Track planning/layout software

Sorry if this has been covered recently; I've been lurking on this group for a while, but haven't seen much on this subject.
I'm looking to buy a track planning software package, to run on a PC. The layout will be N scale, using an open top / riser method of construction. My turnouts, switches, crossongs etc will be Peco code 55.
So far I've located these packages: RR-track, 3rd PlanIt, Cadrail, Win Rail, 3D Railroad Concept & Design, Right Track.
Has anyone got any comments on any of these? Or any packages I've missed, from the pouints of view of capability, accuracy, track libraries? I can get demo packages for most of those I've mentioned, but nothing beats comments from people who've already used the software.
Cheers
Tim Lawson
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On Mon, 29 Sep 2003 23:51:26 +1200, Tim Lawson wrote:
=>So far I've located these packages: RR-track, 3rd PlanIt, Cadrail, Win =>Rail, 3D Railroad Concept & Design, Right Track.
Any of these will do the job; their differences are more a matter of working style and aesthetic preferences than anything else -- oh, yeah, a couple have add-on thta allow ypou to "operate" your planned layout on screen. MR had a comparative review a year or so ago; I can send you a _photocopy_ (scans of magazine articles just don't do it for me, and I refuse to make them for others -- my scanner is consumer quality, and that's just not good enough for this purpose.) Drop the first w and the last n in the reply to address to e-mail me.
But be warned: There's a steep learning curve, especially if you have never used a CAD program before. And perhaps even more importantly: If you cannot draw a layout by hand, you will find it very difficult to the job with software. The software just simplifies some of the tedium of drafting - it does _not_ do the drafting for you. BTW, I've noticed that the people who like these programs design layouts as a hobyy within the hobby.
I took several drafting courses in my younger days -- and I've found that for a small layout (up to about bedroom size), paper and pencil is faster than the computer. I Make a scale outline of the layout space, and put a grid on it. The grid is either 1x1 foot, or in "squares" (footnote). Obstacles, window/door locations etc are all drawn in. Then I make a bunch of photocopies, and skecth the various ideas freehand until I have a couple or three concepts that look good. Those I draw up with compass and ruler. The "final" plan is photocopied again, and benchwork, etc is drawn over the photocopies.
Footnote: A "square" has a side of "min radius + trackspacing + min space to edge of layout." You can fit a quarter circle of double track in it. A layout space subdivided into squares allows you to locate essential curves quickly and easily, and shows you just what might fit. John Armstrong invented the method. You should really get his book; it's essential for serious trackplanning.
Oh, and don't forget aisle space. 2ft is aboslute minimum, 3ft is comfortable for a single operator, and 4ft or more is needed where two operates will be stationed.
HTH
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Wolf Kirchmeir, Blind River, Ontario, Canada
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FUT: rec.models.railroad
I use Microsoft Visio to layout my track plans. It's part of the Office product family, but not usually included in Office bundles.
It's even compatible with the AutoCAD file format.
I'd recommend it for 2 dimensional layout planning. One nice feature is that if you draw your layout to scale, you can easily measure distances without doing any scale conversions.
There are products out there that are more focused on Model railroading, but this software is more versatile. You can even do blueprints for bridges, structures, and rolling stock with it.
In fact, I used it to design a balsa wood bridge for a competition and my bridge was able to hold 160.75 lbs even though it only weighed 24 grams! Easily strong enough to support a G-scale train. :)
Visio was helpful because I could update the plans quickly and easily - then when I needed a template for a part, I could easily print off templates for gusset plates and the like. When the bridge was complete, I test-fit the pieces together and a majority of the structure was able to stand without glue! My tolerances were so close, everything held together with friction fits!
This actually made it difficult to disassemble when I did have to glue it, but it was an impressive test of the power of Visio.

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I use Visio also. One of the nice things you can do with Visio is define custom line patterns - I've defined a "track" line pattern that has ties and two rails at scale size, makes the drawings look better, and more accurate, because it shows the full width of the track rather than just a line.

