09 July 2019
Here we take a closer look at how software can benefit your model railway and answer common misconceptions about the technology.
A good trackplan is one that will meet the needs and budget of the modeller, but a great trackplan can inspire others to consider, or re-consider, what they’d like to achieve with their model.
The first question to ask yourself is around space. How big do you want your layout to be? What space do you have available to store your layout? Building a micro-layout is one option; foldaway baseboards or one that can slide under abed are other possibilities, but what if you want something more permanent? For more advice on where to store your model railway, check out our online guide here.
The next question you should be asking yourself is what gauge you want to model in? By far the most popular is 00 gauge, but each has its own constraints and advantages.
Once you’re armed with these two bits of information, you’re ready to start thinking about the trackplan you want to create.
Software for Model Railway Trackplan Design
If you’re finding planning your next layout a bit daunting, there are plenty of model railway design websites and downloadable programs to help. These are quite often free and simple to use, too. Almost all gauges are catered for and you can search a wide variety of pictures, highlighting what each trackplan could look like if built.
There are a number of websites available, our favourites include;
Model Railway Design Software Key Functions
- Create complex model railway layouts with virtually unlimited area
- Realistically shape flex-tracks
- Design your model railway layout on more than one level, with different heights and slopes on the route
- Place bridges and tunnels
- Create the signalling for the route
- View a 3D look at your layout
- Create buildings with roads and infrastructure
- Measure distances and check track sections
- Export and print your layout to share with others
Model Railway Design Top Tips
- If you can’t fit everything that you would like into your trackplan, think about how you can expand the size of your layout by suggesting what’s off-scene.
- Don’t try and model the full station when you can get away with just part of it, like building a structure halfway along it.
- Try to bear in mind the likely cost of achieving what you want and whether you have the time and dedication to see the plan through.
- If you’re overstretching yourself with a big plan, consider doing something smaller and more achievable; you can always save the project for another day.
Simple model railway trackplans can still offer plenty of interest, modelling opportunities and operating potential. Read our guide for a few suggestions.
If you’d like some more advice, take a look at the BRM Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.
Do you want to see a selection of the best model railways in real life? Visiting a model railway exhibition allows you to see a variety of top-quality layouts and speak to their creators. Click here to find out about three of the UK’s leading shows.