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Layout design software

On my Mac, I do all layout design work in MacDraw Pro, a program which dates back to 1991. I have tried several more modern vector-based drawing software but always come back to this one. The important features for me are layers, bezier curves, and scaling.

The ability to draw in multiple layers not only makes it easier to draw a layout design, but also to present several views of the final result. I use up to 10 layers in a drawing, closely following the actual construction sequence, with the room outline in the bottom layer, followed by layout edges, benchwork, scenery, trackbed, etc, ending with trees in the topmost layer since these should sometimes overshadow both rolling stock and buildings. By turning layers off and on I can choose between a fully scenicked overview, for instance, and a basic track diagram with hidden storage tracks visible, block limits, wiring etc.

Bezier curves are the key to getting naturally flowingtrack lines, behaving very much like a software version of flextrack. I do not see much need for packaged track components as e.g. a no 6 turnout can be drawn in two minutes and then copied and reused again and again. One trick is to include extented tangent lines which can be erased later on. I put down the turnout in its approximate position, attach bezier ”track” and make sure this is aligned with the turnout tangent lines. The position of the turnout and the track lines is adjusted until the track flows smoothly.

Layers and bezier curves are standard features of modern drawing packages, but where most, short of dedicated CAD programs, fall short is in the ability to draw to a specified scale, where symbols drawn to one scale can be automatically resized to another. Over the years I have accumulated a sizable collection of track components, cars and locomotives, buildings etc. which can easily be reused.

For scenery I have to resort to another program, on the other hand. I export a basic outline of the layout with track lines, buildings and trees visible from MacDraw and open it in the bottom layer of Enhance 4.0, a low-cost ”Photoshop” alternative.

I then paint the scenery in a second layer, so I can export this separately from the layout outline. Before re-exporting the scenery to a separate layer in MacDraw I apply a blur filter, so this layer contains only color gradations, with all detail information provided by MacDraw.

You can see the final result in my Sloat Lumber trackplans. Keep in mind however that since the original is vector-based, in a printout all details will be sharp, limited only by printer resolution, without any ”stepping” of diagonal lines.

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Updated 18 Feb 1998 by Lennart Elg