A question about CAD

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by ezdays, Mar 13, 2003.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Going through issues of MR I found the following CAD programs dedicated to layouts:
    • 3D PlanIt
    • RTS from Atlas
    • CadRail 8
    • RR Track 4.0
    Now my questions. Is anyone using any of these to put together a layout? If so, would they recommend one over the other? RTS is a 2D program, but the price is right, free.:) all the others are 3D and range in price starting at $60 (download) to probably over $100 with options, CD and manual. I have TurboCad that I use for things like schematics, wiring diagrams and assembly drawings, but have not had much use for the 3D feature so I never bothered to learn it. Has anyone here used a regular CAD program for 3D layouts?

    Is it worth the effort and learning curve to do a 3D layout in the computer first, or is it just as good, and maybe more fun to just pick a track layout (maybe use RTS), put down track and wing the terrain, scenery and structures as you go along?

    I have an opinion, but I'd like to hear yours first.

  2. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    RTS is like you said free, but also very easy to learn and use. Doesn't do much for you as far as visualizing scenery, but you can save as a bmp or jpg and go after it with a drawing program. It breaks if you upgrade activeX :(

    Xtrackcad is also free for a limited version (only alows a 4x8) and is a higher end and harder to learn program. I got it to do nothing, until I ran the tutorials, then it worked fine.

    If you take a look at RailRons drawings, you might consider buying what he's got, if you have the money. I would. Got an extra $100 to give away so a poor guy can have a nice cad prog? :)
  3. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    You could get a the RTS and the TRAINZ Software. Use the RTS to
    make the plans, then the TRAINZ to "build" it on your PC. Use their
    structures, terrain making, and download the FREE stuff other
    Trainz people made to see what your layout might look like.
    That's what I'm doing. ;)
    It allows a "what if" and you still get to run trains (sofrt of). :D

    You could get Microsoft's Train Sim, too. I'm not sure how easy it
    is though.
  4. aartwmich

    aartwmich Member

    I have tried the 3RD Planit trial download and it looks pretty awesome. The tutorial is step by step excellent. I found it pretty easy to use but I have alot of CADD experience. If I were seriously planning a layout I would shell out the 100 bucks for this program. MSH from this forum had his trackplan created with 3rd planit in the trackplan section but his link no longer works.

    I have used Microstation CADD for 13 years to pay my mortgage, and 3d is a definite plus in designing almost anything. But I have NO experience desiging a model railroad layout. Thus the criteria of..........

    .........My two cents;)

    Good luck deciding....have fun which ever way you go!
  5. msh

    msh Member

    aartwmich isi right - I've used 3rd Planit to make my layout that is currently under construction. Here's a link to the pages:


    select the top pic to view what the program can do - at least at my rudimentary level. The 3D view is very helpful.

    It's not as easy as RTS, but will deliver FAR more accurate results. For example, my layout is turning out nearly exactly as was drawn with the program with very few exceptions. Get a copy and try it out. Once you get over the curve you'll find yourself making some pretty great stuff.
  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    I use AutoCad for my module layouts. I have not tried to do 3-D with it. It would take too much time to input the data properly. Unless you hired a surveyor with a GPS to input the topography!

    Using it for 2-D is great, but you have to make everything, track , road, buildings, etc. Nothing is premade. If you know Cadd though, it's an easy transition. You don't want to buy it. The "light" version is $7-800.00! Yikes!

  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I have downloaded a few demo versions of some of the programs listed here, and in my estimation, each one has a very steep learning curve. As I mentioned, I have TurboCad that I use for other 2D drawings but for me to learn the 3D aspect of it just for train layouts would take more time then I want to put into it. I could use what I already know, but then I'd still have to create a new library for trains.

    If I were to go into doing layouts in CAD, I think I'd want to do 3D,but I guess what I'm really asking, is it worth the effort to pre-draw all the scenery, terrain and buildings or is it just as rewarding to just sketch out the track plan and design the rest of the layout as you go?

    If I choose to do it in CAD first, I could be at this computer for another few weeks (remember, an engineer is never happy with their design and would stay in the design stage forever if allowed to:D )...or... if I choose the latter, I could be gluing down track by this weekend (and probably make a hundred mistakes in the process).

    Hmm, decisions, decisions. Thanks for all your input.

  8. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    I guess it all depends on what you want. I used Atlas's RTS to make sure track and switches would fit in the space I have. It worked like a charm. Thats all I wanted it for and didn't want 3D viewing or scenery. RTS has a few buiding outlines if you want to add them.
  9. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    I used 3rPlanIt throughout to plan my layout - and I recommend it for anybody who wants to use the computer for planning. The program offers a lot of possibilities, and the learning curve is quite steep. Like aart suggested, try their demo download and try it for yourself.
    A picture says more than a thousend words, they say. Have a look at my website! Here you see the track plan in 2d and a 3d view of the whole layout side by side. On my pages you also find lots of 3d previews of the scenery. I'm adding one pic here which shows a part of the scenery-to-come.
    There is also a 3rdPlanIt-Group at Yahoo where you can learn lots of tricks.
    Ok, $100 is the price for it, but in my opinion, that's what it is worth. Included is a subscription for updates. The programmer, Randy Pfeiffer is in constant touch with the users through this Yahoo-forum - a service I never had on any other software! YOU as a user can take influence on the development of your program! :)

    One thing, though: 3rdPlanIt can be addictive, so that you suddenly spend more time on the computer than on the real layout! :D


    Attached Files:

  10. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    You can also 'build' structures. That's what I did with every kit I have, so that I could arrange the structures on my layout before even building them! I did quite a lot of shuffling around, but now I'm satisfied. So I could spend lots of time 'model railroading' when my layout room was not yet available. (My landlord used the room for storing junk, and I fought longer than a year until he cleared out all that stuff...).

