A while ago I posted a station design for my planned N scale layout set in Austria near the border with Switzerland:
And I have made a start designing it in 3D using Google SketchUp, a free to download and very intuitive and easy to learn 3D design program. No 'programming' or messing with code is needed, everything is point and click and just like making a Microsoft Word document. 3D design for everyone you could call it, and it could be used for designing a house, or a teapot or a model railway...this is where I have got to:
The upper level will have the station as planned above, the lower level is a storage area and the spiral connects the two. This is after an evenings work which included designing a coach, to be used as a measuring device, and with more detail than needed!
Why would I do this? Because in 3D the design can be 1:1 on the screen, so no scaling needed and the design can be just like the real thing - i.e. if it fits on the screen it will fit in real life if you repeat it exactly. The coach is exactly N scale, as the measurement (calculated by the program) says length is 165mm, which at 1:160 is 26.4 metres - the exact length of a Eurofima in real life!
A rake of them can then be made by copy & paste to the length of your longest train and this makes checking they fit into the storage yard very easy, and checking ceilings and clearances on the helix is easy too. Everything can be designed on the computer from just the measurements of the room...
Obviously you can put as much detail or not into the plan, since it is not a simulation and meant to help you plan in 3D. This is useful for me because my layout will have many levels and cross overs and no real solid baseboard to sit everything on, so I am using the L-girder etc. type of construction which also allows more dramatic scenery.
Has anyone else used Google SketchUp for this purpose? I aim to encourage others by updating this thread with progress to show what can be done and how easy it is to do. Some may argue, what is wrong with pencil and paper? Good question - (the Soviets famously used a pencil to write in space while the Americans...) however I have always in the past used the traditional method and thought it would be nice to try another way.
This only thing is, I wonder if spending time on a 'virtual' layout will delay the arrival of the real thing! Perhaps glue and paper straws would be faster and 3D too?
Some older designs can be seen on my in-strong-need-of-an-update website.