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And best of all, with Visio, you can share your track templates with other modelers.
I'd like to see your custom line style Jeff, can you email it to me?
I usually just do a straight line (like the layout plans in Model Railroader), but I am pretty utilitarian in my layout planning. :)

and
accurate,
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All of these programs have some limitations, and a cosiderable learning curve to accomplish what you are looking for in a model railroad. If you are willing to deal with these, we prefer Cadrail from Sandia Software. In any event, it some times remains difficult to maintain your focus, unless you are familiar with the tools and their use, with any software design program. A great commercial has been running on TV where a meeting is taking place discussing all of the computer operations of the company. When it is decided that everything was running fine, some says "Then why are we here?" The answer is shirts. "Shirts?" "Yes, that is the business we are in." Sometimes computers help us to lose focus :-)
Don Cardiff Model Railroad Design Kaneville, IL
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My preference is for Cadrail, but that is probably because that is the one I use. As others have pointed out, be prepared for a steep learning curve if you are not familiar with CAD principles.
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<snip>

<snip>
I have used 3rdPlanIt extensively for the last 5 years to design not only my own 25'x50' HO layout, but also parts of my club's 50'x130' HO layout. I find it to be an excellent track planning and drafting tool, and a pretty good "normal" drafting program, too, especially for $100. I have used the program to design all kinds of things with it instead of with AutoCAD, which I also have. 3rdPlanIt prints (or plots) easier, IMHO. I miss some of the tools from AutoCAD, but the ease of use with 3rdPlanIt outweighs the loss for small projects. I've tried Cadrail, and I was not impressed. The learning curve seemed very sharp to me, and I have taken several college courses on drafting (by hand and by AutoCAD). I just found 3rdPlanIt to be more intuitive, although it is not perfect be any stretch of the imagination. Fortunately, updates are constantly being released for it.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
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I use Cadrail and am happy with it, although the 3D stuff and oerational too for all I know, may be better in 3rd PlanIt. But I don't know how the 3PI drawing tools are.
Some of the programs seem to be dedicated to sectional track of one brand or another, which would be ultimately frustrating I would think unless you intend t limit yourself to that. The drafting capabilities in Cadrail seem to be pretty good - for instance one web site with multiple detail drawings of the coal tower at Chama.
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If you are interested in track planning tools for the Macintosh OS X (or 9 for that matter), Empire Express is the only tool which I know about. It works OK, and I used it to plan the layout on my website (the "plan" shown there was produced by Empire Express).
It seems pretty limited to me: track is a single line to only two width choices (any color), so if you have track, benchwork, and wiring all together, only color can distinguish them. There is no 3d stuff at all, and if you are elevating track and would like the planner to deal with "raise the track 4" between here and there, and calculate the slope in degrees," it doesn't do that.
It's printouts work OK, but when doing many pages, such as a full scale printout for transfering a track plan to your layout, the pages are NOT numbered. YIKES: don't drop 'em.
I wound up doing my layout design in several pieces: I did the room walls and benchwork first and saved it as benchwork. Then I copied that to a new "project" and grouped all of it as a single object. I put the track plan onto that piece and had the benchwork for reference. Then I could subtract the benchwork object out and have only the track. Saved that as "track only".
You could do that for wiring and other stuff, too, to simulate layers. Too cumbersome for my taste, but I'm only doing one layout every few years.
Ed.
in article snipped-for-privacy@netnews.comcast.net, Steve Caple at snipped-for-privacy@nevermindspring.com wrote on 9/29/03 10:14 AM:

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I haven't used Cadrail so I can't compare the them either.
3PI drawing tools seem fairly good to me. It has a sectional track library and quite a few "special" pieces (turnouts, double crossovers, double slips, single slips, crossings, etc ...) for most of the major makers. Otherwise it lets you draw as if you had a huge roll of flex track. Go to their web page and look at the 3d drawing on their main page ... I don't know if you have to join to see that or not??
Paul

