Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 6, 2013.

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The Ffestiniog Englands are the world's oldest working narrow gauge engines. We're laser scanning them to make the most accurate kits.

The history

The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway in the world and the engines we're going to scan and make into kits are the oldest narrow gauge engines in the world: they're 150 years old this year. Considering their age it is remarkable that four out of the six engines are still in existence and that two of them are still in working order, regularly pulling trains on the railway they were designed for. 

This year is the 150th anniversary of the delivery of the first engines and, for the first time in a very long while, all four of the remaining engines are going to be complete and in the same place, possibly the first time since before the line originally closed in 1946. Then two of the engines will spend part of 2013 acting as roving ambassadors, visiting different venues in London and Dublin.  

Ffestiniog Railway George England locomotive "The Princess" with passenger train at Porthmadog harbour station. (Ffestiniog Railway Archives, via Wikipedia)
Ffestiniog Railway George England locomotive "The Princess" with passenger train at Porthmadog harbour station. (Ffestiniog Railway Archives, via Wikipedia)

The real engines

The four locomotives, Prince, Princess, Palmerston and Welsh Pony, are fascinating. None of them are exactly as built and over the years their designs have subtly diverged so none is the same as their classmates and certainly none of them are like their original plans. They were built especially for the line by a maker called George England. Princess built in 1863 is the oldest, followed by Prince and Palmerston in 1864. These three locomotives with the long since scrapped Mountaineer form the "Small Englands". Welsh Pony and the previously scrapped Little Giant are slightly larger, termed "Large Englands", and were delivered in 1867 as an evolution of the design based on knowledge of operation. 

Palmerston pulling a vintage train on the Cob.
Palmerston pulling a vintage train on the Cob.

The scans and models

We're going to make incredibly accurate plastic kits for modellers that will allow them to build these engines exactly as they are today. We feel given the divergence from plans and from each other that the only way to really do this is through laser scanning. The data we'll get from these scans will enable enthusiasts to really replicate every detail of these engines and learn about their history as they build models of them, while also knowing that what they're building is literally a smaller version of the real thing. 

Using 3D printing to make the kits allows us to create kits in a wide variety of scales and to create a kit specifically for each engine, rather than making a generic kit, since we have no tooling costs. There are also advantages where the geometry of the parts is not constrained by the casting and moulding process. 

The kits will come with brass detailing parts where possible and appropriate. The initial kits will be for the bodies of the engines only; we'll work on a rolling and motorised chassis design which can be fitted later and will also have a static chassis for people who want that. Some people however will already have in mind how to make a chassis or adapt a commercially available chassis and the body kits will be ideal for them. If our funding goes above our target we'll work on the chassis which we already have in planning straight away.

Our 3D printed model of Winifred from laser scan data. This is a test model, fabricated in the lower resolution white plastic and without any post processing to form a kit. The kits for the Englands will be made of resin and will have even finer detail.
Our 3D printed model of Winifred from laser scan data. This is a test model, fabricated in the lower resolution white plastic and without any post processing to form a kit. The kits for the Englands will be made of resin and will have even finer detail.

We realise not everyone wants to make a model. Some people love these engines or may just like what we're up to, or may want to see the plans or photos. Alternatively some may have an older kit sitting in a cupboard and want more information to make it or improve it. For these audiences we're also creating books of plans and photos, prints, postcards and t-shirts which include the high resolution photographs and the visualisations of the laser scanning data which are very easy on the eye. 

Some sample postcards from the Winifred images
Some sample postcards from the Winifred images
Who wouldn't want to wear a t-shirt of a laser scanned steam train?
Who wouldn't want to wear a t-shirt of a laser scanned steam train?

The team

Flexiscale. We're new in the world of model railways commercially, however we've been making models for a long while. Flexiscale is led by Chris Thorpe who was recently described by Steam Railway as a techno-wizard for his work on bringing together the scanning and capture of Winifred. As with the work on Winifred, Chris will be joined by Dan Crow, a lifelong narrow gauge fan and technologist who has strong links with the Ffestiniog. Chris and Dan between them have over 40 years experience of working with and creating technical solutions to complex problems and have PhDs in Computational Biology and Artifical Intelligence respectively. 

It's a steam train, being scanned, with lasers. Sorry, we never get tired of that.
It's a steam train, being scanned, with lasers. Sorry, we never get tired of that.

Digital Surveys. Digital Surveys specialise in the 3D scanning and interpretation of "as built" environments such as petrochemical plants and oil rigs. They're ideal for the work we're doing with them on steam locomotives as they spend most of their time understanding the complex geometry and engineering which has built up over time as people have deviated from the original plans.

