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Delorean1984

Layout Design on Computer or just Freehand?

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Gosh and to think in the old days everything was designed using pencil and paper, even Concord. Computers are very good for replicating things once you have designed the first one, which is where your track libraries come from. The software author having done the hard work drawing up the various track parts in the first place. All you have to do is plonk them on screen.

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55 minutes ago, Izzy said:

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.

If you have done the design work in Anyrail you can print your templates direct from there - just select the 1:1 option in the print menue.

 

Sadly will not help the original poster as he is using a mac and as far as I am aware, Anyrail is only available for Windows PC.

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1 hour ago, njee20 said:

Accurate scaling of complex turnouts on paper isn’t necessarily so. 


It sure isn’t, and if I was intent on hand-making complex point-work to scale, with all the correct timbering and rail-fastenings etc, I would probably reach for a software tool to lay it all out, although actually most of the ‘work’ in such design is done by one gauge-face of each track, a set of rules of thumb about timbering, and a set of gauges.

 

But, if we go back to the start of this discussion, that isn’t “the homework question”, which is about designing layouts using r-t-r components.

 

All I’m doing is pointing out a perfectly viable ‘middle way’ that sits between the two alternatives that the OP’s tabled.

 

Take it or leave it - the choice is the reader’s.

 

 

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I tend to assume that any layout designer has at least half an idea of what he hopes to build before he commits to pen or PC. He/she knows they want a platform or two, a few sidings, a dead-end bay, whatever. What they don't know is how proprietary track, be it Hornby or Peco or Tillig etc will actually work in situ. This is a critical issue - those sidings and the platform need to be at least x feet long to be fit for the intended use. So at that first stage, I would expect Kevin's approach, designing an intended outcome on paper - the proverbial fag-packet if you like - to be entirely adequate. In my case I have tended at that point to buy a selection of points, and simply lay them out as per my sketch. Measurement between points will show me how many vehicles I really can get in the platform etc. thus informing me whether Plan A is a goer. If Plan B is obviously now necessary, I can now adjust A in real space, until I have the compromise I can accept. 

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2 hours ago, RAF96 said:

Gosh and to think in the old days everything was designed using pencil and paper, even Concord. Computers are very good for replicating things once you have designed the first one, which is where your track libraries come from. The software author having done the hard work drawing up the various track parts in the first place. All you have to do is plonk them on screen.

 

I drew everything from scratch on CAD, measuring and drawing the points that I had in hand

 

I'm a CAD draughtsman but I started my career on the drawing board (pencil and ink on clear transparency) although CAD is quicker and more accurate I still sometimes have to start with a blank screen

 

I do occasionally miss drawing on the board............I don't miss the ammonia printing machine though

 

 

Edited by chuffinghell
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CAD is a good option, but some of the programs are fairly expensive and take quite a lot of effort to learn to get good results unless, like chuffinghell, you come with that skill set from your working background.

 

A bit like chuffinghell, I bring a specialised skill set to my railway modelling as I come from a printing and graphics background and also, many years ago, learned how to draw to scale accurately with paper and pencil and scale rule.

 

I combine the two skill sets and use a graphics illustration package (used to be Adobe Illustrator but now I use Affinity Designer which does not lock you into monthly fees) which gives me excellent and precise results for layout planning and I can print out at whatever scale I need.

 

I have spent some time playing with Rail Modeller Pro which I originally got into to help a friend who is also a Mac user. I think it is an excellent 39 quids-worth and if I did not do things the way I already do, I would use it.

 

Rail Modeller Express is a cut-down free version of Rail Modeller Pro which is a good way to get the feel of the full package before you buy it.

 

I can see both sides of the argument for paper and computer layout design. In the end you should do what is easiest for you.

 

John

 

 

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One of the advantages to using CAD (for me at least) is being able to accurately work out things like building and platforms :-

Platform.PNG.1de9eda0fdbf54d5bbd4355388a84c2f.PNG

 

Drawing it accurately is one thing, making it accurately is another :lol:

 

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16 minutes ago, JJGraphics said:

CAD is a good option, but some of the programs are fairly expensive and take quite a lot of effort to learn to get good results unless, like chuffinghell, you come with that skill set from your working background.

 

That's very true and it all comes down to what you are comfortable with or in my case use to using every day

 

Disclaimer :- Any drawing work done for my layout is done strictly during my lunch break, honest governor ;)

 

Edited by chuffinghell
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18 hours ago, MikeTr said:

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. 

 

+1 for AnyRail.

 

I've found the track libraries and the flex track invaluable when modelling real locations found in the NLS map library.

e.g. Lambourne

image.png.aa5685ec1c4f3926c18c149253df263a.png

 

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18 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 

 

Computer modelling also ensures you dont have kinks and poor geometry 

Freezer wrote articles re designing layouts in Raikway Modeller where he quoted streamline geometry.

