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Hi everyone, looking for a little help.
I would like to start my ho layout but do not have software to design. Is anyone willing to design for me or point me in the right direction as to which software to use. Any free ?

I have a upside down U shape for a table, side are 4ft wide and about 4ft long , back portion is about 8ft long and 4ft wide, other side is longer about 8-9 ft ,starts at 4ft wide and goes down to about 2 ft wide.

thank you in advance!

btw , have not picked anything yet.
 

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I've used scarm in the past which was free. Now it appears to offer a limited version for free and it's $40 for the license.

Another recently mentioned is anyrail.

I didn't look closely but it appears to have a free kind and license kind too.
 

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ccm,

Please send us at least a pencil sketch or a Paint file of the layout area. The dimensions you posted do not seem to yield a "U" shape.
Also, if you have a 48" wide section up against a wall, you will not be able to reach the back of the table unless you are Wilt the Stilt!! :ROFLMAO::LOL:
Please consider this in your planning. Good Luck!
 

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Something to keep in mind:
You aren't going to be able to "reach across" 4ft. to work on things or rerail cars if necessary.

You're going to need "access" -- either "from behind" the layout, or perhaps "from the middle of it" (some kind of "access openings" here and there).

With a "U-shaped" design, I would think a "dogbone" or perhaps "double-dogbone" style plan would work ok.

I'd probably use "the center portion" for a yard, with industries (to be serviced by cars from the yard) spread around at either "end".
 

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I keep seeing people mention reaching across a for for span. Certainly a consideration, however, I have a four foot wide layout against a wall and I am able to reach it. I'm 5'10". Now granted, our layout is lie to the ground, so that helps. And it's on 3/4" birch, so it's solid enough to lean on if need be. My point being, it's doable if you plan it correctly.

Sent from my Moto Z (2) using Tapatalk
 

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I keep seeing people mention reaching across a for for span. Certainly a consideration, however, I have a four foot wide layout against a wall and I am able to reach it. I'm 5'10". Now granted, our layout is lie to the ground, so that helps. And it's on 3/4" birch, so it's solid enough to lean on if need be. My point being, it's doable if you plan it correctly.

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vette-kid;

The fact that your layout is down near floor level makes a considerable difference in how far you can reach into it. As for leaning on it, well it's your layout, so of course, you can do that if you want to.
However, it is something that most of us, and good layout design, tend to avoid.

Finally there's "access" and then there's access.
Some very early, giant ,club layouts had "access" to a good portion of their 3/4" Homasote, over 3/4" plywood, over 2 x 4 frame and legs, "real estate" by climbing on top of the layout, and walking, or crawling, over to the derailed train or track to be cleaned. Some were festooned with enough pop up, "access"/operator standing holes to resemble a whack a mole game, but they never seemed to be close enough to the spot that needed attention.
To me, that's not real access at all. Granted, It was really done, and it did work, as long as "godzilla the railroader" managed not to squash anything too badly, or fall, but I want better access than that.
These"fortress" layouts were not sectioned, were built in-place, and often bolted to the walls & even floors, of the layout room. They weighed hundreds of pounds and were not designed to be moved, ever.
If the club lost their lease, (a not uncommon occurrence) then the work of decades was destroyed.

The OP is planning benchwork that many of us have done in the past, and later learned better. I had an HO layout as a teen that was pretty close to the same shape the OP describes. It was chest high on my 6.-6" body, made of thick plywood, heavy framing, and actually stood on 4 x 4 legs. In defense of my then newbie self, (and my brother, who helped build it), it was accessible from all sides, included a center aisle, and was sectional. (albeit, the sections were 4' x 4' which is a bit large.)

I agree with cid & J.Albert's wise advice to carefully consider reach and access in designing a model railroad.
I would also add sectional construction to that advice. It's no fun tearing apart years of work, and throwing most of it in the trash. Sure you might save the track, depending on how you fasten it, and you can save the trains and structures, but wouldn't it be a lot better to be able to save the entire layout?
Now, vette-kid, I've seen the small size of your layout in photos, and it looks like it could be moved in one piece with no damage. If you're happy with the access you have, that's all that matters.
The OP's proposed layout sounds a lot bigger than yours, and a lot smaller than one of those old "fortress" monsters I described. In my opinion though, what he's planning will be plenty big enough to benefit from good access, and sectional construction.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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In addition... if you butt 4 x n sections together to form a U then the hypotenuse of the right triangle (the red line) = a 5' 8" reach.