DotSan. Vijay Paul of DotSan is an incredible 3D modeller who we always feel lucky and privileged to work with. He has worked with many clients including Shapeways, the London College of Fashion. He has performed all of the 3D modelling work for our current range of kits and will be working on these as well.

What we've done before

Ben from Digital Surveys scanning Winifred, the white spheres are there to give a consistent scale.
Ben from Digital Surveys scanning Winifred, the white spheres are there to give a consistent scale.

We've done this before and we're pretty sure we know what we're doing. In the Autumn of 2012 we scanned Winifred, a Penrhyn slate quarry locomotive built in 1885 by Hunslet. We did that as a proof of concept and to record the uniquely unaltered condition of Winifred which was essentially the same as when she left the quarry. 

Point cloud visualisation of Winifred.
Point cloud visualisation of Winifred.

We've also made a range of kits for the wagons of the Dinorwic Quarry. A range of five wagons in five different scales is currently available with four more wagons in the research and development phase.

Our Dinorwic Quarry slate wagon kit in 9mm, 16mm and 7/8ths scales.
Our Dinorwic Quarry slate wagon kit in 9mm, 16mm and 7/8ths scales.

How we'll do it and schedule

From the outset we'll have a project blog so you can follow along with how we're doing, can see the latest data and the latest iteration of the parts. We'd like you to see what we do as then you'll know the provenance of the data and the efforts made to ensure that you are making the most accurate kit possible.

We have a provisional booking for scanning the four locomotives in the same place at the same time in February. We're going to be using a Surphaser, which is known for its unsurpassed accuracy and scan quality. Throughout we'll be recording a vast number of high resolution images of the locomotives which will be essential for us to produce the kits and to provide to modellers to help them make the kits as lifelike as they can be. The photographs and visualisations of the point clouds will, from experience, be ready for printing about a month after the scanning has taken place and we'll then straightaway start working on the books, postcards and t-shirts.

The raw point cloud data will be made available as Open Data as soon as the process is finished. The point cloud data will be interpreted using Geomagic software, and from that we'll design the kits in Rhino during March and early April. We'll be constantly testing kit parts using our Replicator2 and then sending parts off for printing by Shapeways, Sculpteo, iMaterialise and other more specialist material printers and specialist photo etchers. We'll use iterative methodologies, as used in software development, to ensure the kits as satisfying to make up as possible. We aim to have all the geometry work and the kit design work completed by late April so we can show the initial prototypes off at the 16mm Society's Garden Railway show in Peterborough and also so we can ramp up the production of the intital round of reward kits for delivery in May. 

If we exceed our initial target we'll do a bigger round of kits in May and also work on the chassis design and control systems for delivery in June. This will allow people to build their kits over the summer and, if they're garden railway modellers, can have an England engine model running in their garden by the late summer!

Wagon kits showing how we've created them to use our own wheels and also those of existing manufacturers.
Wagon kits showing how we've created them to use our own wheels and also those of existing manufacturers.

For the unique reward with the scanned figure we've test printed some scanned people in different sizes and have met with a some providers of the people scanning services. This will happen in April/May to fit in with that person's availability and the availability of the firm scanning them.

Thank you for checking our project out, and thank you, hopefully, for helping us to archive history.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The risks and challenges are almost entirely in the properties of the materials used in 3D printing. For the smaller scale kits some of the detail parts may be too small to print, but only in the same way they'd be too small to mould or cast in injection moulding or lost wax casting. In many cases we can print small unmouldable parts. If there are parts which are too small we'll either omit the part, or if we can we'll fuse it to a more solid body part without spoiling the look of the finished model.

We know how to get hold of the data, we've already scanned one steam engine, Winifred, so there's no risk there. The Ffestiniog Railway have agreed to the project so we know there's no impediment there. We also know what scanner we're using and the people who did the scanning work for us last time are on board. We're all ready to go with your help.

We know some people are interested in the engines rather than the kits so we've thought about what else is possible with the data. We've created test postcards and t-shirts from the data we got from Winifred and have created a coffee table book too. We also know how to get the plans out of the 3D software.

We're already selling a range of 3D printed kits of wagons in a variety of scales from 7mm to 16mm. We're also in the process of making a kit of Winifred from the data we have from scanning and so far there have been no nasty surprises.

The major risk we can see is development of a functioning chassis, we're not attempting that as part of our first round of rewards, however if we do exceed our goal then the next thing we'll be working on is the chassis and control systems, and we'll put those rewards up when we know the initial scanning and body kit part of the project is funded.

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    A big thank you and your name in lights, well not lights per se, but in a listing on the project page on our website. And of course the warm fuzzy glow that you made something happen.

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    One of our slightly cheeky "I helped scan a steam train with lasers. What did you do?" button badges. And of course your name on the project supporters page.

