Subway Collection: Part 1

In a previous post I talked about putting my foot down and making the firm commitment to attend Maker Faire in NYC by signing up as an exhibitor/Maker. You didn’t read about it? Look at this link and then come right back.

Ok, your caught up now? Good.

So I can not wait until I get an acceptance letter back from the folks at Maker Faire to start in on this project. I have to model as much as I can now. So that is what I have been doing. While doing this I noticed something interesting. As simple as some of these design are, they are really hard to get into a modern CAD program.

Later trains like the R110 or the R142s have very controlled and refined surfaces.

BMT AB roof
BMT AB, Photo By: Fan Railer, YouTube
R110A New Technology Test Program, Photo From:

The radius and transitions along the roof are things that are easily duplicated in CAD by using various radius or fillet tools. Some require more fiddling then others but overall you can apply these features without much fuss.

Earlier trains especially those make in the first half of the 20th century have fillets that require serious surface control. If you look at the picture of the train I am working on currently the roof radius’ look pretty simple. The corner has a high point and it sweeps into an arc as you move around to the front. There are 2 major problems with this…..

First, the drawings I can get a hold of are not the originals but translations made by people from other drawings, so things do not always line up.

Interior Drawing

Second, using photos is great but after looking at a couple dozen of the same generation you notice they are defiantly not the same curve from car to car.

As complicated as things have gotten in recent times, the basic form of things have gotten simpler. The easiest example is iphone. The iPhone is just a rectangle however AT&T phone from the 1930’s is something far more complex.

There are undercuts and curves. I don’t mean to cheapen the design of the iPhone, there is a great deal of understanding of design, ergonomics and a sensitive to balance that is needed to make a product like that. The point I am trying to make is that the things we design or make are heavily bound to the tools we have.

The folks who work on the iPhone have the latest and greatest CAD software to bring their ideas to life. In their world there are many tools to pick from to sculpt their ideas. Some of those tools are easier to use than others and even in my own designs I lean towards what will be the easiest and more importantly the more stable tool to use. There is nothing worse than getting something just right only to have a program flip out at you for adding just one too many fillets.

The people who worked on this BMT train above probably had a drawing from an engineer that said the roof should be x length and y width with this sort of radius on it.

I am sure it was left up to the craftsman to figure out how that was actually going to work. That means that every train they made was unique to the person making it that day. That is why when I look at a drawing or picture of one of these they are not perfect copies of each other. There is a level of uniqueness.

That uniqueness is evident more and more I work on these models. It is really evident how creative I have to get with interpreting what these things look like in person without being there in person. However it did dawn on me that if you had a designer from both the 1930’s and present day sit down and talk about the process they go though to create a model or drawing of their designs there would be a lot of awe in how the other could work with so little or so much.

The more we progress further ahead it is amazing what can be done with a click of a button. It is even more amazing that with all that technolgy what use to be easy to do with a pencil and paper becomes very hard to discribe to a computer.

Hopefully by the end of the weeknd I will have more of the BMT AB car done, or at least enough to show here in the blog. Do you have any easy techniques for making some of these curves? Let me know in the comments or though the contact form on the webpage.

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