Modern technology enables hobbyists to design and to plan their train display right from their computer. Available online and in hobby stores, model railroad software takes much of the guesswork out of just about every step of the design process. Some programs even include a simulation that helps to determine if a track’s layout is feasible or not!
Designing and Testing a Layout
Model railroad software can help you with your layout. The layout includes the location and direction of the track as well as the placement of your scenery and accessories. The software takes into account the scale and make of your train; however, you do not necessarily need to have purchased your train already. In fact, you may want to tinker with layouts first and then decide which scale and/or make would work best in your actual display.
The software’s versatility works well for both novices and experts because flaws in layouts can be exposed and eliminated prior to building. Because you can change and reset any of your commands on the software, you are free to do whatever you like and not have to rip out track that won’t line up or to rebuild a baseboard that is already half constructed. Some variations of the software offer 3D graphics that can help to give you a better feel of how your display will look with various components added, taken away and rearranged.
Additionally, some model train software includes a simulation module where you can test your track and layout to see, for example, if your train can pass around a certain corner or fit under a particular tunnel.
The design software’s label will tell you which computer versions it is compatible with; therefore, first make sure that your computer – whether it be a PC or MAC – works with the software before purchasing and/or downloading it.
Printing out Layouts and Decals
Once you have decided on your desired layout, you can then print a physical copy of your master plan. The program will help you determine scale, which is very important if you are fitting your display into a specific area of a room. Therefore, everything on your printout should help to guide you when purchasing trains, track, equipment and scenery. It can also help you to determine the size needed for your baseboard and accompanying benchboard, if needed.
Other software can also allow you to print decals for your trains, buildings and billboards. The decals enable you to make your display not only realistic but also original. Building decals can be as detailed as window treatments and brick and stone for siding. For best results, print decals on a heavy matte paper, such as photo paper. Then you can cut out the decals with scissors and glue them to your buildings, which may be ones that you constructed from scratch.