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Layout Design on Computer or just Freehand?


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It's come to designing my layout now and I'mtrying to use Rail Moddler Express to design my layout on my mac, it isn't very easy and not enjoying the experience designing it on computer. Struggling with getting the track to fit and getting right geometry, is there something I'm doing wrong?

 

Should I just buy load of track and place it down on the board once laid out and see where my imagination takes me and do it freehand? If I did it that way I'd be uncertain how much track I'd need though. 

 

I've got an idea and plan already from free track plans, this one

 

http://freetrackplans.com/652-East-Coast.php

 

But trying to convert this into Rail Moddler Express is a right headache as the plan doesn't show what size pieces of track they are unless I'm missing something obvious?

 

Also trying to put this into my layout which is 10x5ft with a 5ftx2.5ft operating well is proving difficult as this is on a 6x6ft board.

 

IMG_20200223_201208.jpg

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32 minutes ago, Delorean1984 said:

It's come to designing my layout now and I'mtrying to use Rail Moddler Express to design my layout on my mac, it isn't very easy and not enjoying the experience designing it on computer. Struggling with getting the track to fit and getting right geometry, is there something I'm doing wrong?

 

Should I just buy load of track and place it down on the board once laid out and see where my imagination takes me and do it freehand? If I did it that way I'd be uncertain how much track I'd need though. 

 

I've got an idea and plan already from free track plans, this one

 

http://freetrackplans.com/652-East-Coast.php

 

But trying to convert this into Rail Moddler Express is a right headache as the plan doesn't show what size pieces of track they are unless I'm missing something obvious?

 

Also trying to put this into my layout which is 10x5ft with a 5ftx2.5ft operating well is proving difficult as this is on a 6x6ft board.

 

IMG_20200223_201208.jpg

 

I personally use Xtrkcad for my designing and find it pretty simple to use and would recommend giving that a go

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Its not the software its the Set track geometry. You only have one radius point in Settrack which limits track formations, unless you take a hacksaw to the set track, cut the sleeper webs and bend it like flexi.   Neither paper nor CAD can cope with non standard set track formations using unmodified set track.

On holiday in the rented holiday house I just tip a load of set track on the floor and play with it until I find something which works. (Even then I saw bits off bits of track to make filler sections where the geometry doesn't work

Do you have a sketch of what you would like?     Apart from the 3rd and 4th radius curves which are marginal Set track is too tight a radius for running decent length trains. Especially the points which are something under 18" radius.  I would use streamline points on a layout as large as 10 X 5. The 2ft is no longer than set track points and track spacing is less so its a win win situation.   As always look at CJ Freezers 60 Plans for small layouts etc as there are some very good concepts in there as long as you remember modern RTR  locos can't climb hills like the old ones.

 

Edited by DavidCBroad
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Why are you using Rail Modeller Express?  The Free Track Plan website has a download button, which allows you to download a .any file, which can be opened in Anyrail.  That means that you don't actually have to try and copy it - just open up the file and it will tell you what was used to make the plan.  The only issue that I can see is that the free version of Anyrail allows a maximum of 50 pieces of track, so it may not open this file if the number of track pieces exceeds this limit.

 

Ultimately, you don't have to use software to design a plan - many railways are simply designed using pencil and paper or by buying the track that you think you'll need and laying it out to see if it looks right.  The only advantage of software is that you can check that your plan will fit before you commit to making the baseboard or buying the track.

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As mentioned, it's not the CAD program it's the limitations of the setrack geometry. Using flex track instead of setrack for the curves will help. I agree with trying XTrkCad (free and will will run on a OSX). It does flex track quite easily, including transition curves.

 

Cheers

David

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From their previous thread, I don't think the OP is into transition curves and the like and would be quite happy with a set track layout.

 

I did start on putting that "east coast" into anyrail modified to fit on a 10x5 board (because I find such things fun, the limitations of sectional track add to the challenge...), but hit the 50 piece limit and things seemed to have moved on so it's probably half baked on my hard drive somewhere.

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The original 6 * 6 layout is severely compromised by the space and it should be possible to do much better in 10 * 5.

 

 

If you can make a computer program work then it's best to use one, IMHO, because it's much easier to try things out on screen using as many or as few parts as you need. You can use a drawing program rather than track planning software if you can make accurate symbols for the turnouts and curves. That's how I create all my track plans. (I have got some Settrack/Hornby symbols if you need them.)

 

But for a small layout, if the baseboard arrangement is obvious, then you won't really lose much time or money by buying some track and playing around.

