Finally. N scale Flexicoil sideframes. It’s sw1200rs time folks.

N scale Flexicoil sideframes for the Life-Like sw1200 – click on the image to see teh Shapeways listing for these parts

These sideframes have been on my own personal wish list for a very long time. I’ve had only moderate success scratchbuilding a set and none at all casting copies. Like the RSC13 sideframes I produce in HO scale, these represent an application of 3D printing technology that opens up a possibility that simply did not exist when Life-Like first announced their beautiful sw1200 in N scale. Yesterday’s mail brought the final iteration of these sideframes. Words fail to describe how excited I am about this and how proud I am of this accomplishment.

These are designed as a direct-fit replacement part for the Life-Like (now Walthers) truck. Basically you unclip the factory sideframe and then snap mine back in place. I am a big fan of the Life-Like engine and the beautiful work the manufacturer did designing each part of the model but it wasn’t until I started drawing my own based on their truck frame that I really understood and truly appreciated just how amazing a job they did in the first place. Their sideframe casting is beautiful. I think it might be the finest sideframe casting I’ve ever seen in N scale. They set a pretty high standard to work against and I have a new found appreciation of their work. Thanks guys – you did it right!

Similar to a lot of N scale diesel trucks, the Life-Like switcher uses an copper strip mounted outboard of the wheels to pick up power. The shape of this piece alone dictated a lot of the design of my parts and did impose some limits on my design. As a result of this practical limit, my sideframe is shallower than I hoped but it does still cast a decent shadow. As I mentioned in the listing, the brake cylinders mounted outside the frames will rub against the gussets cast into the diesel’s frame. These gussets are not as pronounced on the Canadian diesels as Life-Like rendered them so filing them back a little shouldn’t be too much of a bother. This remedial work is closer to being a “must do” if you have tighter curves on your layout.

Beyond the brake cylinder thoughts, it’s also important to remember that the Frosted Ultra Detail these sideframes are printed in is a fragile material. It is not as forgiving as a traditional sideframe casting. Finally, to make sure it was possible to print this in the first place I have made a few tiny areas just a little bit bigger than they need to be so some filing may be in order but this is minimal and the result is wonderful.

RSC13 sideframe test print – arrived and is good

I was just home to make a quick coffee and, as luck would have it, I was just getting ready to head back to the office when the Canada Post driver appeared at my door with a parcel from Shapeways. Inside that box was the first test print of the RSC13 sideframes.

I am so excited!

I’ve now had them in my hands for about five minutes so these are literally my first impressions:

  • The look fantastic!
  • The inner and outer equalizer beams printed perfectly. Since this was really the biggest reason to explore the medium, I couldn’t be more happy.
  • The axle spacing matches the Kato RSC2 truck perfectly

Now to upload the latest drawing with the final detail revisions and these will be available for production if anyone needs a set.