The California Zephyr railcar received a serious scanning Friday.
Maricopan Patrick Ramirez, a journeyman plumber and a computer-aided design (CAD) and laser-scanning instructor with UA Local 469, brought fellow instructors and high-tech equipment to the historic car next to the Amtrak station to give it a three-dimensional scan.
Using Faro software and equipment – a portable laser scanner and a laser scanner on a tripod – Ramirez, Dustin Baker and Michael Trask took several minutes to record the Zephyr 360 degrees, inside and out, from the dome to the wheels. That work will create a 3D model like those they create of buildings for plumbing and other utilities.
So, why the Zephyr?
“I’ve always been interested in it,” said Ramirez, who has lived in The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado for three years. “I love trains. Every time I drive by this thing, I’d love to go inside.”
Ramirez brought his idea to Paul Shirk, president of the Maricopa Historical Society, which recently acquired the railcar from Pinal County. The Society is mulling relocating the car once the land lease runs out, and the 3D modeling could be helpful in a move and setup.
Shirk said Ramirez is a “founding member” of what is becoming the Zephyr Guild, imagined as a collection of local skilled workers willing to donate their talents and knowledge to improve the railcar and fit it for historical displays.
Ramirez wants to use it as a teaching tool for the apprenticeship program at the Pipe Trades Training Center. He said the scanning process “allows the student to get hands-on, real-life data.”
“If it takes something that we just looked at, and we walk around and we talk about it and propose different ways of gathering information about this and what’s around it, that’s a talking point. I don’t like talking points,” he said. “I like showing points. I like things that convey information.
“So, when I talk about this, I’m over here on the computer and bringing up the file and I’m telling the students you can walk around and get information. And sometimes it’s six months later that you need this little bit of information, and you can drive four hours or you can pull up the file on your computer.”
In pipe trades, Ramirez said, the accuracy level of laser scans must be between an eighth-inch and a half-inch.
Shirk said the equipment is enhancing the typical blue-color trades of plumbing and steamfitting to make them high-tech careers. He said the laser-scanning instructors would like to bring students to Maricopa to see the Zephyr and compare the 3D renderings.