"Not getting on" isn't really a good enough description of the
problem. The fact you don't get on with any of them suggests it may be
a problem with the user rather than the software. That's not meant as
an insult, just pointing out that you need to decide which software
you want to use (based on your own criteria of cost, availability of
support, etc) and invest the time to learn how to use it to full
effect. There is a learning curve with any CAD software and you will
not get instant gratification.
Forget HVR, that is manufacturer dependent and too "train set" like,
IMHO. I use XtrakCad which has a Yahoo user group where you can get
help, I assume the other have something similar. Not on your list is
"3rd Planit". Whichever you choose, work through *all* of the help and
tutorial files and start with something simple.
I use Templot software. There is a fairly steep learning curve but the
author of the software (it is a one-man operation) provides a lot of
help via an online forum.
I started out with the intention of going for ScaleFour but have
decided that time is not on my side so have moved to Double O
I use Templot also - and excellent it is too, though somewhat over
the top if you are not building your own track or don't need to get
flexi track laid "just so". Actually, a library of "standard" Hornby,
Peco etc points and track wouldn't be a bad idea if someone had the
I have become... comfortably numb
> Actually, a library of "standard" Hornby, Peco etc points
> and track wouldn't be a bad idea
I'm working on it. Well Peco anyway, not sure about Hornby.
There are already some Peco templates for Templot available
for downloading. See screenshots and files:
Of course, the user has to remember not to modify them in any way.
> if someone had the time.....
If only. Peco turnouts are so far away from prototype designs that
getting an exact match in Templot is very time-consuming -- just
about every detail has to be customized.
Graham Harrison said the following on 30/07/2007 09:36:
My initial doodles are on a bit of paper, with an image in my head of
what I'm looking for - I can mentally walk around the completed layout
before I even pick up a pen. Then it's on to Templot for the actual
planning and making it all fit.
Templot does take some getting used to, but once it's clicked it's
actually very easy to use. See http://www.templot.com/ for more info.
If you want to ask specific questions about it, it's worth joining the
Templot Club (link from front page). This is a very friendly forum
where you will usually get detailed answers from the guy who wrote the
software (Martin Wynne)
The value/usefulness of layout planning software is much exaggerated.
I've tried many of them, and have found that for most layouts, paper
and pencil sketches are more than adequate. Most people plan too
precisely. A layout plan is a guide, not an act of parliament. ;-) I
have made layout plans for over 50 years. About a dozen of my plans have
been built by other people, and paper and pencil has sufficed for even
the largest of these (planned for a converted barn, about 30ft by 50ft).
That being said:
You're not getting on with any of the software for one or both of two
reasons: A) you don't know how to use paper and pencil to make a plan
(not a serious), and/or B) you haven't a clear idea of what kind of
layout you want (serious problem.) Not to worry: you can overcome both
problems. And you'll have fun doing it. :-)
First, decide what kind of layout you want - the *theme*. This includes
time frame, railway(s), type of line (main, branch, etc.)
Second, choose a subject - actual location(s), in other words. These
will guide your design of scenery, townscapes, and track layout (but
you'll have to compromise.)
Third, compare your ambition to your space, and decide what kind of
configuration will do. IOW, work out the compromises you are willing to
make in curve radius, loop lengths, etc. A good way of doing this is to
think of the layout as an arrangement of scenes.
Fourth, make reasonably accurate sketches of possible arrangements of
Start by practicing with pencil and paper. Make a scale diagram of the
available space/size. Choose a scale such that it will fit on a sheet of
paper (A4 in your case.)
Rule the space into squares that will accommodate a quarter circle of
your minimum radius plus an outside passing loop plus clearance. For
example, min. radius 24" + 2" for the loop + 3" for clearance --> 29"
squares. (Or 60cm + 11cm +17cm --> 88cm.) Make this diagram as accurate
as possible. Mark the locations of possible problems such as windows,
doors, heaters, and so on. Mark the locations of electrical outlets (you
will need to plug in your controller, right?) and light switches. Make a
dozen or more photocopies. Now you can draw basic arrangements freehand,
knowing that the tracks will fit into the squares.
When you find an arrangement of mainline and passing tracks that looks
right, work out a scheme of operation. Operation is entirely a personal
choice - do not listen to people who tell you that one or another kind
of operation is the best. Then redraw your plan as needed.
When you have a plan that looks right, and can support operation as
you've imagined it, redraw the plan more carefully. *At this point, you
can experiment with your software.* Translating a hand drawn sketch into
a computer drawn one easier than starting with a blank screen.
Professionals (architects, designers, etc) always start with paper and
pencil sketches, then use the software (and other tools) to refine and
finalise the concepts they sketched by hand.
If your layout is small, say up to about bedroom size, a paper and
pencil sketch will be enough of a plan. Build your benchwork/tables, and
set out the track according to your plan. Start by locating the turnouts
(points), and fit in the intermediate trackage as best you can (you will
discover why flextrack is so popular. ;-))
Above all have fun.
And beware -- making layout plans is a hobby in itself, and can tempt
you away from actually building one. ;-)
'Just because it's true doesn't mean it's the right answer.'
On Mon, 30 Jul 2007 09:36:28 +0100, "Graham Harrison"
Barry Norman wrote a book on layout design, published by Wild Swan,
which includes scaled down track pieces to Xerox and move around on
These are standard formations like B6, B8 turnouts, crossovers etc,
not Peco or Hornby set stuff.
