Maintaining Railroad History Through New Technology


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Soon They Will Be Gone Forever

Showing the end, to make sense of the beginning.

Watch this video

To help you understand the vision we thought it best for you to have a focus on the hoped for end result.

Modeling Historic Locomotives Using 3D Print Technology

It’s amazing, even back in 2013, how 3D printing was changing how we viewed things. Not to mention, how it has changed manufacturing.

Here is how it began for me.

After retiring in 2010 I started geo modeling for Google Earth,using a simple 3D program called SketchUp. I became a Certified Geo 3D Modeler, and enjoyed placing 3D low polygon buildings in Google Earth. That was a springboard for doing a geographically located collection of Carnegie Library buildings.


I realized that a part of history was disappearing, and 3D modeling an accurate representation of something could save it. At least a record that it existed at all.

I expanded my Google involvement by becoming a Google Trusted Photographer,shooting 360 degree tours of the interior of businesses. When I got an opportunity to shoot a tour of the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum. Man, I was excited. Being a life-long train buff, this really was an opportunity to help showcase the museum's efforts, and their exposure.

I soon discovered how rich a railroad history there was in this small city in Central California. This littleknown narrow gauge railroad called the Pacific Coast Railway was only a 76 mile line, but had a major impact on the growth of this area of California.

After this discovery, I had to do some more digging, to find out how I could model this little jewel of a railroad. Not having the room to do a layout that would represent this unique railroad, I got into creating it as a train simulation in theprogramTrainz.So much for for retirement, huh?


Using Sanborn Maps, Historic DEM information, and bycollaborating with afewgood 3D modelers, we brought this once abandoned railroad back to 3D life. (Still a work in progress.)

The picture above shows locomotive #2 of the PCR, because there was no real representation of their first locomotive, the Avila, a small 2-4-2T Baldwin built wood burner.

That is when I ran across the video you watched at the beginning.That is when I knew I had to build this lost locomotive.

Meet the “Avila.”


This is the only known picture of the first locomotive used by the Pacific Coast Railway.

So now the adventure begins

From the book titled “ The Pacific Coast Railway” by Kenneth E. Westcott, and Curtiss H. Johnson the Avila was mocked up in this picture to show what she may have looked like.


What made theabovepicture even possible were the build records of the “Baldwin Locomotive Works” found by doing some extensive research.

Some of that type of work has been done by myself in wanting to find out more about this little 1875 beauty. Through various contacts I was able to dig up more about this type of locomotive and received some of the following information.

This information confirmed the type and detail about what Baldwin had built.


These were the build records used by Kenneth Westcott for his book, and as you can see, the build record has quite a few details. All very helpful in our research, but we needed more to pull up an accurate 3D model.

Along comes David Fletcher.

A well known artist, illustrator, and train buff. Through our contact with David and the DeGolyer Library we were able to access the extensive Baldwin Locomotive Works actual drawings. (see Below)


From these scanned drawings and the Baldwin build records, David was able to do the CAD work needed, and also some very nice illustrations showing detail and color based on our research.



This was where things back in 2013 came to a halt. Building up a skill set with more industry accepted programs and formats became a bit overwhelming. But now there are very talented 3D modelers out there that can be collaborated with. Their abilities to take our information and pull up accurate, acceptable models to be 3D printed makes this project more of a reality today than it was 8 years ago.

So who would be interested in these models?

To post pictures, you can use two methods:

1) Upload the pictures to an image hosting site such as then copy the share-links and past them in the forum.

2) Upload the images to the My Trainz gallery and provide the links to the forum where the pictures will automatically load. There is a file-size limit so you want to keep these under 2 MB.

SketchUp models have their place, but not necessarily in Trainz. We found this out the hard way after many of us, including myself, uploaded lots of 3d Warehouse and custom SketchUp models to the DLS. The issue is these models have an unnecessarily high number of polygons and individual textures due to how the model its self is converted from b-spline to polygon models using the Ruby-Mix SketchUp converter that takes the SketchUp models and converts them to Trainz-compatible models.

The model textures, instead of being UVW-mapped, are instead individual images applied to the surface. This makes for an unnecessary load on the computer as it loads up the individual slices in addition to the high-number of polygons associated with the model. In addition to the SketchUp models being high-polygon, there is no LOD associated with them. Without LOD, this will cause two issues. First is a major drag on the system due to the high amount of data always being present, and second it makes for awful draw distance with assets appearing suddenly in the scene when they come into view instead of transitioning from a small image to a full-scale model.

SketchUp models, with their limitations can be used, however, but in a limited scope so having a full city of SketchUp models, or a train yard and engine house full of SketchUp models isn't a good idea, let alone good practice.

With that said, SketchUp has its use, but not in Trainz as you'd like it to be, and there are much more suitable programs such as Blender or other poly-modelers that have the necessary FBX exporter plug-in to create the new trainz-mesh format that's used today for the models.

What did you use for terrain modeling? There is a program already suitable for that which can output Trainz-routes ready for landscaping and customizing. TransDEM by Dr. Roland Ziegler, TransDEM ( Using TransDEM, a user can import SRTM and other DEM data files, place topographic maps in-place, and export the combined work as a Trainz-route.