Edited by Harlequin
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11 minutes ago, Harlequin said:

You can use a drawing program rather than track planning software if you can make accurate symbols for the turnouts and curves. That's how I create all my track plans.

 

Aha!  This explains why your trackplans look so darned good.  I was wondering how you had so much patience with AnyTrack's graphics (vel al) and this is the answer - you don't!  :D

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There is a perfectly good, and traditional ‘middle way’ between attempting to master a software-based tool and simply buying track and trying things out: hand drawing.

 

Paper, pencil, rubber (used a lot!), and a set of school compasses can take you a very long way indeed. Using 5mm squared paper you can actually get away with just a pencil and a rubber, sketching the rest.
 

Once you’ve got used to those, you can move onto French or flexicurves to draw the more flowing parts.

 

I actually like, enjoy, the act of hand-drawing, I find it satisfying, and don’t enjoy learning software tools (too much like work for my tastes), so I have stuck with the traditional method, which is not to say that I decry software tools - once fully mastered they can save time. But, fully mastering them does seem to consume a lot of time.

 

Also, using printed-out and photocopied point-templates, plus masking tape for plain track, allows you to mess around at full scale for minimal cost. For very small layouts, I’d say it’s an essential step, because tiny tweaks that almost disappear on a scale drawing can make a huge difference to operability and scenic appearance.

 

Also, remember that software tools don’t design anything*, they simply draw it for you. The designing takes place between your own ears.
 

* Well, the ones under discussion here don’t. Some very specialist Professional software tools do automate some aspects that would have been called design in the past - pipe sizing, cable-sizing, beam-sizing that sort of thing.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nearholmer
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Hand sketch a basic plan then use SCARM or similar to see if that idea will actually fit in the space allotted. The advantage of a software program is it is accurate and you can usually print out full size templates to mark up your boards. No need to print it all just key locations, then pen in the straight bits by hand on the board.

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Having just started 'playing trains' again after a 50 year break I found track planning software a great way to find out what was available from different manufacturers and scales.  I started with SCARM and then tried AnyRail and soon figured out stuff like curve radii and what angles were available in various track libraries - then flex was an easy step.  Without those libraries I wouldn't have known where to start - and probably wouldn't have.  And having seen the layout on screen I was confident enough to go out and buy some track and start building.

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12 hours ago, Harlequin said:

The original 6 * 6 layout is severely compromised by the space and it should be possible to do much better in 10 * 5.

 

 

Bear in mind that a 10 x 5 actually needs about 14 x 9 of floor space when you take into account access around all sides. 10 x 5 is bigger than a double bed. When you get to that sort of size you're better off using all the available floor available and putting the operating space inside. See the HOGRR for an idea, which was designed as a beginner layout and is no harder to build than a solid 6x4 or similar.

 

The big advantage of any CAD software is sorting out the pointwork geometry, which doesn't always work the way you think it does when planning by hand.

 

Cheers

David

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I wouldn't dream of hand drawing a track plan , far too easy to do a Cyril Freezer on it and end up with a designs that cant be built in the space 

 

Computer modelling also ensures you dont have kinks and poor geometry 

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1 hour ago, Junctionmad said:

I wouldn't dream of hand drawing a track plan , far too easy to do a Cyril Freezer on it and end up with a designs that cant be built in the space 

 

Many of his designs were for Triang Series 3/Super 4/System 5 track. Trying to build the same plan in the same space with Peco is impossible.

 

Of course some of his plans were unbuildable with any track!

 

Cheers

David

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2 hours ago, DavidB-AU said:

 

Bear in mind that a 10 x 5 actually needs about 14 x 9 of floor space when you take into account access around all sides. 10 x 5 is bigger than a double bed. When you get to that sort of size you're better off using all the available floor available and putting the operating space inside. See the HOGRR for an idea, which was designed as a beginner layout and is no harder to build than a solid 6x4 or similar.

 

The big advantage of any CAD software is sorting out the pointwork geometry, which doesn't always work the way you think it does when planning by hand.

 

Cheers

David

I meant 10 by 5 with an operating well, as per the OP.

 

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6 hours ago, Junctionmad said:

 

I wouldn't dream of hand drawing a track plan , far too easy to do a Cyril Freezer on it and end up with a designs that cant be built in the space 

 

 


A simple matter of care and practice.

 

The entire british railway network, and those in every other country, was drawn that way before about 1980, and is not afflicted by the problems you mention.

