A Railroad with Relevance

Track Plan Update

Written By: Alan - Aug• 15•10

I have been working on the track plan for some time. Essentially from Christmas on. This weekend I had it to the point where it roughly satisfied the Givens & Druthers. A lot of artistic liberty had been taken with the placement of industries relative to Brittain yard but I was at a loss of how better to do it. My available space to work with evaporated quickly. Logically, I need more space seems to be the mantra of most all model railroaders. Kitzmiller and Lapeer I am pleased as punch with.

My next step is to mock-up various sub-sections with paper & cardboard to get a real feel of what works and what doesn’t. I have the print templates for all the various pieces of commercially available turnouts, wyes, crossovers, etc. The paper templates should allow me to try the track plan for fit in 1:1 scale. During the design I knew I was only approximating the turnout lengths and angles. Since I wasn’t using actual track planning software it would have been an exercise unto itself just creating scale representations. Instead, I am relying on the paper templates. Throughout the process I did verify curve radii were accurate. The main uses 30″ minimum curves (except for one 24″ curve at the interchange) and the helices are 34″. The industry spurs are 18″ minimum. My paper and cardboard mock-up will focus on the turnout laden areas and especially Brittain yard.

The plan was posted on several model railroad forums asking for critique. Much has been received. I updated the track plan as comments were posted when the change was relatively easy to incorporate into the plan. Some of the comments I had anticipated such as turnout angles and arrangement, hidden track access, and similar. Other comments were unexpected cool additions or solutions to certain engineering issues such as hiding the center helix. There are a large number of great people on the model railroad forums. Their willingness to help a complete stranger is admirable. I sure am glad this virtual community exists. The live and learn sessions they have saved me already are too numerous to count. Their comments and information from their other posts on the forums is a godsend for someone like me new to the hobby trying to come up with something at least workable on the first shot.

The model railroad fun is over for this weekend. As a result of the comments received thus far I am left with this list of “might be show stoppers” that I will begin to address next weekend.

  1. Brittain yard west end turnout fitting, first area to apply turnout paper templates, probably won’t work as drawn.
  2. Yard lead length, intersection with hidden main.
  3. Helix to spur clearance in Goodyear complex.
  4. Staging tracks length too short.
  5. Minimum radius in yard increase to 24″.
  6. Scenic gap between Lapeer and Brittain too short.


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  1. Al says:


    What forums do you use to ask for advice?
    What software do you use to design the plan?

    Thanks much,

  2. Alan says:


    These three forums are my personal favorites:

    Model Railroad Hobbyist
    Model Railroader

    The track plan is done in Adobe Illustrator

  3. Al Merkrebs says:


    I do love the Adobe Illustrator look of your track plan. It looks like what Model Railroading uses.

    I downloaded a demo version of Adobe Illustrator, but did not see any “templates” for laying model railroad track. Is that something extra that you had to get, or are you doing all this in Adobe Illustrator from scratch?


  4. Alan says:

    Everything is done from scratch in Illustrator. To the best of my knowledge there is no model track plug-in for Illustrator.

    I created circles of various radii (shown on the bottom of the track plan page and in the legend of some of the updates) which I move into position over a roughed out curve. The curve path is then edited to bring it into curvature with the radius pattern. Crude but works amazingly well.

    As for turnouts, the pattern PDF documents on the Fast Tracks website can be opened by Illustrator. Remove the unneeded text, dimensions, etc. Scale the turnout pattern to your layout plan and save it as a separate object. When imported into the layout plan this allows you to have accurate turnouts. Lining up the turnout squarely to path ends in Illustrator can be tedious but I don’t get carried away. My track plan is only as accurate as needed to provide a rough guide when laying out the paper templates at 1:1 scale on the train room floor. Any necessary refinements will be made then.

    Just for fun I plan on making my track plan look just like one in Model Railroader once the track, terrain, and structures are in their final position. Have to admit it will look cool printed out on poster paper hanging framed in the train room. Illustrator offers limitless capabilities when it comes to making the track plan drawing look any way you wish.

  5. Afvallen says:


    […]Track Plan Update « LK&O[…]…

  6. Brian says:

    Alan, been poking thru your blog on your layout – looks good. You’ve made good progress. Curious about where you are located? Do you live in Michigan?

    I notice at the bottom of your page it list the weather report for Lapeer. I live in Hartland Michigan, (intersection of US-23 & M-59.

    Maybe we could plan a visit sometime if your in Lapeer. It’s about 50 minutes to Lapeer from my house.

    Anyways, I model in HO, and model the DT&I. Am building a layout, but not as far along as you… (jealous) photos of layout progress are on photobucket, DTI Home Division page.

    Brian Everett

  7. Alan says:

    Brian, yes I live in Lapeer. You are welcome to visit anytime.

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