Planning Track

While I’ll often sketch track plans out to get a feel for what I want, transforming that to a layout design is something I do with track planning software. You don’t have to do it that way. Some people just like to grab track and start assembling it (a method that works better for table-top layouts than for those with complex topography). There’s also the “method of squares”, as a way to sketch a plan on paper and then transfer it to the layout directly, but I’ve never used that myself.

My oriiginal layout, Sumida Crossing, was planned using Railmodeler (I eventually upgraded to Railmodeler Pro). This is a good tool for sectional track planning, and that layout used Kato Unitrack. It’s a less useful tool for dealing with flex track, although it has improved significantly over the years.

Much less intuitive, but much more powerful, is the open source program XTrackCAD. Like any Computer Aided Design (CAD) program, this lets you do pretty much anything you can imagine, but it doesn’t necessarily let you do it easily, and figuring out how can be quite a headache. It has the added benefit that its files can be printed 1:1 and taped to the layout when laying track, and can also be used by JMRI to create control panels. I’ve created a sub-page for storing my notes on it, as I’ve found it impossible to remember them from one year to the next.