Best Practices #HowTo


Rob's FSRR
 

Hi All,

I recently started working on adding an existing N Scale layout to XTrackCAD.  This is a NTRAK modular layout that's 30"x72". This used to be my dad's and needs some restoration work, so this is my new project. I'm hoping to use XTC to figure out the current wiring, make modifications, and plan a track expansion.

I'm looking for some guidance on how best to input this into XTC.  I've attached some pics for your reference.

Overall layout: 



NTRAK rules I'm conforming to:


What I've input in XTC so far (First 3 lines):


The first 3 lines in the front are all on the same elevation.  The angle of the photo makes it look like they are not, but that's an optical illusion. The 4th line starts at a slightly higher elevation and then zig-zags upward (4 legs) from left to right until it reaches "Upton" at the very top.  Because of all these back and forth grade changes, hill walls, and the mountain in the right corner, I'm not sure how to properly capture this in XTC.

  • Should I be using layers in some way, keep it on the Main Layer, or is there another approach?
  • How do I indicate that each turnout at the end of each zig zag is at a different height? Is there a limit on how high up it can go? There are buildings and other structures along the way I'd like to reflect on the plan as well.
  • Nice the track work in XTC is being done looking down, how do I reflect the scenery as if I was looking at it?  Is that possible? 
Sorry for the long message.  To say I'm a novice at XTC is an understatement.  Any assistance/guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, in advance!!!

Rob 
:-) 


Adam Richards
 

Rob,
First just draw the fourth track as it appears to a camera looking down onto the track (a 2D plan projection).  

Then the trick here is "Change Elevations". (It is the icon with an arrow and a Z). Using this command you enter in the height of the known spots (each a rail joint) as "Defined" and XTrkCAD will calculate the intermediate heights.  I suspect you will set them at the end of each zig (or zag) of the track and possibly at the divergent ends of the turnout/point as well (given that will be where the grade starts up/down. Those heights will be based on measurement from the layout. If there is no spot at exactly the right place you can split the track at that point and use the Elevation command to set its height.  

Note that the track lengths given in "Parts List..." will be a little less than required based on the track having a gradient - XTrackCAD's lengths are the plan projection lengths based on X,Y and do not include Z.  So with a 3% grade the track will need to be 3% longer.

BTW - Layers are really a grouping technique when drawing/hiding, etc - they do not have a defined relationship to heights. The use of the term Above and Below in the Edit Menu is also confusing - Above means "Move to Front" and Below "Move to Back" in drawing terms. In fact a track with higher elevation which has been acted on by Below will draw under all tracks including those with lower elevations!!  The default order is the order of creation with later tracks drawn over earlier ones. Many commands (like Modify) will create a new copy of the Track and hence boost the Modified Track to the Front.

In practical terms, you might want to consider a PowerBase or equivalent system as you lay the track, if (as it looks) those gradients are more cog-railway-like than gentle. 

Adam


Adam Richards
 

And the scenery will all be 2D projection (rooftops) as well -> like a traditional map, really.  We have not had the manpower, developer interest or skillset to go into 3D directly - which would require a complete overhaul of the non-track object model.  At the moment we still lack even some 2D drawing techniques - fills with shading or hatching, for example. 

For scenery, people often produce what map-makers like the OS in the UK do; a series lines and feature drawings that indicate the X,Y position of cliff-faces and so on. I guess one could indicate topology via contour lines as well if that was valuable.

Adam


Rob's FSRR
 

Hi Adam,

Thank you for the info. Your explanation of the change in elevation makes sense.  I'll go ahead and start adding the track as suggested. Will be interring to see what that grade really is.  It could very well be cog-railway like, but I don't think it's that steep.  As for the track length gap because of grade changes, except for the switches and bridges, it appears that flex-track was used throughout the layout and not sectional track. That should compensate for the gap.

I'll have to think a bit if I want to carve off some of the elevations to separate layers.  Especially if I continue to expand off that same level, it may make sense to do that. I'll definitely do a separate layer for the wiring.  Besides track & wiring, how else are layers used, or is it really up to the planners discretion?

As for the PowerBase, I think that's awesome. Hadn't heard of that before. Unfortunately, since the track is already down, I would need to rip up what's there to install that. Definitely will keep that in mind for future work.

Thanks, again,

Rob


Rob's FSRR
 

I tried adding a "tree" structure to my layout but wasn't able to.  I went to Add Structures, selected the "tree", but the OK button was grayed out so it wouldn't let me add it.  Is there a step I'm missing?

