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Best Track Planning Software

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Best Track Planning Software
Posted by gigasaurus on Monday, March 31, 2014 11:55 AM

What track planning software do you find is the best? I've heard AnyRail is pretty good. I'm going to help my teenage son get his layout going. He has a lot of EZ track, so I'm looking for planning software to help him with that.  Any thoughts? Something intuitive and easy to use, but fairly full featured.  Thank you.

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, March 31, 2014 1:07 PM

These "what is the best ..." - questions are always quite difficult to answer. The choice of a track planning tool finally depends on what features you woulkd like to have and how much you are willing to pay. There are freebies, like XtrkCad or SCARM, which do a decent job. The free version of AnyRail has a limitation to 50 pieces of track. If you want more, you will have to buy the full license. There is WinTrack, which is a quite powerful tool, but not easy to learn. 3rdPlanitt us also not really cheap. There are others, which do not come to my mind right now.

A word of advice: no software tool will do the design work for you. That you still have to do, either in the back of your head or a piece of paper. Track planning tools provide the sanity check, if everything will come together they way you envision it. They also help to visualize your ideas properly, especially with a 3D feature.

A second word of warning: none of the tools are really plug&play. All of them have a learning curve. How quickly you will be able to draw nice track plans depends on your own ability to understand these systems.

My personal hoice would be a freebie.

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Posted by RideOnRoad on Monday, March 31, 2014 5:39 PM

I am relatively new to the hobby and have been using AnyRail with no complaints.  It is fairly easy to use and includes an EZ Track library.

Richard

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Posted by peahrens on Monday, March 31, 2014 6:40 PM

I used XTrackCad but cannot compare with others.  For my HO layout, using Walthers-Shinohara turnouts, various W-S curve sections to represent flex track and some Atlas crossings.  I liked it after I got the hang of it.

If you try it do go through the tutorial.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by Fouled Anchor on Monday, March 31, 2014 8:59 PM

 I am using AnyRail. I used SCARM and xTrkCAD, but settled on Anyrail even though it was a little pricey. Quite easy to use, with good track libraries, and good object libraries. xTrkCAD I found to have the hardest learning curve.

 

Quite happy with Anyrail.

Steve

Life is tough, but it's tougher if your'e stupid.

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, March 31, 2014 10:06 PM

gigasauraus:

I use 3rdPlanIt. Many people will say it is expensive. I will say it is good value. I can't speak to other programs.

One of the essential tests of track planning software is its accuracy. I have tested 3rdPlanIt to see if things actually fit the way the plan says they will. They do. In fact, there is a little leeway in how things like turnouts will fit together. I have not tested it using EZTrack.

There is a learning curve but I predict that your son will not find that a problem given that half his life is likely involved in computers.

Bottom line is that I have yet to find a glitch in the program. It works.

Dave

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Posted by Colorado Ray on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:31 AM

I've used 3rdPlanIt since it's initial release.  I used an earlier version of CADRail before that. Both are great programs, bur I'd give the edge to 3rdPlanIt.  

If you are thinking off designing a complex layout I would highly recommend using one of the commercial programs rather than freeware.  If you only have a simple plan in mind, maybe the freeware would suffice.

My only problem with 3rdPlanIt  is that i have so much fun, I just plan, and plan, and plan......  If I can remember them all, I've developed fully operational (that's a benefit of the program to run full operating sessions) plans for 1) Santa Fe's peavine and Bradshaw Mountain subsidiary in Arizona, 2) EJ&E from Joliet to Porter, 3) Harlem Transfer with every building fully detailed, 4) DL&W South Brooklyn Terminal also with all buildings modeled, 5) massive entire basement N-scale plan for LAUPT with Santa Fe's First, Second and Third subs, and SP to Burbank, and UP to Riverside including both SP's Miision Coach and Taylor Yards, and most recently 6) third of a basement N-scale SP Los Angeles division from Taylor yard staging to Chatswoth including both the Coast mainline and the Burbank Branch.  

Lol, I've quit planning and actually beginning work on the N-scale LA division.  My son gave me the N-scale Intermountain AC-12 Cab Forward and it needs a place to run!

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Posted by wickman on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 2:05 AM

Ive been using xtrackcad  for a  few years and can honestly  say it is  the best for me and art   the same time  say I have  never tried  anything  else.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 2:29 AM

Yes! Beware of Colorado Ray's warning!

3rdPlanIt can be addictive! You may find yourself designing endless variations of your track plan. Personally I don't think that is a bad thing because it allows you to easily explore your options. You will boil it down pretty quickly once you find a plan that works for you.

BIG CAVEAT!!! 3rdPlanIt won't prevent you from making a poor design, nor will any other track planning software.

I would suggest that you get yourself a copy of John Armstrong's "Track Planning for Realistic Operation". When I started out with 3rdPlanIt I thought I had designed 'the perfect layout'. Armstrong's book showed me that my plan would not have worked anywhere near to what I had envisaged. My naive plan was full of holes which would have rendered operations on my layout very frustrating.

Dave

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Posted by ANTONIO LOPES on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:26 AM

Hi,

I'm using Raily (http://www.enigon.com/raily/en/index.html), it's not very expensive, bought my license for about 35€ (45USD or so), has a lot of features, including 3D, although you cannot print 3D, only 2D.