545745
 

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Mine stands 48" on the lowest track level. My last layout stood at the same height. My current layout has access in four areas not counting the front edge along the whole length.

I'm not crazy about a bird's eye view of any model railroad. That is not how you view a railroad in the real world unless you're flying a balloon.
 

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Hi everyone, looking for a little help.
I would like to start my ho layout but do not have software to design. Is anyone willing to design for me or point me in the right direction as to which software to use. Any free ?

I have a upside down U shape for a table, side are 4ft wide and about 4ft long , back portion is about 8ft long and 4ft wide, other side is longer about 8-9 ft ,starts at 4ft wide and goes down to about 2 ft wide.

thank you in advance!

btw , have not picked anything yet.
ccmlancer;

I can't help you with your software question, since I designed my layout with pencil & paper. There are companies that will design and construct a layout for you, but they are expensive, and I don't know if they would do design only, & let you build the layout. That's something you can check online for. I hear about a program called "anyrail" here, but since I haven't used it, I'll leave that to those who have.
Will this be your first layout? You didn't mention experience in your post. If any of the sides of your layout will be butted up against walls, then, as cid & J. Albert have advised you, access across a 4' wide table will be a problem. Your layout's sheer size sounds doable, but ambitious. If this is your first attempt at building a model railroad, you might consider starting out with something smaller.
One very good way of doing that is to build a sectional layout. Once you have your plan on your computer, try dividing that big layout into sections. 2' x 4' is a good basic building block. You can attach two such sections to each other to form a 4' x 4' section just big enough to hold HO-scale curves. Making the building blocks a little wider, say, 2'-3" x 4' , will combine into a 4'-6" wide area that will accomodate bigger curves. Sectional construction will let you build a part of your ultimate railroad to completion, before moving on to the next section. Speaking of moving, if you ever have to move, you can take all the money and hard work you have invested in your railroad along with you.
The attached files cover this idea and many more. Look through them if you like.

Good Luck & Have Fun!

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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I used AnyRail software to design the track layout for my model railroad. I’m very happy with how easy it was to use and the results I was able to get with it. It is Windows only, so won’t work on a Mac unless you have it setup to runs Window OS too. It has built in understanding of common track manufacturers so the turnouts and other unique track pieces have the right geometry. I especially like it’s ability to make nice flowing lines that you can then build with flex track. Another favorite feature is that you can specify a minimum curve radius and the software will warn you about any track that doesn’t meet that spec. I think it’s well worth the cost.
 

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Valid points. I'm just pointing out that there are options. If you are space limited, there will be a compromise somewhere. Everyone has to pick where that is for themselves.

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There are actually a number of FREE layout programs available, you just have to look around a bit. I use XTrkCad, which has a mailing list where you can reach out to the community and the developers directly, plus it works on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Like any software it takes a bit to get used to, but they have some good tutorials to get you started. I began with regular sectional track but then I switched to using flex track and curves of different radius to fit the areas I was designing for. Any decent software package will let you lay down some basic sections and then join the track in smooth curves, so when you actually build the layout you won't have sections that throw the trains to the ground.
 

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I used AnyRail software to design the track layout for my model railroad. I’m very happy with how easy it was to use and the results I was able to get with it. It is Windows only, so won’t work on a Mac unless you have it setup to runs Window OS too. It has built in understanding of common track manufacturers so the turnouts and other unique track pieces have the right geometry. I especially like it’s ability to make nice flowing lines that you can then build with flex track. Another favorite feature is that you can specify a minimum curve radius and the software will warn you about any track that doesn’t meet that spec. I think it’s well worth the cost.
Mark, can you specify you are using Peco turnouts and Atlas flex track, code 100 when using Anyrail software? I thought about getting it but I couldn't see where I could indicate the brand track and turnouts.
 

