass, start by keeping it clean with soap and water, after time the coat they apply that promotes adhesion will wear off, replace bed, or start using painters tape or hair spray solution.

First major project is modeling/printing a HO scale replica of a train station in the town I grew up in.

The model in Blender
After painting, before applying detail parts. This became a “beta” version.
Lots of sanding and priming!
The final version, WIP. Window/Door inserts, textured roof. Thicker shell.

Second project is printing some HO scale generator/prime movers for flat car loads. First time using tree supports, big fan!

Adding some micro-scale decals

Fixing my Dad’s 1952 American Flyer Train Set


4904T American Flyer Three Car Freight

  • American Flyer Locomotive 282 and Tender, 639 Box Car, 640 Hopper Car, 638 Caboose
  • 75 Watt Transformer, 12 Curve Track, 2 Straight Track, 706 Remote Control Uncoupler, 690 Track Terminal, Smoke Capsule and Funnel, Illustrated Train Book

During quarantine decided to surprise my Dad and get his childhood train set running again. I remember playing with the train as a kid, but at some point it broke and sat in my parents basement for 20 or so years. I was able to sneak it out and being diagnosing the issues.

Luckily there is a YouTube video (https://youtu.be/XQIJWTjP6Ks) that walked through the exact engine my Dad had, and all the common issues, so following those I was able to determine any parts that needed to be cleaned/replaced, and was able to get it back running again. Biggest issues were in the tender, which has mechanical component for putting the train in forward/neutral/reverse, that uses tiny conductive fingers and gravity to operate. There is also ton of American Flyer parts on eBay for cheap, so fixing the train was relatively inexpensive.

The transformer also needed to be fixed, replaced the power cord (great resource on transformer: https://dfarq.homeip.net/all-about-the-lionel-rw-transformer), and a copper control arm that controlled the throttle also needed to be replaced. Cleaned up the track with white vinegar and steal wool.

My girls playing with it at my Dads! With it’s analog nature it’s very easy to operate and very approachable vs. modern dcc trains.
Test run on the floor of my apartment after fixing locomotive and cleaning track.

Adding real radio chatter to HO Metra via LokSound 5.

I few months ago I had seen a really well done Amtrak P42 (https://youtu.be/4mYZ1AqLjMo?t=244) that had real radio chatter and I thought it added so much depth and realism to the model, which led me on a mission to add this to my Metra project.

I ended up purchasing a Bearcat radio scanner, an array of different types of external antennas, and spent probably 6 days in total downtown Chicago recording radio chatter. It took a couple times to figure out what combination of antenna, frequency, and time of day that worked best. Additionally I was looking for very specific audio from BNSF centered around departing Chicago Union Station.

Check out the video below to see an example of where I incorporated the real audio into the model train on start-up.

I also resumed work on a new Arduino based Crossing Gate controller, but this time I’ve incorporated Metra announcements that play at a random interval.