The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A look at the new American OO FA-1 on Shapeways

Those who look at the American OO Scale group on Facebook already know, there is a new 3D printed model of the Alco FA-1 available now on Shapeways (here).

Back when I worked in HO (I was still active in a local HO club after I started in OO) I regularly ran a Train Miniatures FA-1 with a dummy F-7 diesel, painted for my Orient. I always enjoyed the pair visually, and ordering this model I am looking to do that same type of combination of EMD/Alco cab units together, but this FA-1 will be the dummy. In this first photo, the Shapeways FA is with my original HO FA, and in the final photo the OO FA-1 is with a F-3. Visually, the 3D printed body has the shape we want, it really is a sight for sore eyes for the OO gauger. But the steps are a bit fragile and there are other issues and limitations to be aware of.

Having now three other diesels with Shapeways bodies (more here), I would rate this body a bit better than the others but be aware, these are not as detailed as the average train set engine in HO. The biggest issues with all of them is the overall rough, grainy finish, with a close second being the “wood grain” effect on the roof due to the 3D printing process. This second photo was taken without a flash to highlight the issue, which is a remnant of the production process. It is more visible if you click on the photo for a closer view. I will try to sand some of that off.

Another issue will be painting. From experience, I know the recommendation is to use acrylic paint and that the paint soaks into the surface of the model. If you were thinking about a multi-color scheme it probably won’t turn out well. A solid, darker color would be the best choice, if for no reason but to obscure the low detail level. I will try red on this model and will hope for the best. (I did see a suggestion somewhere to paint with a primer first and then a clearcote finish before putting on the desired color. This seems like a good idea.)

As noted in the (now updated) Fleischmann FA article in this site, a FA body should be about a foot and a half longer than that of a F-3, and this Shapeways model has that relationship to the Schorr F-3. But that brings up the Fleischmann FA and this photo comparing the two. Basically, the Fleischmann model is an attractive one and in ways certainly better detailed than the Shapeways model. But also, the Fleischmann model is underscale for OO. It was marketed as HO but is larger – but visually not as big as the Shapeways model, it is about half way between HO and OO in size. In short, the Fleischmann model looks OK converted to OO operation but you could not run it with the Shapeways model.

The new model comes with 3D printed truck sideframes. Personally I don’t think they are very usable. I have a spare pair of Schorr RS-2 trucks which will be used at least initially on this model. If I were not using them, I would likely use the Tyco/Mantua HO sideframes that show up on a number of their models but in particular the C-430 and the Baldwin Shark. Those have the correct wheelbase for OO with much sharper detail than the Shapeways sideframes. All three types are seen in the photo.

To close, I spotted one more new 3D printed 1/76 diesel, a GP-20. It looks like the detail level is again not real sharp, but it would build up into a well-proportioned model for sure. For me I probably have enough diesels for now, and I have in particular my eyes on several of my steam locomotive projects as things I will be working on in the near future. But if you are thinking diesels, give Shapeways a look, if it is there in any scale contact the designer of the model, they may be willing to make the changes so that it can be produced in American OO.


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