I Been Working on My Railroad

I have listened to a couple of podcasts recently that proclaimed the value of “Just Do It” in model railroading. Both Model Rail Radio and The Model Railway Show have had segments that have basically said to quit planning, collecting, drawing, waiting, and generally procrastinating, but to instead just go ahead and build something. Anything. No matter how small or imperfect. The theory is that we need to break the ice and loose the entropy. I for one am great for analysis-paralysis. I will analyze and plan till the cows come home but never get anything done. It is much easier to surf eBay and buy parts that to actually put knife and glue to wood and get something accomplished.

But anyway, I decide to shock myself out of my plans and build a small layout no matter what. It is intentionally very small, only 1′ by 3′, and N scale so that it can fit on the book shelf at my office. I have a new job and they keep asking about my trains there, so this should be a perfect ice breaker. And yes, they are fine with me bringing it in. It is in the pediatrics department of a hospital by the way!

I am calling this little layout EuroNook, since it is going to be in continental European outline and in the basic configuration of an Inglenook. Probably going to be kind of Swiss/German. The Inglenook is billed as a “classic British shunting puzzle”. Much to my wife’s dismay, this is not a roundy-round American type of layout but one that stresses brain work and steady switching to keep the railroader’s attention. Basic theory involves having various cars on the track and using a sigle engine to switch them around to put them in a desired order on the main track. think of it as a railroad version of one of those slide-the-block kind of puzzles.

Picture 1 is of the bottom of the baseboard with small feed attached to raise the board a bit, aid in it balancing, prevent it from scratching a table or shelf, and let there be space underneath for an odd wire or two.

Layout 01 - The Baseboard
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Create layouts on your Mac!

If you are using a Mac and are looking for a way to create layout plans for either model railroad or slot car sets, the RailModeller is just what you have been looking for. It has been around for a good while – since before OS X – and is constantly being upgraded and improved. Recently they even got together with the people at TrainPlayer to let you run the layouts you design. I don’t do slot cars at this time, though they are making a real comeback, so my experience is with the model rail side of things.

Rail Modeller SoftwareAs you can see by this screen shot, RailModeller gives you a lot of control when laying your track. Not only can you select from templates of most well known track gauges and makers, but if you can’t find what you are looking for you can use the track editor to create your own. Once you have the track you need, you can proceed to lay it out on a representation of you baseboard with all the correct dimensions calculated. When all is said and done, you can print out a inventory of all the track you have or need to create your masterpiece.

Of course this is greatly over simplified. While being very easy to use, RailModeller is also quite powerful. With it you can design model railway layouts of up to 3280ft x 3280ft. (I wish I had that much room!) You can also print your layout in arbitrary sizes a single sheet of paper up to 1:1 scale. Whats more, you can view your layout in 3D and get an even better impression of what the real thing will look! That is extremely cool.

So, as I am beginning to plan out my small shelf based layout, I am going to use RailModeller to do it. Not only will I be gaining experience with baseboard construction and track planning, but I will also be preparing myself for how best to layout larger and more complex designs when I get the space, time and money.

If you have used RailModeller or any other track planning software, I would love to hear your experiences. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!