3D Print Yourself A Tiny Steam Train Complete With Smoke Effects

Model trains are fun, but sometimes little whirring motors in electric models feel a long way from the hulking metal beasts of the real railways. [Lewis] of [DIY Machines] adds back some of the flavor with this little steam train build, smoke effects included!

The body of the train itself is 3D printed in PLA. It’s designed to O-gauge scale, and comes complete with models for 3D printed track as well. The parts are given a coat of paint to better approximate the finish of the real thing; sometimes bare plastic just won’t suffice, after all.

Propulsion is thanks to an onboard battery and a simple gearmotor, driven by a HG7881 motor driver. An ESP32-CAM is responsible for running the show, allowing the train to be commanded wirelessly. As a bonus, the camera is mounted in the very front of the train, allowing one to watch a livestream of its progress about the tracks. Meanwhile, the smoke effect is thanks to a small water atomizer fitted in the train’s chimney, which makes the train look that little bit more authentic.

The combination of a self-powered train and 3D-printed tracks is a compelling one. [Lewis] has been able to leave his PETG 3D-printed track outside for over two years and it’s still in working order. That’s not something easy to achieve when using metal rails to deliver power.

Overall, this is a fun way to get into building your own model trains, and is a lot more hands-on than simply buying pre-built models from a store. From there, the sky is really the limit for your creativity! Video after the break.

10 thoughts on “3D Print Yourself A Tiny Steam Train Complete With Smoke Effects

  1. Scale modeling is resurging as a mainsteam hobby because engineeers are going through a phase. The modern professional world of technology eschews all the character and imperfection of art, and has created an unnatural obsession with perfection and mathematical precision. Yet for all the wonderful achievements of precision in engineering, humans are still more emotionally moved or swayed by the imperfect productions of other humans.

    Purely mathematical, or otherwise measurably exact, inventions, are not the movers and shakers of a civilization. While they may be vital tools for research, they do not accurately describe or predict human behavior. And if the findings of the research run counter to conventional knowledge, or counter to the goals of those funding the research, you may as well have just never conducted research in the first place.

    Seeking absolute visual perfection in any discipline of scale modeling is a farce. It will ultimately drive you nuts, and usually leads to creations that nobody else will understand or appreciate.

  2. I’ve been wondering for a while if anyone is 3d printing stuff like this since model trains are so ridiculously expensive. I wonder if someone could figure out how to setup a charging station the train could pull into when the battery gets low? I had one of the old kind of trains with the power that came through the track when I was a kid. But we have one for around the Christmas tree that’s more like this.. it has a plastic track and some batteries in the coal car.

  3. Go and look at a railway modelling forum like RMWeb and you’ll see that everything being speculated about in this thread (battery power, wireless control, 3d printing everything and anything they need, wireless charging, etc) is all being done right now. Admittedly by a fairly small subset of railway modellers, but it’s out there.

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