I’ve Been Printing On The Dragon Railroad…

We know many people who put much effort into building model train setups. But [Rambros] has an entire set 3D printed, and the files are open source, so you can print your own or modify it to suit you. When we first read “complete open source ecosystem,” we thought it might have been a bit of hyperbole, but it isn’t. The S-scale set includes two locomotives, a tanker, a box car, a hopper car, and a gondola car. There are different sections of track, customizable with Fusion 360. The “Dragon Railway” takes a few mechanical parts and electronics, of course. You can see one of several videos about the system below.

You can control the whole system using Bluetooth and a smartphone. The electronics are pretty simple, consisting of an ESP32 board, some motor drivers, N20 motors, and a few miscellaneous parts. We expect it would be compatible with other off-the-shelf S scale tracks and cars, but we don’t know that for sure.

Although you’ll need Fusion 360 to customize, there are plenty of ready-made STL files if you want to get started quickly. Some of the track items, like the crossing and turnout are not customizable, anyway. One particularly  impressive item is a printed auto-coupler; while a small item, getting that to work reliably with printed parts seems like it may be the most difficult part of the whole thing.

Maybe an OLED display would be the next thing? We’ve seen other printed trains, but this seems like a real labor of love.

28 thoughts on “I’ve Been Printing On The Dragon Railroad…

  1. I’ve found my basic FDM printer isn’t quite up to the task of fine detail in my usual HO scale, but I imagine S scale would hit the sweet spot between big enough for detail and small enough to fit on the bed. I’ve been dabbling in printing SM32 models (narrow gauge garden scale)– the locos and rolling stock are proportionally more square, and commercially produced models aren’t available in my area.

    I’d like to mention a few other 3d printed model railroad resources: the OS-Railway project is similar, but seems to focus on ease of printing over realism. Loco Remote is a company that sells wifi-connected train controls and a handful of 3d-printed models, and have made a variety of track pieces free to print.

    1. If you want to work with HO, use a decent resin printer and the appropriate resin. Tge detail is great. You can get all the tools you need to do this from Micromark. Photo-cured resin prints are not as strong as injection molded plastic, but as long as you are careful they will work fine. Plus, if you are good with a CAD program, you can create almost anything.

      1. Yeah, I just got started with it this past summer and between HO models and tabletop gaming minis I’m starting to think a resin printer may be in my eventual future. Still in the preliminary research phase. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the ability of my FDM a few times, but when I see others’ resin prints I’m just blown away.

    2. You’re right about this scale, I made the first prototype in HO (1:87) scale a year ago. However it was not possible to get the locomotive running reliably, It had lots of breakdown. I nearly abondoned this project, In the new version I knew HO scale was a no go.

      S scale was the goldilock zone, it is easy to assemble and also zero maintenance. Best part is that the N20 motor is contained within the bogie itself, looking more like the real ones.

      Personally I don’t use my resin printer because I don’t like too much post processing work.
      So yeah, I just make the model to be compatible with my FDM printer.

  2. Those Tomlinson-style couplers aren’t compatible with anything else existing in S scale. Either American Flyer-compatible knuckles or Kadees would be preferable. Interesting project, though.

    1. A valid concern if you have, or are likely to add, any existing locomotives or rolling stock. I’m not sure if anyone has cloned an established coupler in S scale. I’d be interested to try for myself, but the only example couplers I have to work from are HO scale knuckles, hook-loops, and horn-hooks or one-piece Marx O scale knuckles.

    1. I did the same thing and also found nothing, other than a few clues in the images maybe.

      My thoughts were that a well set up FDM printer ought to be able to do the majority of the parts, PLA and 0.1 – 0.15 layer height maybe, although I would hand finish some of the larger areas (see tanker car images for an example of what I mean)
      Some other parts will need supports, or rafts, and maybe quite a lot in some cases (motor frame is an example of a tricky print)
      When i started to look at some of the smaller parts, I started to think, who do I know with a resin printer…

      I had thought I might like to try making this, but then I thought, you know what, it might be listed under Medical Hacks because printing and assembling this might just send you crazy? :)

      Might still have a go at some though…I’m already a bit crazy, can’t hurt right?

        1. From some of the close-ups, it looks like the featured model may have had the top cut off and glued on; there’s a bit of a layer misalignment in the windshield struts. I’m not sure if that was intentional to aid printing, or if it had separated accidentally and needed repair.

          1. I split mine in pretty much the same spot and used supports for the top part. looks great. The builder says you only need support in the cockpit area and the rest will bridge, i’ll try that on my next iteration because this took forever to print.

  3. This is really awsome. I recently returned to the Model Railroad Hobby. I have a ton of Fine scale High- End HO scale DCC models..Which I definitely love..However this is very appealing. These S Scale models look irresistibly tempting..The same way that I enjoy Battery powered Newbright G gauge Trains. Plus I would have a place to park my Hot Wheels and similar 1:64 scale cars. Cheers, Steve

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