3D Printing Industry

Special National Train Week Feature with Stony Smith

In honor of National Train Day, we caught up with Stony Smith, one of the most prolific and talented train modelers on Shapeways. He’s been featured in Wired and has been a Shapie for years. Hop on the miniature rails and enjoy his story!

Late in 2007, my co-empty-nest wife suggested that I should “get a hobby”. Having done a bit of work with model trains over the years, I decided to try to make a complete model train layout. I had just attended the Fort Worth Model Train Show, where I had seen many options for Zscale trains. I was hooked.

Zscale is 1/220th the size of the real world items – the locomotives are about 3 inches long. In other words…. TINY! What I soon found was that Zscale allows me to pack a large amount of track and scenery into a small space, but, I also found that there was not a lot available in the category of 1:220 buildings. There are laser cut kits, etched brass kits, and I took several excursions into paper models, but all of those require a good bit of effort to construct. 

As 2010 rolled around, I decided to give Shapeways a try. I had seen references to Shapeways on hackaday.com and wired.com, and I had tried to upload a model or two, but I kept running into the dreaded “non manifold” error. Then, I stumbled into OpenSCAD. Designing with a for-next loop… that’s my speed!   With it, I was able to put together a model that actually worked (see above)! Note: most of my items are drawn with TrueSpace, but OpenSCAD helped me achieve something that would actually print.

I had joined zcentralstation.com and was having fun learning tips and techniques for building my layout. One of the guys there asked me to build this for him:

And as they say “the rest is history”. Almost everyone to whom I explain the story of Shapeways says to me: “That’s cool.. can you do one of THESE?” 

But.. I’m having FUN doing the Shapeways designs.  It is quite relaxing to me just doing the drawing. I absolutely LOVE drawing articulated items that can be printed as a single piece. An added perk is when someone buys one of my items, and I find it properly painted sitting on their layout.

If anyone ever tells you that their train layout is “finished”, they’re lying. <grin>  Mine still needs work…  has it been seven years already?? But, along the way I have managed to take some time out from doing projects for other people and finished a couple of items for my own layout:

I really would like to thank Shapeways and congratulate them for empowering designers.  They enable us to build things that couldn’t exist through other manufacturing methods, and to turn imagination into reality. 

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