Bigelow Engine House Core – Laser Cutting a 3D Puzzle

For the past two months I’ve been using SOLIDWORKS to design the core I of the Bigelow engine house. Today I started cutting out the puzzle pieces on the laser cutter.

While I have SOLIDWORKS at work and manage a team developing a software application for it; I’m not an accomplished CAD designer. Mostly we use data provided to us. Sometimes I make simple parts, assembly and drawings so simple the geometry in them does not matter. The engine house core was not easy for me. I had to grind it out. I watched YouTube and has to go back to it and iterate again and again. It is just simple flat walls, but it has lots of angles. It to me time to learn in context modeling. That is the designing of parts inside the assembly. If never done that before.

At this time I have the core designed and I’m starting to cut the pieces out with the laser. The idea is to assemble the core of of 1/4″ (5mm) plywood then laminate it with milled clapboard.

Today I test fit the pieces of the core to confirm the design goes together and looked good on the layout. The remainder of the post is photos of the tests.

Overhead view showing the floor. Locomotives are sitting in the first two stalls. The third stall is sliced off. From photo references it seems the engine house was close to the turntable. I’ve replicated that. The turntable is aligned with the lead. It will not align with the center stall like the prototype. Instead it lines up in between tracks two and three. The water tank sticks out to the rear. The engine is not long enough to handle a 2-6-2, but I do know that the prototype could. The longer engines will stick out of the engine house.
Looking down the lead track. One can see the three windows on the side, similar to prototype photos. The water tank is just above the temporary main roof. The design looks good from this angle.
The side view shows the close proximity of turntable and engine house. The near side wall is shortened due to the need to slice the engine house. The fascia wall as I call it has the long portal for looking into the engine house. The water tank sticks up at the rear. I expect the plywood core to be strong enough to withstand being at the edge of the module. The fascia wall may get painted fascia color or a simple primer gray.
A look in the portal. It will not be so bright once the roof is added.

More puzzle pieces to be cut in coming days.

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