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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Art of Track-planning

Track-planning is a very important stage to planning a model railroad.  For small layouts, one can just use real track to plan with, however, anything larger than a small layout should have a formal track plan to scale on a piece of paper.  So, what is track-planning anyway?  Track-planning is a form of art that railroad modeler's use to figure out where the track will run on a train layout.  
There are two stages to track-planning, the planning part comes first.  
  • This stage includes making a list of features that you want to have on the layout.  This list includes all tunnels, bridges, switches, power, specific industry, era, and the motive power on the layout.  After this list is made it is time to find a prototype to model.  This may not be important if the layout is not modeling an area but rather operations on an imaginary line, however, most choose to model an area.  Using Google maps is a great reference if you know what you want to model.  The first stage is also about finding the scale of trains you want to model.  From largest to smallest, 7/8'', G, O, S, HO, TT, N, Z, and now T scale.  Also there are Lego trains which are surprisingly realistic considering Legos are toys.  to see the general size of a few of these scales please go to, "Building a Model Railroad: part 1".  another thing to consider before track planning is whether or not garden Railroading  is right for you.  Garden trains can be as small a O scale and as large as 7/8" scale so the size of the garden footprint is essential to think about.  Generally, garden trains need about 4-6 foot wide area to accommodate  the trains.

  • The second stage to track-planning is the actual making of the plans.  Before starting the formal track plan on graph paper, draw up plans free hand first to get a feel for what the railroad will look like.  You will find that you will favor one design over another when you think about what you really want.  After the overall design is chosen, grab a tape measure, and measure the area that the layout will go in.  Minimum space for layouts can be any size really.  From 1 square foot to 1 million square feet.  Generally though, the average space for a layout is somewhere between 40 and 150 square feet or about the size of a large closet to a spare bedroom.

  • Proper track-planning requires some tools:  Figure (2-1) shows examples of these tools.  From left to right;

These are used to draw straight lines and 90 degree angles.
This tool is used for measuring and drawing angles.
#2 lead is preferable.
Graph paper:
The lines that mark the paper ensure straight lines when making plans.
Fig. 3-1
This tool allows one to draw curves and switches.

Drawing the Elements:
When track-planning, drawing switches, straights, curves are fundamental and the most basic elements of the art.

  • Drawing curves are simple.  Step one is marking the center of where the tack will go with an X to find the distance (fig 3-1).  To find where the X will go, measure the radius of the curve and use that to put the x on the center.  Next: Use the compass set to the width of the radius and hold the point on the X and rotate the compass in a curve that is a little larger than what is necessary.

See Figures 3-2. and 3-3. for reference.

Fig. 3-2
Fig. 3-3

  • Drawing straights is hard because two or more points must line up exactly But graph paper makes the process easier. Take the square and line up with the blue graph lines, then take a pencil and draw as carefully as possible. Drawing straights at odd angles is harder than they look. Take a look at Figure 3-4.  But taking the protractor and measuring out the angle at which the straight will run.

Fig. 3-4

Fig. 3-5  Measure Out 9"

Fig. 3-6
Draw a point that is 1/4 the length between the lines out ward .

Fig. 3-7.
Take the compass and draw a curve between the straight section and the point.

  • Drawing switches is simple but it takes practice.  The thing with switches is that they don't come off at an angle greater than curves of standard snap track. But switches have been categorized by the ratio of rise-to-run. For example, No. 4 switch goes out 1'' for every 4" of track running straight. Other numbers are 5,6,8,10.  To draw switches refer to the final few figures.

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