Layout Design Software: AnyRail, SCARM, or XTrackCAD?

LifeTrekker_ Mar 9, 2022

  1. LifeTrekker_

    LifeTrekker_ TrainBoard Member

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    Hey all, I have a question for you.

    I'm just getting back into the hobby after about 25 years off, and I'm wondering if there is any kind of consensus among the people in the community as to which model railroad CAD design software is best? Or is it just personal preference?

    So far I have downloaded and started playing with XTrackCAD and SCARM, and so far I find SCARM much more intuitive and easier to use. I haven't done this yet with AnyRail, but I have watched a YouTube video tutorial, and it looks somewhat similar to SCARM, at least in the ease of use category. Between the two I've tried, I'm heavily leaning towards SCARM at this point.

    So, is there a clear preference here for one CAD package over another? Just looking for a little input and direction before handing over my hard earned money.

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  2. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

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    Definitely not a consensus. My personal preference is SCARM, but there are others who prefer AnyRail or XTrkCAD, as well as 3rd PlanIt and Cadrail. Here's a recent discussion.
     
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  3. LifeTrekker_

    LifeTrekker_ TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the link. In that particular thread it seems that SCARM and AnyRail got a lot of up votes and no down votes. And while XTrackCAD did get quite a few positive nods, it did get some negative ones as well, primarily for ease of use issues.

    I think at this point I'll give the free trial version of AnyRail a try and then probably make a choice between it and SCARM.

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  4. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, I've asked the same. I have some issues with getting a new computer. But the issue I see is the same as it is with Windows 10. No decent operations manual with correct answers. I'm old school computers that actually used the real English language and symbols. I still have been able to figure out how to load photos and eliminate things like log on passwords.
    Back to the drawing board and pay for what used to be free assistance.
     
  5. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

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    I use 'MS Paint'.
    It only works for me because I have an advanced proficiency went to software and other graphics software.
    Doesn't give you any hint as to what type of track to use for pieces or anything of the kind so definitely go with one of the others if you have a large space to fill then yes go with a CAD program.
     
  6. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    i used scarm maybe seven years ago, before it had a lot of the whistles and bells it does now ...
    i was quite happy with it
     
  7. LifeTrekker_

    LifeTrekker_ TrainBoard Member

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    So I watched an Any Rail demo video on YouTube and they said that Atlas track is not supported. Does anyone know if that's still true? Because if it is, that pretty much makes my decision for me, as my plan is to use Atlas code 55 in my n-scale layout design.

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  8. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

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    AnyRail supports Atlas code 80, code 55, and code 65, as well as many, many others (as does SCARM).
     
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  9. Todd Hackett

    Todd Hackett TrainBoard Member

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    Ok guys, somebody help me out if I have this wrong. Any CAD program should NOT care about what size rail you want or use. Gauge and curve radii is the same if code 55, 65, 80 - 400; whether Z, N, HO ... etc etc.

    Haven't played with SCARM or AnyRail although it looks like you more or less are building with sectional track. To me, it is easier to click on whatever end of one tangent track and then another tangent that you want to connect - bingo 5, 10, 15, whatever feet is connected using flex. You can also do this with track that is offset a few inches from each other. You end up with some type of 'S' curve. If it is a large enough radii - who cares. Same for long sweeping curves; although sometimes you need to drag the ends closer or further from each other to get something that flows. What if you had two end pieces at 90 degrees of each other and you could not use the fixed radius of that sectional track because of surrounding track or clearance? Again, CAD should connect them using flex and allow you to change the radii as you feel it fits with surrounding track or area. What if you want that flex curve a double track? Simple, use the parallel track tool; one click it is a done deal.

    If you haven't read my previous stuff, I am a XtrakCad user. There is a learning curve - probably about the same with any other CAD program. Do simple stuff first and get used to it. After awhile, you become aware of more and more so you can modify stuff easier consuming less and less time to do so.
     
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  10. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    when i used scarm, i did the layout with sectional, a new one was created with 20 inch , and used for most of the curves ... later on when i actually laid track, i used the sectional for the pattern, and laid flex on to of that .
     
  11. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

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    When you're working with sectional track it's important to know what track you're working with. For example, Atlas code 80 has 9-3/4" , 11" , and 19" radius curves in 30° and 15° sections. Atlas code 55 has 10", 11.25", 12.5"... 21.25" radius curves in 22.5° and 11.25° sections. If you do a layout in Atlas code 80 sectional you won't be able to duplicate it using Atlas code 55 sectional, and vice versa.

    That's great is you're using flex, but some people prefer working with sectional, and many others prefer using a combination of flex and sectional. Even if using almost all sectional, you still have turnouts to deal with, and unless you're handlaying them they are also different between different families of track.

    AnyRail and SCARM both also have excellent tools for working with flex track as well.
     
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  12. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I use Kato N scale Unitrack which has a very large selection of sectional track pieces, and support for their product line is critical to me.

    I use, and recommend, XTrackCAD, but I don't use half of it's features.

    Fortunately, they don't make you pay for features you don't use. ;)

    Come to think of it, they don't make you pay for the features you do use, either...
     
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  13. Helitac

    Helitac TrainBoard Member

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    I use Anyrail, it's the only one I've really tried. I found the learning curve not too steep for my 60+ luddite brain, out grew the "free", and subscribed. One thing I will note is great communication from the staff.
     
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