I'm sure this has been asked many times before, I want to design my own
layout and would welcome some advice on what is the best software to use. I
may model in N gauge or OO gauge, would this make a problem to the software
or will the software be capable of working in both gauges.
Well if you want to use Peco and Hornby et al then you could use
Winrail. If you want to roll your own then Templot is your only choice.
Templot is a bit awkward to use but one you have mastered it then you
won't go back to the old ways of doing it. You might also get yourself
an A3 Laser printer off Ebay.
A prefatory comment: The precision achievable by exact scale plans,
whether hand- or computer-drawn, is illusory. If you use John
Armstrong's "squares" principle (see footnote) of locating curves, you
will always have sufficient space for curves and turnouts, which are the
governing factors in a track plan. No plan is ever built exactly as
drawn, anyhow, so spending time on accurate and precise location of
every inch of track is for most people a waste of modelling time. I have
designed dozens of layouts, at least five of which were actually built
by others. The process begins with sketches, and for a small layout
(spare bedroom size or smaller) a (near-scale) sketch is almost always
OTOH, if the layout planning is one of your interests, then computer
programs can be useful.
First, what computer are you using? There are more programs for the PC
(Windows) than for the Mac.
Second: if you want to use sectional and/or flex-track, all layout
planning software I know of (WinRail, XtrakCad, Cadrail, 3D PlanIt, etc)
have track-piece libraries, and user forums provide additional ones.
Third: the learning curve is steep. The program is _not_ a substitute
for lack of drafting skills! If you don't already know how to at least
sketch a (near-)scale plan, the program will be opaque. If you can draft
a plan by hand, you will be annoyed by the non-intuitive interface: no
CAD program I've ever tried is like drawing with paper and pencil.
Not that these considerations should stop you - once you've mastered a
program, you can have fun designing all sorts of layouts, including ones
you haven't a hope of ever building. Beware: layout planning can become
a hobby in itself, and take valuable time away from actually building a
If your plan is a one-off, my advice is to use card or plastic templates
for paper and pencil planning. Easy and quick. Make a number of
templates for the curves you will use. A half circle is about right. A
good scale for A4 size plans is 1:10 or 1:20 (1:12 or 1:24 if using the
old measures.) Cut notches in a straight edge of the curve templates for
the turnouts. The start of the notch will the frog location, the angle
will match that of the frog. The notch should be long enough to mark the
frog-end clearance in it. Mark the clearance point at the point end,
too. Don't worry that many sectional-track frogs are in fact curved - at
the scale of the plan it will not make a difference. The clearance
points do matter, though. Make the templates large enough (ie, tear-drop
shaped) that you can mark curve centres through the compass hole.
Templot is good if you plan on building your own complex track-work, but
otherwise is more complicated than you need.
Footnote: Armstrong Squares
John Armstrong invented these for use during the preliminary planning
(sketching) phase, to prevent over-optimistic location of mainlines on
larger layouts, but the method is useful even for smaller ones.
The side of the square is design radius + twice clearance. Eg, if design
radius is 18", and clearance is 2.5", the square will be 23"x23".
"Design radius" is at least one radius up from minimum radius. That way
you know that a minimum radius curve can be squeezed in if needed. Each
square will accommodate a quarter circle of the design radius, plus one
or more smaller radius curves inside it. The double clearance on the
outside of the curve allows for track-side structures, cutting slopes,
etc, or even another track. Subdivide the layout space into squares. If
a shelf layout goes around two or more sides of the room, the squares
ensure that you won't expect longer straight aways between curves than
the space allows.
One final note: for anything other than a shelf or portable layout,
allow sufficient space for operators. Absolute minimum space should be
24". If your girth has reached middle-aged proportions, that will be
enough for a sideways shuffle. Not exactly convenient. ;-)
One of the most valuable things is to be able to view the result
in 3D. If you are like me and don't have much ability to do this
then DXF export from whatever program you choose is a huge bonus
as the layout can be imported into Google SketchUp (free!) and
the room, baseboards, roof trusses or anything else added -
even buidings and scenery etc can be added on the layout. You can
then look at it from any viewpoint and make adjustments as
I take a rather more iterative approach than Wolf - design it,
and if something needs changing then go back the design and
change that before altering anything - it's surprising how
often you forget why you did something for a good reason!
