Taking the Track Plan from the Screen to the Benchwork

Continued slow and steady progress, that’s my goal, though in some ways, it feels like I am racing along in the project to build my layout!!  In less than a year, I have gone from plotting ways to shoehorn a layout into our spare room in our two-bedroom apartment, to having built benchwork for a layout in a bedroom that’s been turned into my office/layout room in our new townhouse (and yes, that includes going from thinking we’d be renting for the foreseeable future to deciding to buy, buying a house, and moving in between!!).

June 07 18 - Liberty Layout - West.anyThe Track Plan as of August 21, 2018. Now ready to start transitioning from a computer concept into reality on the benchwork.

I’ve been doing my track planning using a package called AnyRail.  It’s free up to 50 pieces of track, and a paid version unlocks unlimited amounts of rail.  It has libraries for most if not all manufacturers track in a variety of gauges, including hand laid track like Fast Tracks that I am using for my switches.  Despite this, there are limitations to what the computer can manage when it comes to adjusting flex track curves and design. I’m not sure how much of it is limitations of the program, and how much of it is me, but before we start building switches after my order of supplies arrives later this week, I need to be sure of where adjustments to the switches to get some of the closer ones together are needed or for curve radii to start faster than the switch templates contemplate.  To do this, Fast Tracks provides print out templates of their switches and trackwork, with a bunch printed out, I started sketching out the centreline of the track on the benchwork and taping down switch and crossing templates to transfer the trackplan from the computer drawing to the benchwork.


Working my way along the layout from West (CN Staging) along Mowat Ave, to the intersection of Mowat and Liberty, and then along Liberty Street.

Using a combination of the printed templates and some “sweep sticks” which are laser cut alignment tools for laying tracks, I started my way around the room to see where switches fit, and which ones would need some adjusting.  This is one of the reasons for going with hand built switches, they can be built with the points much closer together than you can with commercial ready to use switches, creating potential to create more prototypical trackwork or achieve something closer to the tight curves in the confines of the area I am modelling (within the limitations of models to navigate the track!).

The other critical task of getting the trackwork sketched out was to make sure that locations for switches were in fact clear of the joints in the benchwork or the shelf brackets supporting it.  With one minor exception (and moving the switch may have fixed some other alignment issues from the computer drawing), everything appears to be clear of benchwork obstructions.

A friend is going to help me with building the switches once the supplies from Fast Tracks arrive.  From having got the templates out and in place, it looks like it will be necessary to build a fairly large bit of trackwork as a drop in element between the corner of Liberty & Mowat and the access tracks to the peninsula with their crossovers and such, especially as the trackwork on the benchwork off the wall will likely be laid before the peninsula is built and installed.  Seeing where everything fits together, I’ll be able to splice the templates together and give him the trackwork as a plan so that the switches can be built as larger drop in segments, to ensure alignment and help us make sure that the curves and such actually work when everything is built and installed on the layout.

IMG_5952Uh Oh, I seem to have run out of benchwork!! The two crossings here lead onto the as yet unbuilt peninsula, but making sure the track geometry from the switches to the peninsula is a critically important bit of the transfer of the track plan!

I have plenty of work to do before actually laying any track, but it was comforting to see that my plan more or less translates to the benchwork as designed, and even nicer to see that mostly the switches miss impediments such as shelf brackets of the joints in the plywood!!

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