Tuesday, November 21, 2023

More amazing 3-D printing

 At this year’s meeting of the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society, I met again with Andrew “AJ” Chier, who has been creating some impressive 3-D printed HO models of a variety of SP prototypes. I wrote about this SPH&TS meeting in a recent blog post, which you can read here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2023/10/the-2023-sph-annual-meeting.html . And I showed some of AJ’s fine models in my write-up of the 2022 SPH&TS meeting (here’s a link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2022/09/sph-modesto-2022.html ).

At that 2022 meeting in Modesto, AJ showed a beautiful model of Pacific Motor Trucking (PMT) trailers on the original SP flat car arrangements, and I repeat below my photo of those models. They were entirely 3-D printed by AJ, and when I enthusiastically admired them, he offered to make me a set. But problems with his printer intervened, and I hadn’t heard from him in awhile.

Well, at the recent 2023 meeting in Bakersfield, AJ handed me a box with trailer and flat car models in it! What a delightful thing to receive! I show below two of the trailers, one still as-printed with all its supports, and on the left, the trailer that is revealed with the supports removed.

The body as you see it above is quite nice, but more impressive is what is underneath the trailer: a full frame, the spare tire, the landing gear, the springs and rigging on the rear wheels, and even the wheel chocks for use on the flat car.

Also in the box was AJ’s clever design for the flat car. Underneath the car is a pocket in which lead sheet or other weight material can be inserted. You can see the edges of this pocket in the upper part of the view below. The “cover plate” for the weight pocket, shown at the bottom of the photo, is the remainder of the underframe.

 When the two parts are assembled, covering the weight, it looks like the view below, naturally with some three-dimensionality of the brake gear being sacrificed.

But the real triumph of the 3-D printing process is the top of the flat car. The “stands” that SP used to support the front and back of each trailer are there, along with the rub rails on the sides and the bridge plates at each end, along with the cable binders that attached the trailers to the car.

Even simply placing the trailer model onto the flat car immediately shows what this model can be like. Of course it needs to be painted, and the tie-downs attached, as I will describe in forthcoming posts, but already you can see the potential. Thank you, AJ!

This is a wonderful gift from AJ Chier, and I am already working toward getting the models painted, the trailer tied down, and so on. But for now I think it’s a superb illustration of something I’ve been saying for some time: the 3-D printing we are seeing today is just the thin edge of the wedge, of what we will see in future years in the hobby. Even what we can dimly see today, looking into the future, is most inspiring.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, is AJ considering offering these commercially? If so, is there contact information available for him? I’d be interested in a scale down to N, 3-4 sets of flats and trailers.

    1. Some of his HO scale passenger cars are available from Shapeways. I don't know if he has similar intentions for the TOFC equipment. I can ask him if he would entertain a contact.
      Tony Thompson