Wonderful and comprehensive answers ! However do you want to play at
designing or would you like to build a layout ?
If the latter then maybe better off getting some track plans and select one
as a basis for your layout. This is especially pertinent if you are new to
Depends what platform you use. On Mac OS X I recommend Railmodeller
. For Linux (and presumably other
Unix-a-likes) Xtrkcad seems to be the weapon
If you're stuck on Windows, then I have no idea what you should use.
Pencil and paper, probably.
While I recommend paper and pencil for designing a one-off layout, the
fact is that there are more and better layout design programs for
Windows than for the Mac. Such as Cadrail, 3rd PlanIt, WinRail. Cadrail
is a CAD program with railroad related libraries. 3rd PlanIt can do CAD
drawings, too. Both have "operation" modes - you can run a train on a
plan, to see how your notions of operating it will work. Both have 3D
views, too, albeit not up to current gaming standards.
Then there's Trainz. You can design your own railroad with it - most
users design simulations of real railway lines, but some are using it to
do "virtual model railroading." IOW, you can plan a layout with it, and
then run it. Very good graphics, but also not up to latest games in
looks and feel. Steep learning curve is its only drawback.
Erm, sorry, Trainz is not available for Mac.
The Mac is in fact seriously lagging in simple consumer friendly
software, mostly because Apple has this mania for controlling how its
products are used. Jobs has -- finally -- admitted that the Intel
platform is better hardware, and is bringing his prices down closer to
PCs'. But you can't buy a copy of Leopard and (legitimately) install it
on your own hardware, something I would like to do. Why? Because I've
built a PC for less than half the price of an equally powerful Mac.
And while there is excellent software available for the Mac, it's
overpriced. I mean, I just saw a review of a basic image
viewer/processor for the Mac, at $50. Yet it it does less than
Irfanview, which is free. The same issue of Mac Life reviewed "the best
unknown" apps, the kind that a PC user expects as $25-$50 shareware and
freeware, and most of them cost in the $50 to $150 range. Good grief!
Someone has said that owning a Mac is a Lifestyle. More like a life
sentence, if you ask me. And I do own a Mac - 15" Powerbook G4,
actually. Looks nice.
End mild rant.
Just run Linux software on it! The info is on the web...... or
better still, fish an old PC out af a skip and spend a week in the
pub on the change!
(Not jokimg - I have a machine runing Linux that cost precisely
nothing. Not one penny.)
Hold on a minute gents, it does depend on what you wish to do with it !
Anyway, I bought his nibs a Dell portable from Tesco - £400. The missus says
she will use it to become PC literate. Bit of word processing, bit of
CBeebies internet games. Well worth it.
Will XtraCAD do stuff like bespoke P4 trtackwork like Templot? I am a
Linux user and would rather do stuff on LInux. I do know that people
use Templot on WINE but with varying degrees of success.
You can enter parameters to define custom turnouts, etc., but this is
really intended for adding new libraries of setrack and you'll
probably find it quite limited.
XtrkCad is for layout design, not track design.
beamendsltd wrote in news:a9a2b9bb4f%
And I take an even more radical approach :-) Spend 3 months drawing it,
another month testing for size on the base boards, do a bit of fettling
to make sure it all fits, build it so the track is complete, wire it,
then start to scenic it, rip up half the track work, re-draw it to
assist with the re-wiring. Rip up about a quater of teh track work and
cut some embankments in to hills. Re lay track, re draw. Re-draw again
to see if another new idea will fit, rip up track to physically check
rip out some wiring and replace using thicker wire (and co-incidently
with a different colour scheme), decide it doesn't work, re-lay track.
Complete final drawings for wiring, complete control panal faces, re-
wire. Decide that the third idea I had was a good one after-all. Rip up
the previously re-laid track and re-lay in new formation, re-wire (using
new another colour scheme for the leads), build new control panel ...
... sits and wonders where the interchange with the narrow guage has
gone. Cries ...
... goes back to version 2 and repeat :-)
Which explains why I am now building stock!
" firstname.lastname@example.org" wrote in news:c92bb55e-
I have to say I much prefer pencil and paper, I find it much quicker, but
then again I did "Technical Drawing" at school and not "Design