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Mark, can you specify you are using Peco turnouts and Atlas flex track, code 100 when using Anyrail software? I thought about getting it but I couldn't see where I could indicate the brand track and turnouts.
I’m not using those brands myself, but I can verify that both those brands have track part models in AnyRail. You find them under Track Libraries -> HO -> Atlas or PECO. There are 35 track pieces in the HO PECO Streamline 100 library and 53 track pieces in the HO Atlas Code 100 library. AnyRail has a huge number of track libraries, so I’d be surprised if it didn’t have what you want.
 

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This is just an aside...someone mentioned birds eye view.

Also something I have thought could be considered a bad thing.

So my original idea for my current (experimental) layout was for an oval where you sat in the open middle of it.

And the the terrain was built "arena style" ... so that it had a kind visible depth to it.

And I even thought about enclosing it in a curved sky.

But none of those last two are realized.

Not really relevant unless you thought the wall side could higher. Then again too much to start with maybe.
 

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This is just an aside...someone mentioned birds eye view.

Also something I have thought could be considered a bad thing.

So my original idea for my current (experimental) layout was for an oval where you sat in the open middle of it.

And the the terrain was built "arena style" ... so that it had a kind visible depth to it.

And I even thought about enclosing it in a curved sky.

But none of those last two are realized.

Not really relevant unless you thought the wall side could higher. Then again too much to start with maybe.
No, the OP may not be at the point where he wants to use your idea, or maybe he is, but either way it's still a good idea, and maybe you should use it yourself. I use "curved sky" made of a bendable fiberglass material sold at Home Depot. Masonite, or hardboard, would work too but, unlike the fiberglass, they might need to be soaked in very hot water in order to be warped to the desired curve. Gentle, large radius, curves can be made without water warping.

One point you mentioned was "sitting in the middle" of the layout. Sitting is good. Not only because it's more comfortable, but because if the layout is at your seated eye level, then simply standing up will let you see what went wrong on the other side of "the sky" that you can't see while seated.

If by "in the middle" you mean some sort of wrap-around, doughnut-shaped layout, then getting into, and out of, the middle presents a range of possibilities, and potential problems related to them. Duck under, lift out, or hinged section, are the three common methods. Each has its pluses, and minuses. The file below discusses them starting with the text following "Sketch # 4. Don't give up on your good idea.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Hi everyone, looking for a little help.
I would like to start my ho layout but do not have software to design. Is anyone willing to design for me or point me in the right direction as to which software to use. Any free ?

I have a upside down U shape for a table, side are 4ft wide and about 4ft long , back portion is about 8ft long and 4ft wide, other side is longer about 8-9 ft ,starts at 4ft wide and goes down to about 2 ft wide.

thank you in advance!

btw , have not picked anything yet.
Any Rail, SCARM, and Atlas, which will read SCARM designs all are fairly easy to use. I looked at XtrkCAD, but it didn't feel right for me.

Those should help you get started.
 

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Anyrail allow you to use upto "50" objects free, that includes track, structures and scenery or pay $60.00 for full version, I like it because it is extremely easy to use and has a boat load of preloaded track manufacturers. It will also allow you to print a list of the layouts components even in the free version. I used it for for my switching layout and just finished the total track at the 50 piece mark..... still considering buying it. Also it has over 2000 objects made by other users you can download if you so desire.
 

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When I designed my layout I built it way overkill mine is built of 2x4 studs built into the walls and all kinds of stuff. I gravely regret how I’ve put my layout together but there is no turning back now due to me building it so if I needed to pull something apart I would have to work from section to section. I have a couple of areas on my layout that I can’t clean the track on due to ignorance and poor planning on my part so I now am getting a dapol motorized track cleaning car to do the work for me because some of my smaller lighter duty locos are stalling on the back section of my double track main that I can’t reach them I gotta send in an e8 or a 2-10-4 or something big to shove or pull the stalled locomotive out of the dead spot. Whatever you choose to do is fine just keep it in mind that reach can play a big role in model railroading. It’s definitely not fun when I end up with a car on the ground back there and I have to go through the hassle to get a stool out climb up on my layout and crawl back there to get it back on the tracks. Also keep in mind what you’re wanting to run while building your layout. If the biggest thing you intend to run is an f7 or something like that or maybe a 4-6-2 then you won’t have to have super big turns like I do with some of my turns taking 8’ to make a 180 degree turn but I’m running big straight frame atsf steam and also have passenger trains I run. Just something to keep in mind
 
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