I memorised much of this ad still allow 16mm for 2ft 00 points, 21mm for a diamond etc when drawing which I did at 1" to 1ft scale on A4 or A3 paper before I discovered Anyrail etc

The layouts which can't be built are largely a result of the track sections no longer being available or creep in the dimensions, modern streamline 00 small points are noticeably longer than the 1960s   The most important component no longer available was a curved diamond crossing, I think he must have used the Farish Formoway/ Liveway diamond as the farish points were/ are rather more amenable to being bent/ curved than Streamline.

The strength of Freezers designs is they generally can be operated in a prototypical and sensible manner, Not something one can say about many modern plans.   There have been some spectacularly

bad designs on this forum which looked good but simply could not be operated sensibly.

 

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On 25/02/2020 at 06:57, Nearholmer said:


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

 

 

 

Yes , by an army of trained personnel , and over decades , not by an amateur during his lunch break 

Edited by Junctionmad
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On 24/02/2020 at 12:07, Nearholmer said:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

On 25/02/2020 at 08:44, Harlequin said:

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!

 

 

Delorean 1984, this is sound advice from both!

If you have access to, and are (or can become) capable to design in, a software program, it’s easy to design multiple solutions to see what works, and in particular, what fits.

its equally easy to play around with paper templates, peco or others, with or without simple drawing skills.

And then when you build it, and because some parts don’t ‘look right’ in your scale or setting, you’ll probably meander off the ‘perfect’ software or paper design anyway! 

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Junctionmad said:

Yes , by an army of trained personnel , and over decades , not by an amateur during his lunch break 

True. I'm sure Kevin would agree that railway design offices were havens of tranquility where critical work was done in expert fashion. 

 

Then there was Jan, in the P Way office, whose capabilities as a tracer were apparently second to none, but who was also gifted with magnificent legs, and a penchant for wearing fishnets, or 'sprout bags' as she called them.............

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I think this all comes down to what you like doing. It's a hobby after all. If you like playing with real track then just buy some and see how it goes. If you enjoy drawing things out on paper then do that. I happen to really like computers and so I do that. I use templot a lot, often just for fun. Also I have used anyrail and I use a vector package, coreldraw, an awful lot for all sorts of things. I'm currently planning a new layout. For me, I drew it up in coreldraw first to scale as I enjoy doing that and it works well for me. I then imported it into templot and drew templot templates over the top to get the right transition  curves and point vees etc. This showed me that some of my coreldraw stuff wouldn't work in reality.

So its up to you. The most important thing is the thinking process. Use whatever tool you are happiest with as that will always give you the best results.

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1 hour ago, Oldddudders said:

Then there was Jan, in the P Way office, whose capabilities as a tracer were apparently second to none, but who was also gifted with magnificent legs, and a penchant for wearing fishnets, or 'sprout bags' as she called them.............


Best we don’t go too far in that direction.

 

The young women ‘tracers’, who used to kick their shoes off and climb onto a huge drawing board, working on their hands and knees to trace S&C work drawings at 1:1 were a constant source of distraction for the younger men in the office.

 

I was always too messy and impatient to spend long in the DO, it didn’t suit my nature: happier either crunching numbers, out on site or writing contract documents. Trad DO guys were very calm and neat, and some of them really suffered when CAD was first introduced - the transition was simply too much for them.

 

And, yes, hobby-wise, it is about what you enjoy, which is what I said in my first post in this thread ........ people needn’t feel threatened by me pointing out that there are other ways of skinning the cat than using software tools.

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The thing that got me into model railways was helping my young brother design his layout in the 1960s. My basic Helix school geometry set was all I had, but I quite enjoyed it and afterwards we both planned layouts we could never afford! The drawing desk with parallel motion rule was what I used before computers became generally available with creative software. I still start off with a rough pencil drawing, gather together reference material and photos, then plan out possible track options in AnyRail. For buildings, I like to plan out the basic dimensions by hand, and then go to the computer if I want a coloured paper kit which can be printed out then assembled. The pencil, rubber, and a small drawing board are still essential items in my workshop!

Edited by Marly51
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I think we need to separate the processes involved.  firstly there is what might best be called the thinking & creative phase where you decide what you want using sketches to help you reach a suitable compromise of the various features you need/require.  Then comes the detailed design phase of fitting it into the space you have available which might lead to an iterative phase of amending your plan/design in order to make it fit that space.

 

Some of us can - probably through experience as much as anything else get pretty close to getting it right first time in the thinking/creative phase.  I have done it several times in the 1:1 railway world where I planned out track layouts to carry out certain tasks within the land footprint available (and not even drawn to scale but various key measurements included for the perway Drawing Office when it went to them to draw the '40 foot' plan).  Only once did a drawing office have to (slightly as it happens) alter my draft, unscaled, sketch to make it fit the site (Southall - Hanwell Bridge Up side loops and sidings, at the Southall end).  The others I did all fitted pretty near exactly (Bristol Bulk Handling Terminal at Avonmouth - c. half a mile long fitted with 40 feet to spare); provision of new quadrupling Wantage Road - Challow fitted exactly even though it was not quite on the original quadruple track footprint and had faster turnout speeds; conversion of the Up Relief from Foxhall Jcn to Didcot West End fitted exactly; the putative imported coal loading terminal at Port Talbot fitted pretty well but needed a Barry Slip to make it into an exact fit.  The Worcester one would also have fitted but was cancelled after some S&T work had been done while the other Worcester one hasn't been built yet and might never be.

