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An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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  • A 3D Printed Steam Car Bash

    While there are a number of historic references to steam dummy locomotives pulling period passenger cars, prototypes for developing this particular bash were rare on this side of the big pond and even rarer in narrow gauge. Therefore, this bash is a prototypical bit of whimsy, built using parts already on hand…well, almost.

    While hunkered down during the pandemic, I bought an On30 combine kit consisting of just three parts, a roof, a body and a chassis from a dealer on eBay. It was 3D printed, something that I had not worked with before and the body scaled out to be seven feet wide by eighteen feet long. As was expected, the texture of the exterior of the car is rather rough with numerous anomalies and glitches from the 3D printing process, among them the door and window frames and the doorknobs, which are oversized.

    Complementing this kit in its overall coarseness is the bashed running gear. It is from an Airfix OO, unpowered 0-4-0 saddle tank plastic loco kit, aka the Pug, that was bought as bash bait many years ago, during my first foray into On30. The frames, drivers, cylinders and side rods form a separate assembly that is easy to build, as the parts just snap together. In O-scale, the wheelbase measures forty-five inches and the disc type drivers are twenty-four inches in diameter.

    To make room for this assembly one of the bolsters on the 3D printed chassis had to be removed, which is a simple task requiring basic hand tools. An old HO arch bar truck supports the other end of the chassis by way of the remaining printed on bolster. Because of the driver diameter, mounting this truck requires a spacer between it and the bolster and this creates a gap under the chassis that is filled by wood dowel water tanks, slung along each side of the chassis, under the passenger compartment.

    In theory, by placing the driving wheels beneath the freight compartment of the combine body, the lack of a boiler as well as other essential stuff, will be hidden from view. However, as things turned out, the actual body is only thirteen feet long as there are end platforms, each of them two and a half feet wide, that are printed on to it. While the eight foot, three window passenger section is adequate in size, potentially seating eight at a time, the truncated freight compartment, at just five feet long, is too small to be an effective boiler room.

    Fortuitously, the eBay dealer also offers additional 3D printed parts that fit over the platforms to make enclosed vestibules that match the rest of the car body. One of them added over the platform of the freight compartment extends it to an adequate seven and a half feet long, with cubbyholes indicated at the front corners for the engineer and fireman. Historically, with full water tanks and a bushel of coal on board, a run of several miles was the norm.

    Adding a few exterior detail parts completes this caricature of a narrow gauge, self-propelled, steam powered passenger car. One of these details – the “almost” mentioned at the end of the first paragraph – is actually a plumbing part that was bought specifically for this bash from a local DIY store. It is the brass sleeve for a common, 3/8 inch compression connector that was modified to represent a flared O-scale smokestack. The part was chucked in a drill and the manufactured flare was filed down to a typical diameter and the sleeve length was shortened to fit into a hole drilled in the 3D printed roof.

    While it is more of a creature than a critter, I did enjoy the bash, although I have no plans to add it to the layout as it looks too crude – more like a LEGO train than anything else. All the best to everyone and questions and comments are always welcome.
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    • Dan that looks pretty good for a 3D print and nice bash too. As a way of a suggestion if you
      don't want to use it on your layout you could always make a very small diorama to use your
      finished build. Just a thought.
      Owner, General Manager, and all around "chief cook and bottle washer" of the Caz Coal-and-Wood Railroad


      • Thanks Larry,

        I have an Ameri-Towne 501 Flag Stop Station kit that has an interesting story behind it, to do a diorama in the future.

        I can always park the creature critter behind the station. It would be a good fit.



        • Interesting piece of equipment.
          And like Larry said, that's a good 3D print job.
          Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
          FaceBook link:


          • Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed And Some Glue

            This On30 barge bash is not a barge for transporting railroad tank cars, it is a barge that is made from HO scale tank car bodies for transporting whatever needs to be moved. Like the prototype that it is based on, the bash has the look of a barge that was put together by the local shade tree mechanics from whatever was available.

            Doing the math, the barge bash has a prototype carrying capacity of about six tons and it would make a good cable hauled ferry for a river crossing or a floating platform for a small crane working the sorting pond at a lumber mill. An appropriate O-scale outboard motor, if one can be found, can be hung from one of the ends of the deck to make a single-ended powered barge.

            Unlike the title reference to the use of glue, the other references will need a bit of explanation. As this bash has no place on the current layout, much like the previous 3D printed steam railcar bash, it was done on the cheap as a fun project.

            “Something Borrowed” refers to the idea behind this project. Back when I retired from work, now a dozen years ago, I briefly tried a new hobby – radio controlled model boats – and I wanted to build an operating tugboat and barge combination.

            While researching the project I found a webpage with photos of an odd barge that was made from old tank car bodies that were welded together into a pair of matching side flotation pods. In between them was placed a heavy wooden deck on which was parked a small crawler crane. Unfortunately, the webpage no longer exists, but the barge idea has remained active.

            “Something New” refers to something that I purchased recently for the bash. It is a pair of matching, circa 1975, Tyco HO tank cars, NIB, that were found on eBay at a very reasonable price, plus free shipping. Real life barges tend to be huge and the prototype was made from four tank car bodies, with a capacity of some ten thousand gallons each. The barge bash needed to be trimmed down, so each side pod now consists of one Tyco HO tank, which are twenty feet long in O-scale by four feet in diameter and their capacities are about two thousand gallons each.

