Over the weekend, I worked on building the HOn30 Tionesta Valley Railway caboose prototype. Overall, the experience was positive, with just a few tweaks to the files required that came up during assembly. Like our other laser cut kits, the caboose is mostly 1/32” laser cut and etched plywood, with a basswood frame, and .015” laserboard details. The biggest issue that I ran into was that in both the coach and caboose frames, drilling the ends to accept the railings is impossible to do without causing damage to the frame. “Use a pin vise and go slow!”, you may say. This isn’t my first rodeo, so I’m aware of the tricks and techniques. My concern is that I can deal with it, but I don’t want customers to have to deal with it. I’m not sure if I have ever discussed my philosophy of our products before, but I want to produce items that are detailed, and EASY to build. I’ve been building models all of my life, so it’s no big deal for me to have to suffer through a Chinese puzzle box of a kit. That same kit might very well intimidate people who haven’t been building for 30 to 60 years. Many new Hon30 modelers are coming from the RTR world of HO and N. My initial thought with the railing problem was to laser the holes all the way through, but while I was building, I realized that an even easier assembly solution would be to laser the whole end out of .015” and just glue the end of the beam, railings and all to the frame. Simple. You can see that I gave up trying to drill and fit delicate parts in the photo, and I just glued them to the outside. It makes it much, much easier to handle the parts, and speeds up assembly. I want our kits to be the easy button for Hon30, and sometimes I have to dial back my enthusiasm and remember that compromise is sometimes required to make a good product within our scope of resources.
We’re also working on several 3D printed body kits for larger HOn30 locomotives. Back in the heyday of HOn30, There were a handful of manufacturers who built kits based around the available N scale chassis from Bachmann and others. Times have changed, and so have the available donor mechanisms. The popular Bachmann Docksider 0-4-0 locmotives are only available on the secondary market, and many come with the dreaded cracked gears we’ve all come to expect with age. The original 0-6-0/ 2-6-2 mechanism has been updated several times over the last decade, with the most current version having a can motor installed from the factory, no longer a big silver chunk hanging out of the back of the cab. Bachmann has also introduced a 2-6-0 and a 4-6-0 as DCC ready, and from all reports are fine models. Marsh Creek Miniatures is working now on conversion kits for the 2-6-2 and the 4-6-0. The basis of the idea is simple. Make a basic Baldwin style conversion for both chassis, the 2-6-2 being the cheaper option and straight DC, for those who want that, and the 4-6-0 being similar for someone who wants DCC or DC, and prefers the larger driving wheels. Dimensionally, the chassis are similar, and with some smart 3D modeling, different versions of both locomotives could be made available, and easy to build. No fighting with Brass cabs, or dealing with parts cast from old molds, with warped resin parts that require a bunch of cleaning and assembly. Just pop on the 3D printed parts, add details and paint. Simple. Each will have several different configurations available, with different styling based on era, so it’s possible to have 2 or more versions based on each chassis.
We’re partial to the styling on this Mexican 2 foot 2-6-0, so it will be available as well as others. With the addition of these locomotive conversion kits, our line of products will expand into short line and larger lines, making HOn30 a viable scale for modelers who don’t want the expense of brass, or want to model something other than what is available in brass.
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