The main purpose of model train layout software is to help enthusiasts and hobbyists to virtually create and design different model train layouts to see what the design will look like after construction. Almost all model train layout software is based on CAD (computer aided design) principles. They help you to create designs of the completed track layout and the scenery around it.
This article surveys several software packages dedicated to creating layouts of model railroads. It is current as of this writing, of course new packages are always coming out.
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Available Model Railroad Layout Software Packages
AnyRail is an example of model train layout software that assists you in creating a model train layout just like the other programs reviewed, here, but has one feature that is unique to it. It has predefined libraries in it for nearly all the model train tracks that are available commercially. AnyRail will even handle flextrack! This means that if you have got a set of Bachmann E-Z Tracks you can use the software to design your layout using the Bachmann E-Z Track as the default rails. This method helps you to accurately create layouts that are completely compatible with your track set. It also removes the hassle that you would have gone through if you had not got this feature and you would have been forced to measure the dimensions of your track set or look for its specifications and then input all that information into the software. AnyRail is primarily based on 2D design. The software has a free version with a limit on track length which can be removed if you buy the license key for $60.00. Note that AnyRail was formerly known as DRail.
3rd PlanIt is model train layout software that primarily deals in creating 3D models of your planned layout complete with all the scenery and other fixtures in your layout. You can model every fine detail in your layout using the software including, but not limited to terrain changes and height.
3rd Planit includes a standard library with automatic scaling to fit the scale of your layout.
The software is modeled primarily at serious enthusiasts, as they are more inclined to detialed designing of the environments of the model train scenery. The software has a demo version that is free and limits the used pieces to 100 and does not allow you to save your project. The limitation can be removed by purchasing the $125 key.
Cadrail is the main competitor to 3rd PlanIt. It shares almost all the same features but uses a different interface and relies more on designing the project rather than recreating the project in a 3D model like 3rd PlanIt. This means that the level of detail in CADrail is less than 3rd PlanIt but it makes up for that with a much cheaper price of $60.
XTrackCAD is among the most popular model train layout software currently being used and there are several reasons for that. First of all the software is designed to be as user friendly as possible with several tutorials and online videos from its developers as well as its user community. The second reason for its popularity is its price: It is free. This makes it the software with the most value for money. It is mainly used for creating 2D layouts and has a very strong user base that helps other users of the software by posting their own designs.
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