Building Cascade 4: The Depot

Black and white photo of the model of the cascade depot with a UP caboose in front

I wanted to capture the look of the prototype as close as possible but I could not find any kit that came close enough. So I decided to create the depot my self. I constructed it in 3D CAD and got it printed by Shapeways.

The Depot was built in 1914 for the Oregon Shortline Railroad. It functioned as a freight room, baggage and ticket office, and waiting room as well as a second story home for the station agent. It was moved from its original site in 1986.

About the depot, YWAM

To find out more about the current use of the Depot, visit the website of the YWAM Idaho.

To create a scale model of the Depot, I needed some measurements. As I could not find any plan for this specific type of depot, I used photos and Google Maps as a reference. Also the photos I found at that time only showed the front and the left of the depot. So I searched for similar Depots in other locations. In the end I decided to create the drawing based on the observations I could make there.

I used Autodesk Fusion 360, which at that time was freely available for personal use. It took about two weeks to find the measurements and get enough experience in Fusion 360 to complete the task. The last element I created was the roof. The final version contains about 30.000 shingles and my computer was mad at me. Every movement of the model took several minutes to complete. But finally it was complete.

When time came to upload the model to Shape Ways, I was slightly shocked by the cost that the print would cause. In order to optimize the model for printing I decided to print the ground floor and the roof separately. To ensure a perfect fit I added alignment notches at every corner of the walls of the ground floor and corresponding holes in the base of the roof. In theory it matched perfectly.

The separation of the ground floor and the roof gave me another option. Peter needed a depot for his module Mesa. So I created a version of the roof without the upper floor. We also wanted to try the printing quality of different materials. For my Depot I chose Smoothest Fine Detail Plastic. The whole model costed about 100 € to print, with about 30 € for the ground floor and 70 € for the roof and upper floor. The second version, with the simple roof, was printed in Versatile Plastic. The whole structure in costs less than 30 € using this material. As some details of my construction exceeded the restrictions for both materials, I ordered all prints with the “print it anyway” option selected.

3D Prints compared.
Bottom: PA12, Top: Versatile Plastic

If you look at the prints in detail, you can certainly the grainy structure of the print in Versatile Plastic. You can also see much finer structures on the print in Fine Detail Plastic. For our purpose of adding a structure to a module, the cheaper print does a good job. Yes, there are some details missing in the windows and you can see the grainy structure of the surface, but after painting these details are hidden anyway. Interesting effect: The alignment notches worked perfectly in the Versatile Plastic print. The notches and holes were off by about one mm in the Fine Detail Plastic version. When I tried to cut the notches off, I learned that Fine Detail Plastic is very strong but also brittle.

So is it worth it, to spent three times as much for the “same” print. I’d say no. After priming, painting and placing it on the module you won’t notice that much of a difference. The typical viewing distance is at least 60 cm and you can’t see the slightly rougher surface at that distance.

Depot in Smooth Fine Detail Plastic after priming

Overall I am quite happy with the result and think it is a nice addition to my module. If I have had the materials at hand, it would certainly have been faster and way cheaper to scratch build the Depot. But I had not tried 3D drawing and printing before and it was an interesting experience to make.

See more progress in the Building Cascade Series.