The learning curve is not hard, however, to work with buildings and structures besides the pre-made, takes some time but the special object editor worths the effort because it's very flexible. Anyway I think you can give it try before you buy. Please check the site for this

For me it's a good compromise between the free SW, which are nice, but usually limited in showing 3D, and the high cost SW, with have all the bells and whistles but can become really expensive and hard to learn how to work with.

Rgds,

António

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Posted by railandsail on Saturday, September 30, 2017 4:13 PM

Searching for an 'addicted track planner' like this one....ha...ha

 

Colorado Ray

I've used 3rdPlanIt since it's initial release.  I used an earlier version of CADRail before that. Both are great programs, bur I'd give the edge to 3rdPlanIt.  

If you are thinking off designing a complex layout I would highly recommend using one of the commercial programs rather than freeware.  If you only have a simple plan in mind, maybe the freeware would suffice.

My only problem with 3rdPlanIt  is that i have so much fun, I just plan, and plan, and plan......  If I can remember them all, I've developed fully operational (that's a benefit of the program to run full operating sessions) plans for 1) Santa Fe's peavine and Bradshaw Mountain subsidiary in Arizona, 2) EJ&E from Joliet to Porter, 3) Harlem Transfer with every building fully detailed, 4) DL&W South Brooklyn Terminal also with all buildings modeled, 5) massive entire basement N-scale plan for LAUPT with Santa Fe's First, Second and Third subs, and SP to Burbank, and UP to Riverside including both SP's Miision Coach and Taylor Yards, and most recently 6) third of a basement N-scale SP Los Angeles division from Taylor yard staging to Chatswoth including both the Coast mainline and the Burbank Branch.  

I am just too old to want to learn how to design a track plan with computer software. So I'm looking for someone who enjoys such matters,...to help me with some basics on a double-deck plan I am working on for my dedicated train shed.

Here is a forum thread I started on the subject, and some sketches I've made...
http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/11/t/264616.aspx?page=3

First off I'm interested in getting a computer rendition of just the mainlines, and how they will fit into the space.

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Saturday, September 30, 2017 6:24 PM

Unless the project is big, I would skip track planning software and use a track planning template and paper and pencil. No learning curve and easy to use.

Lest you think these tools are somehow less effective than software,  I used a template  to create a very complex triple deck layout design. My time was spent tweaking the design rather than learning a new program.

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by shahomy on Saturday, September 30, 2017 6:39 PM

"He has a lot of EZ track"

How much area do u have to work with? 4x8 sheet of plywood? half a basement?

I got Anyrail and i like it best, tried scarm long ago and didn`t care for it...

Am i ever gonna be able to lay any track???

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Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, September 30, 2017 7:39 PM

hon30critter
BIG CAVEAT!!! 3rdPlanIt won't prevent you from making a poor design, nor will any other track planning software. I would suggest that you get yourself a copy of John Armstrong's "Track Planning for Realistic W\Operation".

What he said Thumbs Up

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by fcwilt on Saturday, September 30, 2017 9:43 PM

Hi, I've tried them all. For a simple "4x8" type of plan most any of them will do the job. For a larger, complicated plan with easements, grades, perhaps multi-level there is only one program I would use. 3rd PlanIt. Two "downsides" if you will - there is a learning curve (but good tutorials) and it is NOT free. However it has every feature you might ever need to design the most complicated of layouts. I have used the program for years. On my current layout I used it for every aspect including framing and scenery. Frederick

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 9:47 PM

Atlas makes a great free product, but found that it's more limiting than using pencils, rulers, and graph paper. 

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Posted by railandsail on Thursday, October 5, 2017 2:49 PM

I believe that Atlas software is a scaled down SCRAM program?

I realize that this youtube presentation referenced here is not a 'track planning software'. but it must have been derived from such a software,...very neat.
http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/31007#comment-298366

 

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Posted by mobilman44 on Thursday, October 5, 2017 3:00 PM

To underscore what Ulrich said early on.........   The best planning "software" is some #2 pencils, quadrulle paper, a compass, ruler/straight edge, and a track template (for more accurate turnouts). 

Once an acceptable plan gets sketched out, then its time to go to the computer to finalize it (or not). 

Starting out with computer software could easily end up with the task about using the software, as opposed to designing/creating a layout. 

For what its worth......... 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, October 5, 2017 3:20 PM

 Actually, I find my best "pre-CAD" layout design 'tool' is floatign around in my pool on a quiet afternoon visualizing things. Some of my best ideas, both in track plan and other things like electronics, have come to me this way. That does mean I need to get all my ideas in the summer so I can then transfer to CAD and finalize them once it gets too cold to use the pool. Though I am sorely tempted to test the water this weekend - it's back in the 80's with sunshine here! I actually was in last weekend on my birthday - yes, northeast part of the country, end of September, and I was in swimming. And no, I do not have a heater. The water was actually up to 78 degrees, warmer than the ocean in the middle of summer.

                              --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Detlef10 on Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:18 PM

Have been using SCARM for several years now and really like it.  Over the summer the developer has let people know that he is moving it into a commercial venture.  That happened sometime in the last couple of months commensurate with the rollout of v1.0.  So now it costs ~$40 for the full license.  The free version is still available, but is limited to 100 tracks.  Of course this change come right in the middle of a layout redesign effort as a couple adjacent bedrooms have become available.  Noodling on whether to pay for the licensed version of SCARM, or if I am going to have to pay, if it makes sense to get something with a little more power and sophistication like 3rdPlanIt.  

Great Northwestern Railway

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