 

I can generally do the same in 4mm:1ft scale although that's based on Peco pointwork.  But it is all down to experience and very much having the feel for creating a workable track layout to achieve what I wanted to achieve and of course in the model railway world that is more an impressionistic thing than meeting the targets of the real world such as planning a terminal to handle 24 million tons of coal per annum.  

 

Bit I emphasise it is not magic - the key thing with any track layout planning is to think very carefully about what you want while bearing in mind the space you have to fit it into and play around with sketches first if you are reasonably confident about how things will fit into the space you have.  Pencil and paper is, as far as I'm concerned, by far the quickest way of doing that unless you are really ace with a suitable CAD programme.

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CAD is a slightly different beast than vector drawing software.

 

CAD is very technical whereas vector drawing software is more freeform. Thus, vector drawing software can be used as digital pencil and paper at first and then later in the same package, even in the same sketch drawing, tying down exact dimensions and details.

 

Vector drawing software: Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Xara Designer, Corel Draw, Inkscape, etc...

 

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Of course you should down out your plans at a suitable scale to make sure everything will work well....

 

 

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I cannot draw for toffee and I have no design software on my Mac. What I do have, however, is access to this forum, a rough idea of what I want and the nice man here who does all the design work for me!  :D:D:D

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13 hours ago, JST said:

I cannot draw for toffee and I have no design software on my Mac. What I do have, however, is access to this forum, a rough idea of what I want and the nice man here who does all the design work for me!  :D:D:D

Sounds “ sorted “ to me 

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On 25/02/2020 at 01:47, JimFin said:

Sadly will not help the original poster as he is using a mac and as far as I am aware, Anyrail is only available for Windows PC.

XTrkCAD supports Mac (as well as Windows and Linux), and is entirely free (supported by volunteers from the community).  Our next release will feature a revamp of the user interface to make the program more intuitive to learn as well as many user requested features.  The active user group is easy to find -> search for "xtrkcad user group".

 

Adam

 

Disclaimer -> I am the Mac volunteer.

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3 hours ago, tynewydd said:

XTrkCAD supports Mac (as well as Windows and Linux), and is entirely free (supported by volunteers from the community).  Our next release will feature a revamp of the user interface to make the program more intuitive to learn as well as many user requested features.  The active user group is easy to find -> search for "xtrkcad user group".

 

Adam

 

Disclaimer -> I am the Mac volunteer.

But which version(s) of Mac knowing its propensity to render obsolete other people's software etc each time each time a new  version appears not even providing or allowing drivers for your older printer?

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I've enjoyed reading this thread, and it's triggered a question.  My feeling is that all the current design software packages are fairly similar in nature - basically a CAD concept tailored to the model railway space.  The popular ones are excellent, and I have a lot of admiration for their authors.  However, by the very nature of their envisaged usage, they tend to converge in terms of functionality.

 

So my question is; what could a computer-aided package achieve that would make a step-change in the layout design phase of a project?  For instance, what about moving away from a mouse to a pen or, preferably, a touch interface that allows a completely freehand input … and then automatically convert the squiggles to achievable geometry.  Alternatively, how about defining the baseboard dimensions and an AI algorithm designs you a choice of layouts based on your preferences (such as minimum radius) and a set of heuristics.


I'm retiring soon, and I've joined the Forum to learn about model railways with a view to a relaxing hobby - no experience with trains per se, just some modelling and dioramas in my youth.  But I am a scientific programmer, and have long thought about software as a retirement hobby.
 

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31 minutes ago, Sarge427 said:

I've enjoyed reading this thread, and it's triggered a question.  My feeling is that all the current design software packages are fairly similar in nature - basically a CAD concept tailored to the model railway space.  The popular ones are excellent, and I have a lot of admiration for their authors.  However, by the very nature of their envisaged usage, they tend to converge in terms of functionality.

 

So my question is; what could a computer-aided package achieve that would make a step-change in the layout design phase of a project?  For instance, what about moving away from a mouse to a pen or, preferably, a touch interface that allows a completely freehand input … and then automatically convert the squiggles to achievable geometry.  Alternatively, how about defining the baseboard dimensions and an AI algorithm designs you a choice of layouts based on your preferences (such as minimum radius) and a set of heuristics.


I'm retiring soon, and I've joined the Forum to learn about model railways with a view to a relaxing hobby - no experience with trains per se, just some modelling and dioramas in my youth.  But I am a scientific programmer, and have long thought about software as a retirement hobby.
 

 

I think that what you need is Templot.

 

Personally, I sketch all my plans on paper first. Fifty plus years of doing that gives me a fairly good feel for what works and what does not. Even so, I sometimes find that once I commit it to the computer (Trax2 software), it does not quite work - usually problems with combinations of points not fitting on a baseboard.

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