If you are building your first model railroad or designing for a small area, you might wonder if a CAD program is necessary. Here are a few reasons 3rd PlanIt can help you design a layout that will bring you real satisfaction for years.
Track libraries - All of our track libraries are included when you purchase 3rd PlanIt. The broad selection of vendors and styles lets you find the product line that works best for you.
Easy changes - Your first design and small areas will come out best if you can try several ideas as your planning progresses. You’ll find out what radius works well for curves, how a yard is best oriented, and if the track grades are reasonable. When you build the layout, you know it will work!
Learn quickly - 3rd PlanIt’s SoftTrak performs the geometry for you. Simply connect a piece of SoftTrak between existing track or turnouts. The curves and easements are optimized to your settings automatically. Track design with SoftTrak is a matter of connecting the ends!
7x9’ Apartment Layout
Matt’s first layout would be small, and he wanted to run long Southern Pacific Daylight trains on it. He didn’t want the train to “chase its tail” around a short oval, and hoped to be able to have track running under a bridge as part of the design. A 15-car train was placed on the track to give an idea of the proportions.
This is a design made possible by CAD. It took several iterations to meet the design goals, learning along the way. A breakthrough came when the track marked in red was added to the plan. This stretch of track lets the train change directions on the bent-dogbone main line. That was half of the solution to long runs.
The design also called for staging track to hold a few other long trains. This is where the second breakthrough came. The staging track is design as a loop with four yard tracks next to each other. The loop lets trains change direction while on the lower level.
Trains descend from the main level along the top wall from right to left. They drop 10” at a 2% grade without a helix as they disappear from view to reach the lower level. The train can then continue along an open track to emerge again on the top level going the opposite way. With computer control, the inbound train will be parked and a new train dispatched in either direction to begin its run.
It takes about 7 minutes to run the complete circuit. The train doesn’t need to run around in a loop, although it can if he wishes. In the long run, Matt can be doing some switching on the upper level branches while a computer keeps traffic running.
The Next Layout
3rd PlanIt is always a good investment - even if you are planning your first layout. Everyone who has been in the hobby for a while knows that the first layout plants seeds for the next. Our tastes change and railroading itself changes. Buy the design software that can bring you decades of enjoyment!