New 3D design: Steam locomotive, choo choo

Updated: May 9, 2022

When it rains, it pours, and the drains get clogged. Or something. After several years of quiet in the 3D space, I'm back in the proverbial business of creating and rendering fancy models. With SketchUp Make 2017 and Kerkythea Echo Boost as my tools of choice, I've recently made a destroyer ship and a monster truck. Next on the menu is a steam locomotive.

My initial thought was, well, this ought to be quite simple. A cylinder, some wheels, job done. Then, I started doing the model, and I realized I couldn't really breeze through it. So I spent a good week or two painstakingly drawing every element of it, every wheel, every lever, every pipe, everything. The result is quite pleasing, which I shall now attempt to demonstrate and prove.


Modern style, ancient technology

When people think of steam locomotives, they always have this image in their head, and the thing is, it's true for 99% of all steam trains out there. The basic design hasn't changed much in the last 200 years or so. This means that my model has a certain lack of originality about it, and yet I tried to make it my own, as much as I could without losing that instantly recognizable image of what a steam locomotive is meant to be.

I also went for some rather outlandish colors that would have made sense in the olden era, but less so nowadays, although I think my train is probably good for the mid-20th century rather than an earlier period. It's got all the essential elements, and I did invest a lot of time making the actual transmission system nice and detailed. The same goes for the brakes, and the rear bogey element. Throw in some yellow, green and red colors the likes of which have gone out of popularity with the meccano kits, and Bob's your uncle. Finally, to make the model more relatable, there's also a nice pair of tracks, what.

SketchUp, top front iso

SketchUp, side view

Front, back views

Render gallery

What you have above is the raw SketchUp model. Now, here are some Kerkythea renders. Now, I am aware that my train looks ever so slightly out of place on an isolated segment of rails tracks, and that it would best work with the backdrop of a train station. It also lacks the sooty, oily patina of a used machine, which I couldn't quite fully replicate in my renders, even with the use of weathered metals.

Front side view

Side view

Drive mechanism

But hopefully, you will forgive me that, and focus on the purity of the idea. There you go, the coal box, the water tank, the chimney, some fancy ladders and hand holds, water pipes and hoses, and lots of details on the undercarriage, including brake lines and such. My little locomotive has a name too. The Tempest! And "supposedly", 'twas built in 1954. Or something.

Cabin door, brake system

Rear side view

Here's the top view, me hearties:

Top view

I even added the connector mechanisms fore and aft, including the hydraulic lines, each with its own individual color, plus three mandatory lights up front and two in the back. I tried a couple of renders with the lamp bulbs being set with self luminance (radiance), and I think the results are quite decent, even if they ate a lot of CPU to get done.

Back end

Sunset, lights, front view

Sunset, lights on, rear view

Then, finally, I tried a couple of old-looking photos - gray, sepia, that kind of thing.

Old photo 1

Old photo 2

Old photo 3

Old photo 4


And there we go. My steam locomotive. I had immense fun making this one, from the concept idea to the realization. Speaking of realizations, I realized that I cannot fool myself, that is there can be no half-complete models for me. They need to be detailed, and my brain cannot rest until they look just right. This loco is a proof of that.

In particular, I was super happy designing the transmission and the bogeys. That's where all the lovely mess and details go. Anyway, there goes my choo choo, no puns or euphemisms intended. Hopefully, you will agree, and this gallery shall warm the cockles of your heart. Now, I'll go do some fresh drawing and rendering. Stay tuned for more goodies.


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