Tutorial 6. Adding Terrain

Open the layout from Beginners Guide Part5 and save it with a new name.


Scale things up a bit

I’m getting a bit fed up with the unrealistically sharp curves (about 20m radius in my version) and short distances between signals of this layout. Fortunately, it’s very easy to change this in Rail3D, using Shift Layout. If we scale the layout up by a factor of four, we should get something that looks a bit more sensible.

Select Shift Layout from the Tools menu. Enter 4 in the scale-factor boxes for x and y, leaving the other parameters unchanged.


Click on ok, and follow the instructions in the next dialogue box.


When you reopen the layout, you will notice that the track spacing in the loop is now rather wide, having been scaled up with everything else.


To fix this we need to use Edit Mode. Click on the Edit Icon in the track toolbar

When the cursor is over a node, you will see that it now changes into a circle and crosshairs to indicate that we are in edit mode.


Wait until there is no train in the loop, then select one of the nodes in the loop track, and drag it towards the corresponding node on the main line. You will notice how it snaps to the correct track spacing.

You could also correct the node spacing using Track Setting


Repeat for the other nodes in the loop.



Landscaping the layout

Our layout so far looks rather flat. As anyone who’s built a model railway knows, you need a bit of terrain relief to hide the sharp curves. Lets build a small hill over the sw corner of our layout, and have the terrain sloping down to the N of the station. We can put the part of the track that runs under the hill in a tunnel.

First we add the basic outline of the terrain.

Stop the trains (press to pause) and go into top-down view (press ).

Zoom out (use the key) until you can see the whole layout with a bit of empty space around it.

Select Show Terrain Points on the Terrain Toolbar or Scenery menu so that we can see what we are doing. Make sure Show Terrain is also switched on.


To fix the height of the top of the hill over the tunnel, Click on the Set Terrain Height button and enter a value of 20m (also on the Terrain Toolbar).


Select terrain mode (click on the terrain icon ) and click on the layout to add a few terrain points where the top of the hill should be. Try to avoid putting points directly over the track.

Click on Generate Terrain to generate terrain between the points you have created. You will need to do this again whenever you want to see the effect of any changes you have made to the terrain.

If you make a mistake, you can use the terrain eraser to remove terrain points.

Now Set Terrain Height to 8m and create an arc of terrain points around the top of the hill, crossing the track where you want the tunnel mouths to be (the track is at 0m and a tunnel mouth is about 5m high, so 8m above rail height should be about right for the terrain height at the tunnel mouth).

Continue to work down the hillside until you have something that looks roughly like this:


That looks more like it! Notice how the track forms cuttings and embankments in the terrain - this is the result of the Autocutting feature.

You can see what Autocutting is doing if you turn on Outline Terrain. First a mesh of triangles is generated between the terrain points, and then additional triangles are created between these points and points alongside the track to create the cuttings.


Adding a tunnel

At the moment, the line passes in a deep cutting through the hill. If we’d rather have a tunnel, that’s easy enough to do.

Start off by double-clicking on one of the links that are going to be part of the tunnel. The link options dialogue opens. Remove the tick from Autocutting and add ticks to Steam in Tunnel and Dark Tunnel. Rail3D doesn’t know that tunnels are dark, and that smoke and steam should not pass through the tunnel roof and terrain, unless we specify this ourselves. Repeat for the other links that should be in the tunnel.


Autocutting adjusts the terrain automatically to the height of the track. If you switch it off, the terrain is no longer tied to the track, and we can have a tunnel or viaduct. (Don’t forget to click on Generate Terrain to update the terrain when you change something.)

To make a proper tunnel, we have to add tunnel mouths and a tunnel interior wall. These are scenery items. We will also have to cut a hole in the terrain at each end of the tunnel for trains to pass through.

Now select Show Scenery Library on the Scenery menu to open the scenery dialogue. Browse through the scenery library to select a suitable tunnel liner. Drag and drop it from the preview window onto each of the tunnel links.


To cut the holes for tunnel mouths, right click on the nodes at each end of the tunnel and select New Tunnel Mouth from the popup menu.


In the tunnel mouth dialogue, set the arrow to point into the tunnel.


Once again, the terrain will not update at once: To update the terrain and see the effect of these changes, select Rerun Autocutting from the scenery menu.


Finally, drop a suitable tunnel mouth from the scenery dialogue onto each of the two end nodes.


Just Add Water

As a finishing touch, we can put our layout at the seaside. Open the File Properties dialogue and select blue “sea” plane. Set sea level to −1 or −2 m.


…and a few trees

To add trees, we use the Scenery Spraygun tool. Set the parameters to taste, and splash a few trees around your layout. This is great fun, but if you add too many it can slow the program down quite a bit.


You can download the layout from this tutorial here: tutorial6.zip (300kB)


DanielEvans 28/09/2015 22:44:47