Also, when adding structures are you able to select the elevation height for them, or is it just assumed that's the location of the structure regardless of the elevation?

Regards,

Rob


Tony Scott
 

Hi Rob

Just as an example, I used the following layers on my last largish layout:

* Room shape (including heater, stairs, windows, doors, power points) so I knew exactly how much room I had.
* Benchwork subframe
* Baseboard supports (so I knew where not to place a point motor)
* Table or module edges
* Backscene boards
* Main line track
* Branch line track
* Actuating wires for manual points (turnouts)
* Railway structures
* Civil structures
* Rivers, creeks
* Power districts and gaps
* Various labels
* Other text
* Trees and hills could have gone in others if you want to show them.

Any of them can be displayed or turned off at will.

Cheers
Tony

------ Original Message ------
From: "Rob's FSRR" <robert.finni@...>
To: main@xtrackcad.groups.io
Sent: 18-Feb-20 1:25:47 PM
Subject: Re: [xtrackcad] Best Practices #HowTo

Hi Adam,

Thank you for the info. Your explanation of the change in elevation makes sense. I'll go ahead and start adding the track as suggested. Will be interring to see what that grade really is. It could very well be cog-railway like, but I don't think it's that steep. As for the track length gap because of grade changes, except for the switches and bridges, it appears that flex-track was used throughout the layout and not sectional track. That should compensate for the gap.

I'll have to think a bit if I want to carve off some of the elevations to separate layers. Especially if I continue to expand off that same level, it may make sense to do that. I'll definitely do a separate layer for the wiring. Besides track & wiring, how else are layers used, or is it really up to the planners discretion?

As for the PowerBase, I think that's awesome. Hadn't heard of that before. Unfortunately, since the track is already down, I would need to rip up what's there to install that. Definitely will keep that in mind for future work.

Thanks, again,

Rob


Rob's FSRR
 

Hey Tony,

I never would have thought of some of these, but I can see how it would be beneficial to layer these. 


Thanks man, that’s really helpful. I’ve got my work cutout for me. 


Appreciate it,

Rob


Adam Richards
 

Rob,
Trees and other structures act like Turnouts in how you add them to the layout. 

You either
  • Select them in the "Add Structure" window or 
  • Select them on the hotbar (if you have enough the scroll buttons will be active and you can also right-click on that bar to start the ones showing as being from the parm file you want).  
Once you have selected the one you want, you Add it to the layout by clicking on the layout surface and dragging around the temp symbol until you are happy and then pressing Space or Enter. The item will remain selected and you can add again which is handy for things like trees. 

"OK" really means "Done" as in - "No more to Add"...  It will illuminate after you have added the first structure. 

Structures do not have an elevation. They are simple drawing elements (lines, arcs, circles, filled circles, polygons, filled polygons) grouped together and labelled.  And simple drawing elements don't have an elevation either.  The reason Tracks do have elevations is to enable grades to be calculated.

Adam



Rob's FSRR
 

Thanks Adam,

I should have realized there was a simple answer to posting the "tree" to the layout.  Not sure why I didn't figure that out myself. Sorry.  Anyway, it worked. :-)

Based on the input I've received I created some layers. . . Table, Table Support, Track, Wiring, Scenery, and Structures.  I've started adding track at a different elevation. Going to do the ends of the zig-zag first, then go back and join them together.  The incline track segments, however, have multiple curves, not a straight incline.  Will have to think that through a bit to ensure I have it reflected properly.

Once I get the track input I send a pic.

Thanks,

Rob 


Chris Kenyon
 

Hi Rob.  I may be excommunicated for mentioning this but there is a product called "SCARM" which does somehow convert 2D track plans into 3D views ("orthogonal" views I think, may be wrong).  I've never used it and suspect it has far fewer features than XTrackCad but it might suit you.  I think this link (https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/73339-scarm-layout-design-software-with-3d-all-users-topic/&tab=comments#comment-1080607) will take you to a relevant thread on RMweb without you having to join …. 

All the best

Chris


Ian
 

Hi Rob, really like the challenge you have set yourself. It is going to be an awesome display when it is all done.

You have been given lots of info so you should be OK but if you run up against problems and it all gets too confusing, drip me a line and we can set up a convenient time to talk about it on Team Viewer or Zoom or any other tool that lets me show you how to do things.