 

K

 

 

 

Edited by Nearholmer
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I used SCARM to design mine - it used to be free and still is so but like Anyrail is limited to how many pieces of track you can lay. There is a vast library of set and flexi-track by many different manufacturers so that you're not limited to just Peco (though that's mainly what I used except for one or two pieces of pointwork).

 

You won't go too far wrong as Nearholmer has said by using a piece of squared paper and pencil and rubber, it's all we had when I did mine first 'proper' layout in 1962 or thereabouts - it worked out reasonably well.

 

You don't have to buy any track to get the feel of what you may want to do as the pointwork templates are freely available off the Peco website (you may have to search a little bit), download, print off and 'play' to your hearts content. One top tip though, no matter how hard you try, very slight errors may occur when joining up pieces of paper and it will then be worth your while using software to confirm what you want will actually be error free (or at least kept to a minimum).

 

I won't hide the fact that with software and flexi track, in setting out bends there is a learning curve, but you'll soon be on the straight and narrow (runs and hides).

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

 

PS: This is what you can do in SCARM (other software is available and YMMV):

 

LayoutE.4_2A.jpg.c1800cd3f3725814d0ee38c018b11e6e.jpg

 

Ledbury4_2A.jpg.061117f96f566b0fd3d655df7cf52c40.jpg

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58 minutes ago, Nearholmer said:


A simple matter of care and practice.

 

So you advocate drawing by hand because using software takes too much time to learn, but to avoid the (incredibly easy) pitfalls of hand drawing you must spend lots of time learning...? The irony is strong.

 

IIRC SCARM and Anyrail don’t work on Macs, so may not be overly helpful solutions. I find Anyrail the most intuitive I must say, but I know everyone’s different. I haven’t tried Rail Modeller Pro, but it certainly appears the limits are the physical products not the virtual ones. 

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I knew when I pitched into this that I was rowing against the tide, in that software tools are immensely fashionable, but I did think that everybody, 100% of the population over c7 years old, knew how to draw with a pencil, and that 100% of railway modellers were capable of laying out simple shapes to scale, given that is how any and every workpiece is marked-out before shaping/cutting.

 

If people genuinely find learning to drive a software programme quicker and easier than drawing to scale with a pencil, I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong.

 

But I am here to tell them that I’m completely b****y amazed!

 

Drawing simple things to scale with a pencil is really, really, really easy ...... any practice needed is more in the genuine design part, deciding how to lay things out for operational and artistic effect, rather than the actual act of drawing.

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There is no right answer to this - everyone will find an approach that suits them, including not drawing anything but laying the parts out on the baseboard!

 

However, many people are very familiar with software solutions in their lives these days, it's not a passing trend. That, and the sheer power and flexibility it brings is why I recommend software (I'm a programmer by trade, so I would!).

 

It's true that some software is really difficult to learn, unfortunately, but there are teams of very clever people spending a lot of time and money to make products that are both powerful and very natural and easy to use. You have to find a program that suits you.

 

P.S. I love to see your drawings, Nearholmer. Please keep them coming!

 

Edited by Harlequin
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25 minutes ago, Nearholmer said:

people genuinely find learning to drive a software programme quicker and easier than drawing to scale with a pencil, I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong.

 

But I am here to tell them that I’m completely b****y amazed

 

As someone who is mildly dyslexic I find drawing freehand quite challenging and usually have to keep correcting mistakes I've made.

 

I find using a computer much easier and at least erasing mistakes doesn't damage the cavas I'm working on.

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Anything is easy if you know how to do it. Accurate scaling of complex turnouts on paper isn’t necessarily so. 
 

Personally I’ve never found a layout design software program I’ve not managed to get my head round within an hour, and I’m certain I get more accurate results than I would hand drawing. We’re all different, neither is right or wrong. 

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I think that sketching things out on paper - which I couldn’t do to scale unless it’s full size - and then proving it via software is a good combination these days. This is especially so if you are restricted to using available RTL track rather than hand built. Often I find that what seems good in my head just doesn’t work out in practice in the space allocated for it, or doesn’t flow as I had hoped. 
 

The big advantage I feel with such as Anyrail is that no prior knowledge of track design is needed to be able to assemble a layout plan. To my mind it’s like playing with set track on the floor, as indeed I did back in my Triangle series 3/super4 days, but much easier on the poor old knees now!

 

However, I do think that ‘proving’ the layout by laying it out full size is a necessary final step. Here using templates or printing out the plan is a great asset. The way you can do this with such as Templot - onto multiple A4 sheets then taped together - and be within the odd mm amazes me.

 

Izzy

 

 

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