Early in 2016, a pair of highly skilled HO modelers got together and conceived a joint project to develop a new kind of "open-source" locomotive kit— one in which they make the parts, decals, and instructions available for others to buy without the old-fashioned capital-intensive business of actually manufacturing all the components beforehand, boxing them up, and trying to sell them.

On-demand 3D printing accomplishes this. Once a 3D CAD creation is posted on a website like Shapeways.com, anyone can special-order the thing and have it delivered to their door. Likewise, instruction books can be written and on-demand printers like Lulu.com will print to order. 3D CAD artist Gerry Dykstra and master HO locomotive builder Alan Mueller had the foresight to see the value of these resources and used them to create a beautiful makeover for an old HO kit engine— giving new life to anybody's old General.

Somehow or another, I got involved with these talented individuals and ended up creating the engine's decals for them. You can read about the project and how to get the parts and instructions on your own in the next feature: Open Source Loco Kits.

This page features our first creation— the Civil War locomotive Lt. Gen'l Grant.

This engine was recorded in beautiful detail in a photo by one of the Civil War's most prominent photographers, Andrew J. Russell. The Lt. Gen'l Grant was a second-hand locomotive rebuilt by the Union army to deliver bullets and beans to the front line troops in northern Virginia. After the war, the engine was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio and ended its career in much more peaceful circumstances.

The elaborate tender painting, which feaured a portrait of General Grant, was possibly done by Russell himself, who was an artist when he wasn't taking photographs and is known to have helped out in decorating the Union army locomotives. Certainly, he gave the Grant a great deal of photographic attention.

The process of rebuilding the General involved replacing the entire superstructure with 3D printed plastic and brass parts. My engine got a whole new tender too— actually, two, since I reworked one tender from the original Mantua kit and a second tender salvaged from an old Bachmann 4-4-0 plus Gerry Dykstra's 3D printed tender shell and trucks. There's more on building the model in the next feature: Open Source Loco Kits.
On the left is Andrew J. Russell's original 1864 photograph of the Lt. Gen'l Grant at City Point, VA. At that time, the engine was hauling supplies to the Union Army during the siege of Petersburg. One of the engine crew appears to be showing a bit of well-lubricated enthusiasm. You can almost hear him singing—

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitors, up with the stars!
While we rally round the flag boys, rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of freeeeeeedom!

Any HO modeler can build this engine using the same parts and decals...
To read about how, click here.

Thanks for visiting!