            For use on a layout the truncated barge bash needs to be a waterline model and here is where the one piece Tyco tanks really shine as bash bait, as the work that is needed to be done is minimal. While the tank ends are fully modeled, when the tank bodies are separated from the rest of the car, they leave behind the bottom quarter of their diameter, so the tanks are open on the bottom.

            When the tank ends are trimmed to match the bottom of the bodies, instant waterline side pods are created for the bash. On the prototype, the pods were welded together, using steel beams, to make a rectangular barge and this was carried out with the bash by the use of styrene bars and some ACC.

            “Something Old” refers to something that was already on hand at the start of the bash. It is a Bachmann On30, twenty-five foot low sided gondola car that was purchased years ago, when they first came on the market. As I have no use for this large car on the present layout, it has become bash bait. However, the bash was done in such a way that, if needed, the original car can be reassembled and put back in service in a couple of minutes.

            By stripping off the sides, the trucks and couplers, and the separate underframe, the remaining flatcar body will drop right onto the barge frame, when the vertical centerlines of the tank ends are spaced three and one eighth inches apart. In theory, the flatcar underframe is still there, prototypically supporting the deck, but as its presence cannot be seen on the bash it was removed and not used.

            The completed bash had a prototypical, partly submerged look to it, with the low mounted deck overhanging the sides of the tanks by a couple of feet at each end. The completed On30 barge is seventeen feet wide by twenty-six feet long. The surface of the deck is two feet above the water line, with the domes topping out at five feet.

            The photos show the minimalist construction of the barge bash. There really isn’t much to it, just five pieces. For a size comparison, one photo show the bash with a Matchbox 1:43, Model AA Ford truck carried as a deck load. Don’t forget to place chocks under the wheels or it might go for a swim.

            Questions and comments are always welcome and Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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            • Dan haven't heard from you in awhile; nice you stopped by. Nice bash and with the Wesson oil tankers
              that should float just fine.
              Owner, General Manager, and all around "chief cook and bottle washer" of the Caz Coal-and-Wood Railroad


              • Thanks Larry,

                Between a very hot summer (the layout room does not have AC) and some old age health problems, I had to take some time off.



                • Larryc
                  Larryc commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Sorry to hear about your health issues but nice your back.

              • Dan, good to hear from you and hope you're feeling better.
                Interesting bash.
                Very creative.
                Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
                FaceBook link:


                • Neat On30 barge bash you have done. It's the first idea like that I've seen. Nice job and idea.

                  Louis L&R Western Railroad
                  Pacific Northwest Logging in the East Coast


                  • Dan,

                    Cool model. Seeing the photos I thought it was pure fantasy until I read your explanation. You did a fine job.

                    The barge looks fine as it is, but are you planning to dirty it up at all?


                    Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin


                    • Merry Christmas Dan! Nice project Glad your back!


                      • Thank you guys, one and all.

                        Now that the holidays are over, I hope to get back to working on the layout and maybe even finish it!

                        I have been stocking up on pre-made trees of various sizes, for one thing that I have learned from working with tinplate trains is one's layout can never have too many trees.

                        As I go through my stash of old spray cans of paint, I will pick something appropriate for the barge - probably a flat brown primer.

                        All the best to everyone and have a safe and prosperous New Year.


                        • Dan, that's a unique and interesting model. Nice job. Looking forward to seeing it on the layout. ~mike


                          • A Bashed 3D Printed MOW Tie Cart

                            A bit of the 3D printed passenger car that was left over from the recent self-propelled steam car project has been driving me nuts. It was one of a pair of accessory vestibules for the platforms of the 3D passenger car body from that bash, but what to do with it?

                            Basically it is a vertical U-shaped part, pierced by a door window opening, with a rather crude door frame centered on the outside. It is printed in the usual gosh awful, rough sawn, pseudo wood finish and it is this overall coarseness that defies any kind of building or railcar use, even in the background.

                            A while ago, I bashed a two unit MOW train, a converted automobile for a locomotive and a tool cart. While it does look good, it appears to be too short when displayed on the layout, so another bashed cart might be a good project. By placing the left over vestibule face down on the tabletop, with the door underneath, the worst parts of the piece would be hidden from view, while the image of an MOW tie cart started to materialize, albeit oversized.

                            I cut the height of the vestibule down to 1 3/16 “ while leaving the width “as is.” This bashed a cart body that is 4’ 9” wide by 6 ½ feet long, just right to carry a stack of HO wood ties, which are close match to the ties of the layout’s Atlas Code 70 HO track.

                            The original MOW tool cart is sitting on one half of an old pair of Roundhouse Fox trucks from way back when – they were among the first parts molded in Delrin plastic. As the new tie cart began to manifest itself, the other truck was also used for it, with a small scrap of wood serving as a bolster, thereby giving the diminutive carts a family resemblance when viewed from the side.

                            Back in the nineteen seventies, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I bought some diecast link and pin couplers to use on my original On30 projects. More recently, I used them on the MOW train, so I also installed them on the bashed tie cart. Although they are oversized, they look quite good.

                            Neither the 3D plastic part nor the old Delrin plastic truck side frames take paint very well, so I gave the assembled tie cart a spritz of matte yellow spray paint as an undercoat and then brushed on some matte yellow acrylic paint as a splotchy finish coat. This was the same finish that was applied to the prior tool cart, so they look quite similar. It is one of those rare situations where a lack of painting skills is a plus.
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                            As always, all the best to everyone…


                            • Neat lil MOW set Dan!~