When it comes to Elevations I have  made just about all the mistakes, can't be too many still to find LOL
I wrote the most recent update to the Wiki pages on Elevations and I use Elevations just about every time I switch XTrkCAD on. My latest module has two tracks climbing a mountain  with cog railway. With grades of 14% and 19% respectively. 

I would be happy to assist if you need it.

On Wed, 19 Feb. 2020, 10:31 pm Chris Kenyon, <chriskenyon@...> wrote:
Hi Rob.  I may be excommunicated for mentioning this but there is a product called "SCARM" which does somehow convert 2D track plans into 3D views ("orthogonal" views I think, may be wrong).  I've never used it and suspect it has far fewer features than XTrackCad but it might suit you.  I think this link (https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/73339-scarm-layout-design-software-with-3d-all-users-topic/&tab=comments#comment-1080607) will take you to a relevant thread on RMweb without you having to join …. 

All the best

Chris


Rob's FSRR
 

Hi Chris,

Sacrilege!!! 😂

I had looked at SCARM but wasn’t ready to spend money on a tool yet. XTC has a good reputation and wanted to give it a fair shot. 


So far no complaints. 

Rob


Rob's FSRR
 

Thank you Ian, I do appreciate all the support everyone has provided. I think I have a good foundation to work with. Once I get into it more I’m sure I’ll have questions. Right now I don’t know what I don’t know.

I do foresee struggling with replicating multiple curves on a line. Since it’s flex-track on the layout I don’t have the same fixed dimensions that sectional track provides as a reference point. I’m getting lost using Cornu vs Bezier Curves and how to adjust those arcs.


This will be my next challenge once I get the zig-zag ends in place.

Rob


Adam Richards
 

Rob,
Cornu will have the advantage of smoothing out curves and that may help - depending on how the track was originally laid it may be all you need.  Bezier are ok as long as you have good reference points and you are trying to match very precisely but the smoothness is up to you.

My suggestion - measure the centers of the tracks at the 1/3 and 2/3 of each grade on the way up at the same side to side dimension - basically the points on two lines drawn straight back from the front edge of the module. Then draw straight track between those points ( I am assuming that the middle parts of each grade are pretty straight.)

Place the turnouts. 


Join the straights to the turnouts with Cornu joins. 


You can find tune the Cornu/straight connections if needed.

Done!

Adam

 


rventura.57@...
 

I looked at SCARM when it was still a free product. While it seems very capable, and I've seen a lot of really nice designs done with it, the learning curve was way too steep for me, especially compared to XTC. I don't think SCARM can do anything XTC can't do, and you can't beat the support we get in here. 

Regards

Ron Ventura


On Thu, 20 Feb 2020 at 15:45, Rob's FSRR <robert.finni@...> wrote:

Hi Chris,

Sacrilege!!! 😂

I had looked at SCARM but wasn’t ready to spend money on a tool yet. XTC has a good reputation and wanted to give it a fair shot. 


So far no complaints. 

Rob


Dwyane Ward
 

If you need to look at Xtrkcad plans in 3D check out this software


Here the link  http://mwik.altervista.org/index.html  by Mats Wikstrom,  last update Dec 2018

--
Dwyane Ward


Rob's FSRR
 

Thank you for this Dwyane, it’s good info to have. 


Ron, you’re right, the support here has been great. 


Rob


Rob's FSRR
 

I didn't get as much done this week as I would have liked but I made substantial progress on the elevations.  The left side of the layout is documented, along with the uppermost level.  This week I'll work on the right side and the connecting inclines.

Question. . . I've been getting these + signs showing up on the layout.  It's only visible when I zoom out.  What are these and how can I get rid of them?


Adam Richards
 

Those are curve centers - Have a look at Options-> Display to get rid of them.

Adam


Ian
 

Hi Rob, you have made a good start.

I like the plus signs. What I do is run a Dimension line from them to the bit of circle they are referring to and that way I have a clear indication of the values I have used. You can always do a Properties check on the segment and find the X and Y values so you know which of the plus signs refers to which part of the track.
Put the Dimensions all on a single layer so you can clean up the look of your layout if you need to. Then the values are just a click away.


On Mon, 24 Feb 2020 at 16:15, Rob's FSRR <robert.finni@...> wrote:
I didn't get as much done this week as I would have liked but I made substantial progress on the elevations.  The left side of the layout is documented, along with the uppermost level.  This week I'll work on the right side and the connecting inclines.

Question. . . I've been getting these + signs showing up on the layout.  It's only visible when I zoom out.  What are these and how can I get rid of them?



--
-- Ian