Great way to plan your railroad layout

I got this in, from Tom.

It’s a great tip and I thought I’d repost it because I know a lot of folk don’t want to design their layout on a computer.

Apologies to those who have seen it before…

“When planning the track layout for my railroad i made photocopies of a section of straight track and downloaded templates of the proper sized turnouts. i then made made several copies of all this and had full size templates i could trim to size and even curve with just a few snips on the edges of straight pieces. since my layout is only 24″ X80″ i taped together poster board to represent the full size of the layout and with my track templates was able to make sure my plan would work before i started spending money on track pieces.”

plan your railroad track layout

How to plan your rail road track plan

Thanks Tom, that’s a cracker!

And if you’re after more tips like this, you know where to find ’em.

Don’t forget the ebay cheat sheet. Things really starting to hot up there.

That’s all this time folks! Please do keep ’em coming.



36 Responses to Great way to plan your railroad layout

  1. This is a good idea. I am in G-scale and I can not find templates of track. Where do I find these?

  2. a brilliant idea especially for me as i am at this stage now

  3. Excellent idea, easily accomplished.

  4. For the gentleman who was looking for G scale templets – All you need to do is enlarge HO scale to 300% and you have G guage track templets



  7. This is a good idea, but not everyone is in HO scale!! I myself am in “O” scale. How about some tips for us “O” scale guys??

  8. Now why wasn’t this trick available 4months ago. Good one will save it for next time. Take care.

  9. To, Ivor: You may consider a folded dogbone figure 8 track plan for your 4 foot by 8 foot layout. It requires 18 inch radius curves and has about a 4 to 5 percent grade. Most short diesels and steam locos pulling short rolling stock will do okay on it. Unless you consist the locos the trains will be limited to about 8 cars at the most.

  10. Excellent idea! I was laying out a section last night and found my design program actually makes 9″ #6 turnouts only about 8″ long. That’s not a real big issue until you have several back-to-back, then there are several inches to account for!

    If you can’t find downloads for templates, just take an actual turnout, crossover, etc, put it on a copier and copy it. Even if the copy isn’t focused and beautiful, it will still give you the size and shape you need.

  11. I have used this very method to cut corregated cardboard templates for final baseboard sections from 96 inch length “sintra” (pvc) sheet for my S scale layout (you could also use a good quality plywood).
    Best advise: photocopy the actual turnout that you will use – front or back – bottom or top – its just for space relationships, tangents, clearances and aesthetic arrangements.

  12. A great idea. How-ever to improve, if one makes small holes detween the two rails, down the center of the template. then making the dots through the template holes, one can draw an actual line of the track on the base board; remove the templates and lay the track useing the drawn line as a guide.

  13. HO scale means H(alf of )O scale so, Ray, to use this method for your scale just enlarge HO by 200% and you’ll have O scale – or guage (for track) templets

  14. What a great idea I will use this when I start building my new garden railway and ofcourse when my wife and I rebuild our Nscale layout.

  15. I did this when doing my track, you can get all guages of Peco track from their website just print the piece you need, then you have the codes as well. I believe Atlas have the same.

  16. I did something similar for my OO gauge. Since I was going to use my existing PECO tracks I simply photocopied the set pieces so that I also had exact replicas of turnouts etc. Time consuming? Yes, but as Tom says it saves on testing time and it saved on expensive mistakes. Everything fitted!


  17. Ray,

    Leon is close. Here are two good sites to get scale conversion information. I use these sites for conversion reference when I buy HO scale plans to scratch build O Narrow Gauge (On30) scale structures for my Christmas layout Mountain / River Theme that is based on the late 1800s (Victorian era) . The math works out perfectly.


  18. I think it’s a great idea and I am in the process of using it for my own first layout in Nscale. I also like some of the comments from the gang.
    I was just wondering since I don’t have all the track, is there a place I can go to get switches in exact scall to use for the template and radiouses?
    thanks for the great ideas.

  19. I recommend you invest in a PECO catalog. Go to:
    It will cover everything you need to know about scales, curve radii, layout planning, etc. Peter W.

  20. Matthew, try anyrail. But if you need more than 50 pieces of track you will have to upgrade to paid version ($59.00 US).

  21. Very cool.

  22. what a great idea thanks for sharing.

  23. I would never have thought of doing it that way myself, very good idea specially for anybody planning a new layout or someone starting out in this fantastic hobby of ours.

