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Useful Apps for Model Railroading

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  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: Buffalo, NY
  • 143 posts
Useful Apps for Model Railroading
Posted by Lonehawk on Friday, March 16, 2018 9:23 AM

Hey all,

So I’ve been derping around a bit now looking for apps that are useful for model railroading.  Most of what I see is either for controlling DCC on your phone, or a couple from WS that seem to have some usability gremlins.  Oddly, even that info required some digging.  Then I hit upon this thread: 

https://modelrailwayengineer.com/amp/6-must-have-android-apps-for-model-railways

Which, while a bit sparse, showed some rather nifty options.

But it got me thinking... there‘s not much info out there online or in forums as to what apps are helpful for us modelers to have.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been wondering.

So, what apps do you find useful for your modeling?  Maybe not ones specifically designed for model railroading (which are few and far between) but which have proven to be worth the download.  Apple, Android, whichever.  Post up and share your faves.

Mine are Woodland Scenics Model Scaler and Model Inventory  (finicky, but not bad once you learn to deal with its quirks), MagnifyGlass, and Model Speed.  (All iOS).

- Adam


When all else fails, wing it!

  • Member since
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  • From: Franconia, NH
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Posted by dstarr on Friday, March 16, 2018 9:34 AM

GIMP.  It's a very powerful freeware photo manipulation program.  Anything you can do with Adobe Photoshop you can do with GIMP. It can do perspective correction, cut and paste, color correction, stretch and shrink, and duplicate and paste together a small bit of stone work or brick work or whatever into a large piece.  The only drawback to GIMP is the documentation is very limited, vague and sketchy.  A lot of complex concepts are simply not explained at all. 

   I use Microsoft Word to make signage, and Excel to keep an inventory of all my rolling stock. 

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Posted by AltoonaRailroader on Friday, March 16, 2018 10:05 AM

I used XtrkCAD, little learning curve, but easy to use. I don't think it does 3D or anything but it's free. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, March 16, 2018 10:23 AM

I used to spend a lot of time on my computer running Flight Simulator and numerous military simulations.  When I finally dug my trains out of the attic and began setting them up and building scenery, I realized that I had been missing the tactile realness of modeling.  Suddenly, I was back to actually making things with my hands, and having something I could physically hold.  I started to separate the digital world from the physical world, and I've pretty much left it that way.

Yes, the fact that I'm here tells you that there are train-related things on my computer.  I print floor and wall textures for my structures and make decals for my rolling stock.  I've got the Digitrax "Soundloader" program to modify sound decoders.

But, when I leave my office and take the half-dozen steps to my Train Room, I leave the computers behind.  It's the way I like it.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, March 16, 2018 10:44 AM

MisterBeasley
But, when I leave my office and take the half-dozen steps to my Train Room, I leave the computers behind.  It's the way I like it.

My old neighbour was/is an architect, he designed massive structures on computers, yet his basement was full of drafting equipment where he would stand for hours with his pencil in hand and design houses for people. 

I have a program I use to design houses with and am pretty good at using it, but for some reason, it is pencil and paper when it comes to layout design. I don't find MRR CAD software hard to use and maybe the pencil and oversized graph paper are somewhat cumbersome and not as accurate when the plan is finished, but that is what flex track is for, isn't it?Laugh

Big dreams require big graph paper.Laugh

   

 

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

  • Member since
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  • From: Ayer, MA by way of Queens, NY
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Posted by TheGamp on Friday, March 16, 2018 1:26 PM

For a phone-specific app, there's one I've been using called ColorGrab that lets you load an image (or use the phone camera in real time) and get the color hex codes and HSV values for the pixel(s) under the cursor.

I'm still trying to find a better source for matching those colors to currently available hobby paints than the Encycolorpedia website, but it does have some stuff from Testors, Model Master, Vallejo, Humbrol, Tamiya in its database.

  • Member since
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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, March 16, 2018 2:33 PM

Actually, I did get an App on my phone that is a level. I run it around the layout checking what the grades are in different spots. 

I am thinking of getting the ghost detector App. My dear old Dad got me into trains nearly sixty years ago. We only had plywood Pacifics but had hours of fun together. I swear he is always in the trainroom with me grinning ear to ear with the layout we now have. Can anyone recommend a good ghost detector App? I want to see if he is indeed here.WhistlingLaugh

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

  • Member since
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  • From: Ayer, MA by way of Queens, NY
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Posted by TheGamp on Friday, March 16, 2018 4:25 PM

Another one I've been playing with is called ON 3D Measure that lets you load a perspective photo of a building or car side, adjust a calibration rectangle to match up with a rectangular area of known size somewhere within the photo, and then extrapolate other distances somewhat accurately.

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  • From: East Central Florida
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Posted by Onewolf on Friday, March 16, 2018 7:33 PM

I use "Light Meter" on my droid phone to measure light lux and color temperature around my layout.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

- Photo album of layout construction -

  • Member since
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  • From: Orange County, NY
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Posted by sktrains on Friday, March 16, 2018 8:12 PM

I have light meter app  on my phone for work stuff but i never thought to use it on the layout.  Neat  idea!!! 

PED
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Posted by PED on Friday, March 16, 2018 8:18 PM

I like the Digitrax Toolbox on my IPhone. Primarily useful for Digitrax decoders but does have some other features you may find useful

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

  • Member since
    November 2013
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Posted by Drumguy on Friday, March 16, 2018 8:35 PM

For IOS apps, “R Toolkit” and “Electronics” seeem to have a lot of cool features. I’m too clueless to understand most of them , but the simple resistor color band identifiers have come in handy. I’ve used “Gradient Level“ with good success. WiThrottle is a great app but the interface is horrible (blue text on Black background and beveled frames went out 15 years ago).

  • Member since
    March 2017
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Posted by Canalligators on Sunday, March 18, 2018 7:12 PM

Unless computing is your other hobby, you're going about it all backwards.  The objective, to me, is to look at your work processes, then ask myself what tool would best do that job?  Not, how can I use my fun computing device on my railroad.

For me, I have a dispatcher's assistant that displays a fast clock and rings alarms when it's time for specified events.  I also have my passenger schedule, waybills and day planning sheets on there, and am in the process of redrawing the system map with Visio.  That's all I use a computer for on the railroad.  In the past, I put my inventory and maintenance records on one, and modelled cash flow from operations, but I found these were more trouble than they're worth.

BTW, all the above except the mapping were self-created in MS-Access or MS-Excel.  I saw a need for a tool and I created it.

Genesee Terminal, freelanced HO in Upstate NY
  ...hosting Loon Bay Transit Authority, run through Amtrak and CSX Intermodal

CP/D&H, N scale, somewhere on the Canadian Shield

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