Dating back to the 1840s, model railroading has been a hobby that has not only stuck around, but one which has evolved with the times. Railway modeling allows people to construct their own scaled down models of famous, unknown, or even imaginary railroad systems, locomotives, tracks, buildings and streetcars. One of the biggest past-times among model railroad enthusiasts, is reconstructing the beauty of real railroad locales, as well as locations of railroads throughout periods of time in history.
As many of you know, 3D printing allows for customization, down to the minute details. By creating a 3D model of something, 3D printers can then replicate it into a tangible object, in a matter of hours. It would only seem fitting that this process would be perfect for the fabrication of model railroads and model trains.
One man, by the name of Matt Wickham, has in fact taken this ‘railroading’ past time, and modernized it through the utilization of 3D printing. In creating his Metropolitan Railway, Wickham used the help of Shapeways for most of the 3D printing.
“Everything until recently has been printed by Shapeways, the main body, chassis, seating are all printed by SLS, White, strong, and flexible material,” Wickham told 3DPrint.com. “Detailed parts such as, roof vents, and bogies for the wheels are printed in Frosted detail, which I believe is done by Polyjet machines.”
While Shapeways has done most of the printing, he is currently looking at some alternatives, including a local firm which uses SLA based 3D printers to create fabricate objects. Wickham tells us that the SLA prints come with a better surface finish but are double the cost.
Wickham turned to 3D printing when he realized that the carriages that he needed were not available anywhere. “I saw on forums and from other people, what they had done with 3D printing, so in December 2012 I decided to give it a go, although it’s taken a year an a half to complete. I had a lot of help from a good friend of mine Stephen, who also has an interest in 3D printing and the London Underground.”
3D printing allowed Wickham to get exactly what he wanted, down to the fine little details. When he gets the prints back from Shapeways, they come uncolored. Because of the printing material he uses, it is not possible to order already colored objects. He then manually paints them to make them look just as he desires.
We asked Wickham what other model train enthusiasts think of his 3D printed models, when they first see them:
“The general reaction on first seeing them is that they look excellent, and then I say that they have been 3D printed and they are quite surprised, but quite interested in the process and how it’s done,” he explained. “There has generally been quite a bit of interest since I have started, on Facebook, forums, Twitter, quite a few model train collectors or railway modellers are quite impressed by them. I had the full set at a club/exhibition open day, and they seem to have grabbed quite a bit of attention just by how nice they looked.”
Wickham doesn’t only 3D print the carriages and cars. He also 3D prints some of the buildings. Currently some of his models are available via his Shapeways shop. He is currently working on an instruction sheet for explaining how to paint the models once received by those who order them.
Without a doubt, 3D printing and train modeling will catch on even more as time goes on. What do you think about Wickham’s models? Discuss in the 3D Printed Train Model forum thread on 3DPB.com
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