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    Set of five button badges, one for each of the four engines showing a visualisation of the laser scan point cloud and the last one is one of our cheeky "I helped scan a steam train with lasers. What did you do?" button badges. And don't worry, your name will be on the project supporters page.

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    A newspaper full of plans in different scales. We know not everyone will want to make one of our kits, especially as you may have one from another manufacturer in the cupboard. Accurate plans are golden though. One of the things which come out of the laser scanning is a really accurate set of plans. We're going to make them available in a newspaper, printed by our friends at Newspaper Club, where each engine gets four pages, with plans in 4mm, 7mm and 16mm scale. Oh, and did we mention, there'll be a credit for you on the project page.

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    Full colour t-shirt of the point cloud data for your favourite of the four locomotives. These lovely t-shirt designs will be printed on high quality black t-shirts. Not only will you get a lovely t-shirt but your name will also of course be on our list on the project page.

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    40 page full colour book of plans, pictures and details of the four locomotives. These softback books measure 10×8 inches. You will be credited both on the project page and in the acknowledgements in the book (although if you wish you can be anonymous).

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    A 3D printed 2mm to the foot (Nn3) body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. The kit will be largely in one piece due to the constraints of 2mm scale and will be produced in a fine detail resin. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold 2mm scale kits.

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    A 3D printed TT body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. You can choose either 1:120 scale or 3mm to the foot. The kit will be largely in one piece due to the constraints of 3mm scale and will be produced in a fine detail resin. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold TT scale kits.

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    A gorgeous 29cm x 29cm Giclée print of Princess. Inkjet printed using fade-resistant, archival inks and very high art quality paper (unframed).

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    A 3D printed TT body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. You can choose either 1:120 scale or 3mm to the foot. The kit will be largely in one piece due to the constraints of 3mm scale and will be produced in a fine detail resin. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page.

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    A 3D printed 4mm to the foot (OO9) body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. The kit will consist of some parts for you to assemble and will be produced in a fine detail resin with some structural supports in a white plastic. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold 4mm scale kits.

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    A 3D printed 5.5mm to the foot scale body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. The kit will consist of some parts for you to assemble and will be produced in a fine detail resin with some structural supports in a white plastic. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold 5.5mm scale kits.

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    A 3D printed 9mm or 9.5mm (your choice) to the foot body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. The kit will consist of some parts for you to assemble and will be produced in a fine detail resin with some structural elements and supports in a white plastic. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold 9mm or 9.5mm scale kits. A chassis kit will be available for purchase later in 2013.

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    A set of 3D printed TT scale body kits of the four engines. The kits will be largely in one piece due to the constraints of 3mm scale and will be produced in a fine detail resin. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page.

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    A 3D printed 16mm to the foot body kit for one of the four engines (your choice) and its tender. The kit will consist of some parts for you to assemble and will be produced in a fine detail resin with some structural elements in a white plastic. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page and on the instruction leaflet for all subsequently sold 16mm scale kits. A chassis kit will be available for purchase later in 2013.

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    A unique 50xm x 40cm Art-Lite lightbox with a backlit point cloud image. There will only ever be one of these sold and you can choose the locomotive and the image. The light box will be professionally created by Metro Imaging and contains a Duratran print.

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    A fully working, unique (with a certificate of authenticity and uniqueness) model of Prince in a scale of your choice between 4mm and 16mm. We'll build the model for you and have it professionally lined. There will only ever be one of these and obviously your name will be on our supporters page.

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    Something very special, totally unique and tailored just for you. You choose the scale, between 4mm and 16mm scale, and which of the four engines you'd like, and we will build the locomotive for you and have it professionally lined. To make it extra special we will custom produce a driver figure of you. Yes, that's right, we'll scan you (it doesn't hurt, it's like having a lot of photographs taken all at once) wearing a driver's uniform and then print a figure of you to go on the footplate. Since we'll need to scan you this is available to people in the UK only. There may be some travel involved for you to get to the nearest place where we can scan you, but we'll work all that out closer to the time.

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    A fully working, unique (with a certificate of authenticity and uniqueness) model of Welsh Pony in a scale of your choice between 4mm and 16mm. We'll build the model for you and have it professionally lined. There will only ever be one of these and obviously your name will be on our supporters page.

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    A fully working, unique (with a certificate of authenticity and uniqueness) model of Princess in a scale of your choice between 4mm and 16mm. We'll build the model for you and have it professionally lined. There will only ever be one of these and obviously your name will be on our supporters page.

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    A set of 3D printed 16mm to the foot scale body kits of the four engines. The kit will consist of some parts for you to assemble and will be produced in a fine detail resin with some structural supports in a white plastic. Handrail knobs, etched brass overlays and brass wire will be provided for those who wish to add them. Obviously you'll be thanked on our supporters page.

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Funding period

- (30 days)