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3D layout design with Google SketchUp

1329 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  hawkmoth
Hello all,

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.
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I have had a play with Google Sketchup when it was in the first beta and, despite having done quite a bit of 3D modelling in my time with 3D Studio Max, FSDS and GMax I actually found it quite hard to use.

However I suppose this must have been about 2 years ago and I had entirely forgotten about it, having seen the great results you've got I'll give it another download and see if I can do better second time around.

Thanks for the memory jog!

I used SketchUp to work out my dimensions and layers of my baseboards.

It helped quite a bit at the planning stage, but there is not much point in spending too many hours getting the finished details looking good as they are likely to change when you build the layout.

Great product.
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Hi Goedel

Quick question, how did you produce the spiral ramp in Sketchup? I have been searching online and have found a ruby script which produces a spiral ramp but it is solid, and you have to produce it by drawing two arcs which then are transformed into the ramp (you input the starting height and the final height).

I like your ramp particularly because like you I want to spiral round several rotations before reaching the top surface.

Hope you can help?

QUOTE (hawkmoth @ 9 Dec 2007, 17:50) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi Goedel

I like your ramp particularly because like you I want to spiral round several rotations before reaching the top surface.

Hope you can help?


With great pleasure, the key step is to force the arc function to do exactly what you want it to! The rest is very simple. I haven't thought of using scripts because so far I have been able to make everything intuitively myself, but complex things could be automated I suppose! Technically this is a helix I suppose.

set up your circle to define inner and outer radii of helix
put in spokes, and define end of helix section to construct
divide arc into two pieces, then define midpoint of arc
This is the KEY STEP:
add first arc, using midpoint support as third reference point so that it is perfect

do the same for other arc
delete all the construction waffle
fill in the helix using triangles which follow the nodes along of the arc
hide the joints between triangles
decorate to colour of choice, and make a group object for easy manipulation
copy and paste, rotate the groups to make one whole revolution and then copy and paste as high as you like

I hope this is useful to everyone!
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Wunderbar! Thank you Goedel!

Excellent tutorial.

I have created one in less than half an hour.

Much easier than I anticipated.

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