He also includes ones with stock on them so you can get clearances etc
They are a good place to start, using sticky glue that doesn't set.
Once you've come up with something you can draw it so it's permanent.
I've tried layout software without much luck, and drawing things on
paper doesn't work for me because there are too many changes.
Pencil and paper, sheets and sheets and sheets of the stuff.
Sketching first, for basic concepts and routes.
Then more accurately on paper for feasibility and detail.
and then perhaps work with photocopies of pieces of point-work,
(1/2 scale for whole station layouts).
All my layouts so far, for garden and exhibition, have been very space
limited so a lot of the final proving was done at a scale of 1:1 on the
board or the ground.
I have a house move in progress, so pads of paper are already being
consumed. The new garden may acquire a water-powered cliff railway,
reminiscent (and no closer) of the one at Lynton and Lynmouth.
Hmm. Cliff railway and rope-hauled incline and rack railway and
switchback? Maybe that's being greedy.
> How do you go about designing a layout?
> Pen and paper? Gut?! Software?
It's impossible to answer that question until you answer one.
Are you intending to build your own track, or buy ready-made
track? Software for one won't work very well for the other.
But there is no software on earth which can give you the
original idea -- that requires a human brain, a pencil and
a large pad of paper. Only when you have an idea what you
are trying to do does planning software help. It lets you see
whether the idea is going work in the real world. And if you
are intending to build track, it can provide the detailed plans
You might like to try 3rd PlanIt, which lets you try out your
idea in 3D, "walk-through" your layout on-screen (don't trip
over the rails!), and run virtual trains to check siding capacities,
clearances, etc. Or just take a cab ride on your virtual layout.
Here's a cab ride on a fine virtual layout created in 3rd PlanIt
by Paul Charland:
> Does 3rd PlanIt allow for transition curves?
Yes, although they are implemented rather differently from
Templot, and generally called "easements" rather than
If you have a very fast graphics card you can replace the
primitive track shown with fully detailed track imported
Because I'm a very recent returnee I was working on the assumption that
initially I would use ready made track simply because I fear that even using
flexible track I'll make curves that trains won't go round and similar basic
I'll have a reasonable amount of space to play with (the shed isn't built
yet so I can't give precise measurements but hopefully minimum 3m x 4m). I
was trying to work out how I might use multiple levels (maybe a figure 8
laid one above the other or running lines at one level and marshaling
yards/stations at another). I also recognise that I'm in a bit of a
chicken and egg situation at the moment because it would probably be better
to size the shed to fit the layout than the other way round (and I'm in that
Although I'll look at the prototype I'm not planning anything too detailed
(yet). The initial stages will probably be a big train set rather than a
I have been sketching ideas on bits of A4 and I thought a piece of software
might allow me to determine how impractical some of my ideas were (believe
me they almost certainly are impractical!).
In my case it starts in my head, with the only firm criteria being the
amount of space availble. Experience tells me what is and what is not
possible in that space - clearly if all you have available is an 18in wide
(or less) shelf along two walls then a continuous run layout is pretty much
out of the question.
Usually I have a 'concept' in mind - currently I'm in the process of trying
to create an early 1960s Scottish branch line. Taking that concept I will
look at prototype layouts which could be modified to fit the space
At this point I will usually attempt to create a full-size schematic of the
proposed layout (wall lining paper is cheap and useful for this) using
life-size scans of the available pointwork. I find this far more helpful
than any scaled down drawing whether done with pen & paper or computer aided
When a satisfactory scheme is finalised, then I build (or modifiy exisiting)
baseboards and start laying track.
My current effort is driven by three factors - the space available,
the desire to build my own track (0 gauge), and to get as much
in as possible, but being at least vaugely prototypical. With the
space available being 11ft by 12ft, it was clearly not going to be
circuit, and not even a worth while end-to-end. Also, to get reasonable
access it could not be more than three feet wide, or so. It looked like
yet another MPD was on the cards. Then I started messing with Templot,
and it really came into it's own. Allowing about 2 foot 6 at each
end for things to disappear into, the longest "run" could be obtained
by making the layout a sort-of L, so I drew a 6ft radius curve. The I
made it double track. And added a branch line at the "top", on the
outside of the curve. And made the "bottom" of the main lines be
the start of loops. The I stuck a 3 road depot outside the curve,
and a small 2 road yard with a short headshunt inside the curve.
The I added suffcient points for every logical move to be made to
be made from the branch to the main and loops, and then to the
depot or yard. The route from the "down main" to the branch bisects
the "main" lines with some (probably rather un-prototyoical) diamonds,
the whole thing being basically made up of 6ft radius curves - it
looks the mutts nutts, and despite the impossibility of running anything
longer than an engine a coach, it looks like a major station, and the
operating potential is huge, as is the modelling (all those lovely
signals!). I have to say I couldn't have done it without Templot.
I have become... comfortably numb
Both John and Wolf have the key. Paper and pencil together
with a set of compasses enable the mechanical design to be easily made
on squared A4 --- you can scale that how you will but the plan has
to be in the head. For example: a two terminal station layout with a
"mainline" continuous running section leads each terminal to either
the old paddington drag it away change of direction or the run round
scissors type loco release (Bath Green Park). Which direction to
approach from? one or both? I think of which trains + which locos +
which routes + where will they live?
Start simple, get it right, then change it, then settle for the final
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