  24. Wonderful idea. But I may be old fashioned but it all seems a lot of work and still prefer a nice large sheet of paper lined out in foot squares. A pencil and rubber to get the basis design then lay out the track. Mind you I have never used set track. I have always used flexi track and the only parts of it which are set to shape would be the points and crossovers. I find this old fashioned method much quicker than fiddling around on the computer for hours or even days. But good luck you you boy’s who enjoy playing around with your computers. But I bet you I get it done quicker on paper. Then once you have plan in your head, off you go with the track laying.

  25. Ivor – PECO have published a number of track plans books which include a variety of 8 x 4 layout designs – however be aware that they were produced some years ago and some of the track geometries may have changed. Also that some plans may involve 1st radius curves which many modern locos don’t like.

    However for a simple oval on 8 x 4 3rd & 4th radius curves should be fine.

  26. I’m in more too A.F. 2 rail s gauge just setting up inside a building 12 by 25 with a small center idle down the middle need help planning a lay out

  27. Careful judging your curves just by snipping the sides of a photocopy of a straight bit and bending it round. You will always be over-optimistic about what you can fit in, and your eye will tend to smooth out any kinks you’re putting in because it expects to see a curve.

    I too recommend Peco – they do a set of accurate templates for just this purpose. Very helpful, but beware you don’t build in kinks matching one template to the next.

    When planning a layout, leave a bit more room – if you reckon to cram everything in tight, with curves starting straight off point ends or reverse curves, If you think you can just barely make something fit – in reality it’s going to be too tight.

    The best thing to do with an 8’x4′ sheet is to cut it into strips and have a 30′ layout a foot wide running round the room from one terminus to another.

    Be careful using plans from a different scale – remember your body and hands, and materials like ply or chipboard will stay the same size so access holes and clearances at rail-over-rail bridges etc may have to be amended.

  28. Regarding previous comments on Grade and Consists… It depends on so many things. For example I am testing one incline (N-Scale). The goal is to use a small switcher [GE 44 Ton] to pull 3 freight cars. Doing multiple bench tests with track in different configuration a grade of 2.2% works fine, but things becomes problematic around 2.6% and completely fail at 3%.

  29. If you have a computer, an easier way to plan a layout in any scale from Z to G is to Google SCARM and download the free program. It has every track manufacturer to choose from, it’s easy to learn, you can plan more than one layout easily to compare, it tells you how many pieces of each size track, and you can sit at your computer to do your planning. Another nice think is the ends of the track “snap” together so you get perfect alignment. This is difficult to do with cutouts.

  30. Peco produce full size templates for all their track products.
    They available Free from Peco via their website or direct from Peco if you send SAE …
    Great for planning and setting out.
    Highly recommended…

    Alternately Hornby used to do a kit and stencil for drawing it out, no longer produced, but occasionally on Ebay ..

    x Paul x The Bigfella x

  31. I have a set of printed Atlas templates that reproduce their n-scale track. They may still have them and in other scales. Look them up.

  32. what worked for me was just to photo copy pieces of track of my HO scale track. This helped me figure out layout problems.

  33. This seems a great way to go when commencing track layout, then track can be purchased
    exactly to your needs. When planning my layout, I found the almost unlimited possibilities meant I was often swapping purchased track to get it as I wanted. Frustrating and time wasting.

    Cheers, David

  34. now THAS some old school layout tools…!!!
    Ive been doing this for many years, ever since Kinkos copyshop came into being…
    and with my new layout I cut ALL the ‘roadbed’ layout strips out of couregated cardboard along with the ‘risers’ for elevation and Duct tape them all into a ‘mock-up’ of the layout…
    then use the cardboard strips as templates to cut the actuall 1/4 in plywood roadbed and risers….works good for me….
    I will send Alistair some pics of that setup soon….
    StJohn in Long Beach Calif

  35. I did the same thing using RailModller Pro (for Mac)… alas I made changes during the building and ended up with more pieces of spare track than planned… but I can always expand the layout at some point.

  36. 30 years ago when I was planning my G gauge layout for my basement, I found an old LGB catalog and photocopied the tracks which they had printed on a separate page together with all turnouts, etc., I made about two dozen copies and cut and pasted them on 8 1/2 X 14 inch paper to make the layout I wanted to create in a 14′ X 14′ basement room. I rubber-cemented the sheets to each other until I had the layout as I wanted it to look. I then filled in the buildings and mountains as I wanted them to be located around the 3 main lines, sidings, etc. It took me about two to three days but worked out very well and I have been running up to 3 trains at a time for the last 3 decades.

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