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Title Supplier or Creator Min System Requirement Web Address Availability
3D Railroad Abracadata Win - Any Version. Also available for Mac. http://www.abracadata.com / Now CADRail Sandia Software http://www.sandiasoftware.com Now CyberTrack Atlas http://www.atlasrr.com/software/ctrack/index.html Now DPSRail Steven DePalma http://home.earthlink.net/~dpssys/RailOnline/railonline.html N/A EditTrack Envirocamp DOS/Win - Any Version ftp://ftp.ccs.carleton.ca/pub/civeng/edittrak.arj N/A RR-Track R & S Enterprises http://www.rrtrack.com / Soon! Railways Sebastian Marchant DOS/Win - Any Version http://www.railways.ht.st / Now Right Track Atlas Win - Any version above Win95 http://www.atlasrr.com Now TrainCad Tor Sjowall Win - Any version above Win95 http://home.powertech.no/torsj/traincad/english/index.html Now Winrail6 Gunnar Blumenrt http://www.winrail.com / Now Wintrack Unable to locate source at present. N/A XtrkCad Win - Any Version, Linux http://www.sillub.com / Now Templot http://www.templot.com Now 3rd Planit El Dorado http://www.trackplanning.com / Now
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I agree with collective wisdom so far ... most of us like what we've got because we are used to it. In my case Visio and 3rdPlanit. I've found the same steep learning curves and brickwalls that others have mentioned.
Practice makes perfect. Start by playing with simple layout ideas. As you want to try more complex ideas - your skills have grow as well. And it's fun while you learn. Don't buy the software today and expect to design your ultimate layout tomorrow. I've found in the process of learning to use the software I've developed an interest in layout design. Take the time to get very comfortable with whatever program you pick. It's well worth the effort. With powerful programs like Visio and 3rdPlanit, becoming a skilled user gives you tools that take you way beyond pen and paper.
JD
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In a message on Mon, 29 Sep 2003 23:51:26 +1200, wrote :
TL> Sorry if this has been covered recently; I've been lurking on this TL> group for a while, but haven't seen much on this subject. TL> TL> I'm looking to buy a track planning software package, to run on a PC. TL> The layout will be N scale, using an open top / riser method of TL> construction. My turnouts, switches, crossongs etc will be Peco code TL> 55. TL> TL> So far I've located these packages: RR-track, 3rd PlanIt, Cadrail, Win TL> Rail, 3D Railroad Concept & Design, Right Track. TL> TL> Has anyone got any comments on any of these? Or any packages I've TL> missed, from the pouints of view of capability, accuracy, track TL> libraries? I can get demo packages for most of those I've mentioned, TL> but nothing beats comments from people who've already used the TL> software.
I use XTrkCAD from <http://www.sillub.com . Works well for me, since there is a Linux version (I run Linux). There is a MS-Windows version, which I presume is much the same. XTrkCAD comes with a parameter file containing Peco's N-scale, code 55 trackwork (turnouts and such), so you'll be all set to go.
TL> TL> Cheers TL> TL> Tim Lawson TL>
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On Mon, 29 Sep 2003 23:51:26 +1200, Tim Lawson

I use WinRail.
-No- learning curve whatsover, comprehensive, accurate track libraries. Complicated track layouts can be made up in an hour or less. Plans can be printed out as large as you like (full size if you have enough ink in the printer)
recommended :)
Pete
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modelling tips, how to & exibition guide.
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That must be some magical software!
Don Cardiff Model Railroad Design Kaneville, IL
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     snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (CBT2000) writes:

Sure sounds like it. I'm surprised it doesn't automatically draw the layout you've been dreaming of upon installation.
"No learning curve", you think, it draws. KEWL!!
Paul
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On Tue, 30 Sep 2003 23:14:54 -0400, "Paul McGraw"
basement.

useful. I

results.
PC.
code
Win
mentioned,
Tim, Any decent plannng CAD pkg will have a steep learing curve buy its worth the effort. I use 3RDPlannit and have llearned to love it. It wont let you fudge turniuts etc, just to make it fit. It will do sectional track but really is meant for flex or hand laid track. Suffer throught the learning period and it figures grades and all that. Good Luck Larry North Fork RR
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I used X-TrkCad from Sillub Technologies.
http://www.sillub.com /
I think it has less "learning curve" than some of the fancier cad software.

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