    Here is view of Trim Creek - how it will look in about a year (I hope!)

    Attached Files:

  11. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    One last thing: You can actually run trains on your layout. (However, for a decent frame rate you have to have a real FAST computer! :( And TRAINZ looks much better when your aim is runnning trains in a self-made environment!) But 3rdPlanIt offers the possibility to have an engineers view of your layout as well. Here's an example - leaving the turntable in Marian City.

    I hope that I didn't stress your patience too much with my posts - but I confess, that I am convinced that 3rdPlanIt is the best RR planning software today.


    Attached Files:

  12. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    That is unusual and encouraging to hear. I am going to download the demo and see what all of you are talking about. This seems to be the only program, aside from RTS that any of you use. I have to see why, and your pictures give me a good idea what you're all talking about.
    Uhh, that's what I was afraid of. I spend far too much time as it is on this machine, which is one reason I got into MRR in the first place.:rolleyes:

    I still have to weigh the merits of knowing exactly where everything will go and what it will look like before starting against the intrigue of having a basic plan but making a lot of it up as you go along. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of doing it in CAD first, I guess I'm just getting anxious to start putting down some track and running some trains.:D that's why I asked. Could be that there's some middle ground here somewhere.

  13. jkristia

    jkristia Member

    I'm using 3rd PlanIt too, but I have only used it for some 2D planning. I once tried to do some 3D designing for a couple of days, but didn't really get hooked on that (too time consuming I guess). But for 2D planning its ALSO great. Today I'm using it mostly for trying different ideas while working on the layout, I found out that I can not draw a track plan on the computer and then stick to it, it changes all the time while laying the tracks.

  14. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hi Don,
    I agree with Jesper, CAD is great for getting a layout down and seeing what will fit in your space, etc, but once you start laying track, your perspective changes somewhat and so does the layout plan!:D
  15. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Don, Jesper and Cid,

    of course you're right. The plan only acts as a guide - when you are working on the real layout you'll modify this and that. After beginning real construction of the Trim Creek & Western I also changed already a few things - and then I had to redraw part of the plan, so that the plan fits reality again! :D :D :D

    I only carried my planning to the extreme in 3d, because I could not yet start real construction. And yes, I am still glad that I had this tool for planning. But now that I am underway, I spend much less time at the computer and more in the basement :).

    Now I only wonder how much my layout and the 3d previews will resemble each other in, say one year. ;)

  16. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Ron, from the pictures you have posted it looks like 3dplanit can be a hobby in itself. Could be a lot of fun without the expense of actually building a layout then wanting to change it.
  17. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Robin, it is! It's really a hobby inside our hobby. And you can spend hours and hours on it (as with most computer applications - that's why computers were invented in the first place: to save time for the users :rolleyes: :D :p ).

    BTW: The same can be said about TRAINZ. Fantastic and creative entertainment - and one hell of a time muncher...

    As I said before - take care that it doesn't take too much time away from building on your layout! Now that I have begun construction I must say: Nothing beats real model railroading!

  18. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yep, starting up time in most applications is steep. I remember when I first got into CAD. Do I take the two weeks I would need to learn CAD or do I do the drawing in about two hours? No brainer until I had to make changes to the drawing, then I realized the learning curve was worth the time. but...
    Yeah, now that's what I am afraid of. From the comments made in this thread, I still can't determine if it's a really neat tool to use, or just one more fun aspect of MRR. Until I decide though, I think I'm just going to start laying out some track and see what happens.

  19. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Hokey dokey, I took a giant step today. I laid out my track outline on my layout and ya know what? For someone who has never done this before, the second step is really scarey. Figuring out just what goes where and where to put the cuts and where to start the hills and....

    Bottom line: I kinda agree now, maybe spending a little time learning 3rdPlanIt may not be such a waste of time after all.:eek: I really think I'm going to need it to plan my elevations if for no other reason. Winging it looked good in theory but until I get more experience I'm gunna need all the help I can get.:D

  20. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    An update

    Well, I am moving right along now. I did download several of the programs mentioned here and even printed out one of the tutorials. My anxiety has exceeded my patience and I went ahead with my layout anyway. I took the plan I wanted and did a full scale layout on paper and traced in on the foam. I went ahead and started shaping the foam and as a result I made further changes to my track plan as I went along. Now this may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but after getting it the way I though it should be, I then put the track plan in my CAD program and I can now get an idea where to place structures and scenery and to plan my wiring. Right now it is in 2D, but I will eventually spend time to learn one of the 3D programs. In the meantime, this is what my plan looks like.


    Attached Files:

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