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Author Topic: Hi, questions on designing track layout  (Read 2546 times)
Chris H

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« on: February 26, 2007, 10:02:38 PM »

Does Bachmann or anyone else have a CAD application to help design layouts?  Any recommendations on designing layouts using EZ Track?

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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2007, 10:28:26 PM »

There are a number of good packages out there.  Xtrackcad is one that is downloadable.

I use CADRail, a Windows only program.  It has not been updated in a couple of years but you can create you own libraries with ease of what you want is not there.  It also has a mode to 'run a train' where you can set the length of you cars to make sure yard tracks and passing sideings are long enough for what you want to do.  I beleive that several other programs will do this also.

The one thing I have found is it helps to have a printer that will print large sheets of paper.  My HP 1220 will do up to 13 x 19, and my dad has an Epson that will print 17 x 22.  This will reduce the number of sheets you have to peice together when you go to print out detailed sections of a complex yard or city area.

All the programs have a learning curve, so take your time and work through the 'how to's' so you get the idea of how they want you to do things.


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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 11:48:00 AM »

A layout is a learning experience, you will always find a better way of doing things.

"......... how they want you to do things."

Nothing beats a roll of plain shelving paper, a soft  pencil, and a rule! Express the design as a continuous strip, where the ends join up, like a flat map of the world.

Real life examples have already solved the "problems".

My recommendation is always to find a real life situation that fits a feasible modelling opportunity. Do a survey; get maps/photographs of the area for levels; then scale it down in proportions to get the main features within the area you have.

Occasional site visits help to fill in details to bring realism to the layout as the project proceeds.


Phoenix AZ: OO enthusiast modelling GWR 1895-1939, Box Station Wiltshire; S&DJR Writhington Colliery, Nr. Radstock.

Interested in making friends on the site with similar interests.
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 12:06:07 PM »


First you need to know what kind of railroad you want to model, and have some idea of how you want it to operate. One very usefull tool would be the book, "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong. In addition to helping you decide what you actually want the track plan to do, this book will help you come up with a design for the space you have.

As an experianced Draftsman, I can tell you that CAD is not really the answer for track planning. Old fashioned paper, pencil, rule and compass will be much faster and easier, unless you are already a very skilled CAD operator.

Steward (Seasaltchap) makes some good recomendations if you are interested in actually modeling some specific prototype stretch of railroad. Depending on your knowledge of geography, railroad construction practice and your imagination, it is not that hard to simply develope a concept and fit it into the space you have.

First make a list discribing what kind of railroad you want and what features you want it to have.


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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 01:47:47 PM »

We could get into a long discussion on CAD or no CAD, but there are some things model railroad CAD programs can do to help.

On of the things it can do is force you to properly align items like turnouts and curves.  Some of them will allow you to keep track of the number of an items you need to build a layout, number of right turnouts, left turnouts, and other parts.

On the other hand, some times you do want to 'curve by hand' for a better 'look' to the layout.  Here CAD is not so good.  If you already have a computer and feel comfortable using it, then a model railroad CAD program can be a good starting point.  Even though I use CADRail a lot, some times I have to just 'draw' items on paper to get my head straight.  I have even use Lego block to help me 'see' things that I could not get a good feeling for on paper or the computer.

All of John Armstrong's books and articals are good referances.  There are a number of good books by others that even though they may have been writen 30 to 50 years ago have good ideas.  i have used 101 Track Plans for ideas for years.  All the major track manufactures have track plan books.  You can even get good ideas from track plan books from other scales.

No matter what you use to help 'design' the layout, there will always be changes that come along as it is being built.

Just remeber that the day a model railroader truly finishes a layout is the day you tear it down and start all over once more.


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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2007, 01:44:04 PM »

I used RRTRACK. Its a little pricey, but the results are good. It has a library of sectrional track from just about every manufacturer, and can do (i am told) 3D rendering, though my computer always freezes up when I try.

I believe its, but I am not sure.

Paul M.

T&P Railway in the 1950s

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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2007, 04:29:39 PM »

The Atlas website has a trackplanning download availible.

Chris H

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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2007, 10:43:41 PM »

Thanks everyone.  I like what CADrail does, at least from their examples.  I'm going to download the Atlas, because it's free  Smiley .  If the Atlas application won't do what I want then I'll look at buying the CADrail.
I like how the CAD will align the pieces correctly.  I can do the geometry by hand but have a reason for wanting to use CAD at this time.

I'm not interested in doing a prototype of just one setting.  Our railroad setup is primarily Thomas & friends.  Instead of modeling a real place, or even Sodor Island, I want to have our grandson create his own place.  He is 7, and even though he is learning fractions he's not ready for the geometry involved with drawing a setup.  With guidance, I think he'd get a kick out of using a CAD system.
I also want to guide him into picking a variety of landscapes.  Maybe something like a condensed version of the east coast into the mid-west.  I consider this a fun way of learning geography, geology, mining, history, math, wiring, etc.   Shoot, a person could design a whole school curriculum around a model railroad.  In addition, he'll be able to earn about 5 awards in Cub Scouts and other patches as he progresses with the trains in Boy Scouts.

I hope you folks don't take this as blasphemy, but what other activity can be as rewarding as 'just playing with trains'?
« Last Edit: March 08, 2007, 10:47:07 PM by Chris H » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2007, 12:55:56 PM »

Do any of the programs mentioned have (or has anyone here created) a Bachmann specific symbol library?  I have an older version of RailCAD (7.1) and want to know if I should upgrade it or go with another package. 
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