Modelling Prototype Railways


Notes on modelling the prototype

So you want to create an accurate model layout of the complete Norwegian Railways network?

The good news is that with Rail3d you could probably do it! The bad news is that’s it going to take some time and effort :-) (but it’s also fun to do)


Preparation and research

Do plenty. There are lots of resources available for research from books to videos to the internet to the real thing - use it!



Look for books with track diagrams, photo’s maps etc. A good source is often secondhand books shops / secondhand book stalls at exhibitions / railways etc: these often have older books (which are fine for our purposes) available cheap.

In the uk Quail track plans cover more or less all the uk and are a good source of current track layouts



Videos are good - especially “Driver’s Eye view” videos showing the whole route (for modern routes) which show a lot more detail (like positions of signals, points, signage etc) than maps and diagrams. Ideally you need a driver’s eye view in both direction - but that’s usually hard to find (there are some).

YouTube is worth looking at as it may have videos of your route (including some from steam days)



There is loads of stuff on the internet - just Google - sometimes a bit of digging and inguenuity, but there is lots out there from video (YouTube, http://www.railvideo.co.uk) to trackplans (Spoorenplan.nl) and loads of photo sites (Fotopic etc). You can find some good starting points on the Prototype Links page of this Wiki.


Field work

And of course nothing beats fieldwork.

Visit the route, take loads of pictures from all sorts of angles and positions, photograph signs, buildings (see notes on modelling buildings from photos), ohle posts - everything! For example, before the Welsh Highland reopened, I walked the trackbed taking photos every hundred metres or so, noting posistion of bridges, photographing cuttings etc etc.

For active lines, walking the track is not an option (unless you know the right people) ;-) but it’s worth travelling the line and visiting as many sites on the ground as you can.

I used to use a notebook to sketch track plans, mark positions of signals and signs etc - note as much info as possible. These days I use a handheld computer which also grabs gps traces.


Layout First steps

There are a couple of things to sort out right at the beginning that will effect everything you do and will be hard to correct later - so get these right before you start:


Layout origin

Decide on the maximum possible extent the layout is going to reach - this will determine where your layout origin (0,0) is going to be and it can be difficult to change later. For example if you set out to model Liverpool to Birmingham and then much later decide to go on to London - you may find that London is off the range of a Rail3D layout - trying to move the whole thing enought to fit in London is going to be tricky - so if there is any possiblity of going on to London at a later stage - allow for it when you start.

On the other hand, Rail3D has problems with high x and y values (at least until I get time to rewrite a major chunk of code to fix it), so if there is no likelyhood of ever wanting to add London to your layout, then you’d be better off having Brimingham near the bottom of the Rail3D range as the program will run better.

If you plan to use the digitiser with real world maps and/or to import dem data - get this right before you start.

  • Trying to tweak an existing layout to real world dem coordinates is very tricky to get working - much better to start with lat/lon calibrated maps (see Digitising A Railway) in the first place.
  • if you’re going to use digitiser maps (and you should) get the best possible maps available before you start - I created a layout of hte Rh B (swiss) using one set of maps, later (after creating most of the tracks) I managed to find a more accurate set of maps that were usable for dem terrain import - but didn’t agree with the first set - so I was faced with a big task of moving a lot of track - or putting up with it in the wrong place.

Get a team together

It could be a big project - it might be worth colloborating with a team if you can find other interested people.

Maybe someone lay track, someone build scenery, someone build trains - or you could use the tools in Rail3d to split and merge layouts to divide the layout up into sections and do a section each.


MRG 05/06/2013 15:45:28