Large Scale Model Trains #2: Getting Started

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Blog entry by MrRon posted 10-24-2014 08:30 PM 2814 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: An Introduction To Building Large Scale Model Trains Part 2 of Large Scale Model Trains series no next part

When I build model locomotives, I always work using engineering measurements. That’s because being a retired mechanical engineer, I’m comfortable working in thousands of an inch. You can use any system you wish; it doesn’t matter whether it’s metrics or fractions. I build scaled down versions of actual prototype locomotives, but you have to have someplace to start. I start first by deciding what scale I want to build in and what locomotive I want to model. My scale of preference is 1-1/2” to the foot (1/8 full size). The reason for this is to utilize common wood profiles and allow parts to be, not so small that they are difficult to work with. A piece of ¾” thick wood scales down to 6”, and ¼” thick plywood scales down to 2” for example. I make driving wheels from 18mm Baltic Birch, which is the perfect thickness of the prototype wheels. I also use Baltic Birch because it’s 11 ply’s hold up without delaminating. Here is an example of a typical locomotive driver:

Making the driver as shown, requires common woodworking tools. Here’s where jigs come in. I used a router in a table with a jig to cut the general outline. Another template was used to locate all the ¼” dia holes which define the open space between spokes. Using a jigsaw with a fine tooth blade, I cut out between the drilled holes to create the spokes. I had to repeat this for the remaining 7 drivers. That is why a CNC router is in the works. Doing it all by hand, took me about a day.

4 comments so far

View stefang's profile


16660 posts in 3660 days

#1 posted 10-25-2014 06:26 PM

This should be a very interesting series Ron. I liked your template. I do hope you will show us photos of it in action. I’m sure we will learn a lot from your blog that we can use for other types of projects. Thanks for sharing this with us.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Belg1960's profile


1086 posts in 3391 days

#2 posted 11-05-2014 01:59 AM

Ron, that looks like some engineering math for sure. I thought I had stopped getting notifications but see it hasn’t progressed?? Pat

-- ***Pat*** Rookie woodworker looking for an education!!!

View MrRon's profile


5383 posts in 3569 days

#3 posted 11-05-2014 06:17 PM

The math may seem a bit overwhelming. I make drawings for every part I make using an Autocad program. Since I am an engineer (retired), I am comfortable with all dimensional types, but I prefer the decimal system. It is so second nature to me that I don’t realize that others may not be up to my comfort level. Accuracy and precision is my thing, so working in fractions is not. There are times where a dimension is non-critical, so a fractional dimension will suffice. If I’m trying to fit an axle into a wheel, accuracy is required if you want it to function without it falling apart. I use metals in my projects if I want parts to move. I’m still working on future blogs, but blogging is not one of my best skills.

View Belg1960's profile


1086 posts in 3391 days

#4 posted 11-05-2014 09:08 PM

Yes I’m thinking for folks that don’t use Autocad, sketchup…... it will be a big challenge. If you don’t use lathes and other metal working machines doing things like this will be very difficult. I don’t and will do more like the one I showed in the first part and maybe buy wheels and other parts I can’t make myself. Look forward to some future parts and tips.

-- ***Pat*** Rookie woodworker looking for an education!!!

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