Part 2 – Prototype Study: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/understanding-a-model-railroad-prototype
AnyRail for Layout Planning
AnyRail has been my choice of layout design software for over 7 years now. You get complete library of all available tracks of all scales of all common manufacturers across the world, plus you get a good amount of off-the-shelf structures of most popular manufacturers in the library as well. The best part is all this is available even in their free (trial) version with only restriction being you can only use a total 50 pieces of those tracks and structures in one file (With some clever tricks you may actually be able to create a decent size layout even with that restriction, however, for a great tool like this one can always go for the full license). But apart from its exhaustive library and usability that provides superior flexibility in designing great layouts, the feature that appeals to me the most is the ability to make custom building plans using basic drawing tools. It’s nothing fancy, but this gives you pinpoint accuracy in your design and footprint of various objects and gives you an opportunity to visualize the whole layout with all the details even before you start. This comes particularly handy when drawing a plan of a prototypical layout like this one, where the building’s plan and scale dimensions are important to retain its authenticity. So, let’s start with that. Note that this is not a tutorial for how to use AnyRail, so the technical details of using AnyRail will be kept at minimum and will be targeted to the topics in scope of this article only. If you use this software then please refer to the company provided user guide for complete details.
In this article, we will see one example of how to create a custom-building footprint of a building in AnyRail, and for this purpose I am going to pick the most important building – the Depot, dimensions of which are shown in Figure 12A, I will translate those dimensions in N Scale by simply dividing the real-life dimensions by 160. Figure 13 shows the scale dimensions in blue italics along with the 1:1 dimensions and can be identified as dimensions marked as ‘N=…’ All dimensions are rounded off to 1 decimal points for ease of planning.
Now, in AnyRail, a new layout is created (Figure 14) with length and width of 168 as inches (14 ft) and 24 inches (2 ft) respectively, to start designing the layout replicating Figure 2A. Note that measurement systems are marked as English decimal units in AnyRail setting which will help me put my calculated dimensions directly in the system. Also note the other settings like ‘Alert on too sharp curves’, 3 levels of minimum radius, grade percentage and grid size – all of these are important settings to create a standard that the layout and all components in it will have to conform to, thus making it easier to design a layout without having to worry about doing things wrong and not realizing it.
The plan of the depot will be created by adding rectangles of appropriate sizes and taking reference from Figure 13. At this point, I am not interested in the appearance of the plan, but just the accurate dimensions. So first, I add the longest rectangle that is 27.1 inches long, but just 1.3 inches wide as shown in Figure 15. I also added a light grey fill color to match the original building (Figure 16). Next, I’d add a 15.3-inch X 1-inch rectangle and fill it with a little darker grey (Figure 17). All the rectangles are added and arranged one by one to form the plan of the building in N Scale, and we finally arrive at the completed plan as shown in Figure 18. Then you select all those shapes and use the ‘Group’ button to group them (Figure 19), and finally use the ‘Save as Object’ button to save the depot in the custom library (Figure 20). As shown in Figure 21, now the depot is ready for use in this, as well as in any future variation of this layout, and can be pulled from the custom library (in the User Objects tab) at any time.
I continued with this process to plan out the complete waterside structures, as you can see in Figure 22, quite a few individual elements are in there. Figure 23 shows the progress so far, and as you can see, it has already started resembling the real thing without even adding any tracks.
In Figure 24 you’ll see most of the buildings and big structures in place. If you notice on the left-hand side pane, I have segregated each type of item in a separate layer which helps me switch on or off any particular set of items while I work on the other. Replicating what I did on Google Earth, I have mentioned the 1:1 dimensions of some of the features using the ‘Add Ruler’ tool on top ribbon. The names of the major landmarks are also mentioned using the ‘Add Text’ tool. Also notice that not all structures are parallel to the edge of the layout, they have a slight tilt following exact orientation of the real structures. Now that I have a fairly decent idea about the major structures and how they are going to look, it’s time to start with the track plan.
Join me in the next episode where I start with the track plan of this lovely layout.