Planning the track layout

So, the first step should always be planning. And in the case of model layouts, shape and size are the first things to be determined. In the newly empty room, I could dedicate a rectangular surface of about 2.30 x 1.20 meters to my hobby. While more than twice the size of my very first layout in 1999, which stood at 1.20 x 0.90 meters, this is not incredibly big, only about 2.8 square meters in which to play. Also the new layout requires much larger curve radiuses, due to most of my rolling stock being big locomotives (Big Boy, DDA40X, Ae 8/14). And everything runs better on bigger radiuses, always. And they're usually more realistic. Further, I've always wanted a turntable, so there would have to be space for it somewhere. And that thing occupies a lot of space. So I quickly decided to go 3D and add multiple levels, to maximize efficient space usage: - Level 1 is going to be the staging area. It will have the turntable and space to leave the trains when not in use, as well as some way to turn them around (a loop). - Level 2 is an idea I had, to put in something extra, and try to recreate the underground S-Bahn station found in Z├╝rich HB, probably the single train station I've frequented the most in my life. From a track layout point-of-view very simple, but rebuilding the actual decor will provide to be quite a challenge. Also getting the right rolling stock has not been easy at all. - Level 3, on top, will be a "normal" fantasy layout, with stations, mountains, houses, and so on. There will be a rack railway going up the mountain(s). Now that the main idea and concepts were decided on, the detailed planning had to happen: which tracks are laid out exactly where?, how do we go from one level to another?, slopes?. As a kid I did try out different track layouts using a computer software called Raily, so I knew that software to do this existed, and in the last 15 years it could only have gotten better (at least I hoped so!). Indeed, several pieces of software do exist, but most are commercial-only or have, to me, weird interfaces. On the freeware market, two stood out: XTrackCAD and SCARM. In the end I decided to use SCARM, as it had a, to me, much more intuitive and simple to use interface for the kind of things I wanted to do. XTrackCAD has the advantage of being cross-platform and running even on Linux, but starting a Windows VM to run SCARM was just so much easier to get started with. In the end I managed to finalize Levels 1 and 2 easily, with a spiral loop connecting all three levels. Level 3 is still fluid, but at the current pace of building I have at least another year to think about it. I'll expand on the Level 1 design in another post.

Posted by Luca Longinotti on 02 Oct 2016 at 18:00
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