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CAD for small layouts

If you are building your first model railroad or designing for a small area, you might wonder if a CAD program is necessary. Here are a few reasons 3rd PlanIt can help you design a layout that will bring you real satisfaction for years.

7x9’ Apartment Layout

Matt’s first layout would be small, and he wanted to run long Southern Pacific Daylight trains on it. He didn’t want the train to “chase its tail” around a short oval, and hoped to be able to have track running under a bridge as part of the design. A 15-car train was placed on the track to give an idea of the proportions.

This is a design made possible by CAD. It took several iterations to meet the design goals, learning along the way. A breakthrough came when the track marked in red was added to the plan. This stretch of track lets the train change directions on the bent-dogbone main line. That was half of the solution to long runs.

Staging Track

The design also called for staging track to hold a few other long trains. This is where the second breakthrough came. The staging track is design as a loop with four yard tracks next to each other. The loop lets trains change direction while on the lower level.

Trains descend from the main level along the top wall from right to left. They drop 10” at a 2% grade without a helix as they disappear from view to reach the lower level. The train can then continue along an open track to emerge again on the top level going the opposite way. With computer control, the inbound train will be parked and a new train dispatched in either direction to begin its run.

It takes about 7 minutes to run the complete circuit. The train doesn’t need to run around in a loop, although it can if he wishes. In the long run, Matt can be doing some switching on the upper level branches while a computer keeps traffic running.

The Next Layout

3rd PlanIt is always a good investment - even if you are planning your first layout. Everyone who has been in the hobby for a while knows that the first layout plants seeds for the next. Our tastes change and railroading itself changes. Buy the design software that can bring you decades of enjoyment!

Upper Level

Staging track - Lower level

HO scale

  Atlas 83 / 100

  Bachmann EZ Track


  Bemo HOm / Code 70

  BK Enterprises

  Central Valley 70 / 83

  Fast Tracks HO /

     HOn2 / HOn3 /

     HO-HOn3 / HOn30

  Fleischmann Profi

  Kato Unitrack

  Micro Engineering w/yard

  Marklin C / K / M

  Peco 75 / 83 / 100

  Peco SetTrack

  Piko A-track

  Pilz Elite

  Proto87 55 / 70 / 83

  Roco RocoLine / geoLINE

  Shinohara 70 / 100 / HOn3

  Tillig Standard, Elite 83

  Tillig HOm / HOe

  Trix Express HO

  Walthers 83

N scale


  Atlas Std / 55 / 65 / 80

  Bachmann EZ track

  Fast Tracks N / Nn3

  Fleischmann Piccolo

  JHM DB standard

  Kato Unitrack

  Life Like Power Loc

  Micro Engineering


  Peco 55 / 80 / SetTrack


TT Scale


  Berliner Modellgleis

  Berliner Bahnen


  Faller (Old numbers)


  Jatt - Expert






S Scale  

  Fast Tracks S / Sn2 / Sn3

  Fast Tracks Dual S / Sn3


  Shinohara Sn3

  Tomalco Sn3

O Scale

  Atlas O

  Atlas 21st Century

  Atlas 21st Century 2-rail   Atlas Industrial Rail

  Fast Tracks O / On2

  Fast Tracks On3 / On30




  Lionel FasTrack

  Old Pullman Code 100

  Old Pullman Code 125

  Old Pullman Code 148


T scale


Z Scale




  Peco Streamline

  ProZ (Tokyo Marui)



Gm scale

  Aristo Brass

  Aristo Stee


  Lionel FasTrack

  Micro Engineering


  USA Trains

OO Scale


1 Gauge

  Marklin MAXI

  Peco Code 200


AREA 1941

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