Report from the resin front

Tom Madden

Some Thanksgiving thoughts on recent topics, and the state of resin casting....

1 - UTLX X-3 tanks: Frank owns all the patterns he did for Sunshine. I returned the four X-3 tank masters to him in case he wants to upgrade them to current standards. (Mainly spotting the handrail stanchion mounting holes.) It's not a high priority as he waits to see what happens with the purported plastic model.

2 - UP and SP 40 foot flats: There are a lot of Union Pacific General Arrangement drawings in the Colorado RR Museum's collection, many of them indexed by Dick Harley. I used those drawings to develop 3D CAD designs for 3D printed patterns for the UP's F-50-5 and F-50-9 flat cars. In support of this effort Richard sent some photos, and the late Paul Lyons went out to the Orange Empire Railway Museum and did a full photo shoot of the UP F-50-7 (a near twin of the F-50-5) in residence there. However, the F-50-9 is very close to the subsequently released Red Caboose SP 53'-6" flats, and I learned that Owl Mountain had an SP flat very much like the F-50-5 on their schedule. I'm not going to compete with Red Caboose (or the SP Society), and Owl Mountain's Jason Hill is a much better modeler than I. So the designs languish.

3- Current resin kit technology: Pierre's "wrinkle-sided" Wabash boxcar kit shows where things are headed. Resin castings much easier to assemble into car bodies than the flat kits of yore, with a higher level of detail thanks, in part, to cleverly designed photoetched parts. It's ironic that we've reduced the complexity of the resin assembly while increasing the complexity of detailing it. Part of that is pushing the envelope, and part is the happy notion that the resin market supports these higher priced offerings. The higher prices help make possible the small runs of custom decals and etched parts that make these kits so special. Frank is like a kid in a candy store, now that he's not constrained by the limitations of Martin's flat casting processes. Frank's ACF acid tanks are just the tip of his iceberg, and Bill Welch's Semet-Solvay tank, which Pierre will offer, is equally gorgeous.

4 - Advancing and spreading the technology: I've been involved in rapid prototyping (now known as 3D printing) since 1995, and have been doing resin casting since the mid-1960s. We've reached the point where you don't need to be a gifted modeler in the traditional sense to create highly accurate models. The stumbling block is materials. I've harped on this many times - the 3D printing processes that can produce models with a high level of detail use materials that are very expensive and lack the physical properties we require. Fine for static details that will be placed and never touched again, like fire hydrants and retaining walls, but too brittle or unstable to survive repeated handling. They're great for patterns, though, which means resin casting will be with us for a while. Aaron posted earlier that these new patternmakers will find resin casters eager to serve them. I'm not so sanguine as Aaron, considering that he and I are two of the few resin casters in this hobby doing high-end commercial casting for other manufacturers. (We're supporting both Frank and Pierre.) The hobby needs more Aarons and Toms.

My Cocoa Beach clinic will be on advanced mold making and resin casting, and is an unabashed attempt to increase the resin casting gene pool. There's also a self-serving motive. My wife and I are both involved in many things that keep us overscheduled and overcommitted. We have mutually agreed to extricate ourselves from as many of those responsibilities as possible before I reach 80. That's only 21 months away.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tom Madden

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