Model Train Design with XTrkCad

One cool program that caught my eye is XTrkCad. It won't appeal to everyone, but for any model train enthusiasts out there it might be just the thing you need to design your next track.

XTrkCad is available from both the Debian and Ubuntu repositories and uses a Gtk graphical interface. At its heart, XTrkCad is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program, but it was created with model railroad layouts in mind.

In addition to simple track layout, you can also simulate cars and engines to make sure that clearances are accurate and to ensure the switching happens when needed so trains don't plow into each other.

I won't go through the full feature list, since that is available on the website, but suffice to say that is is extensive. XTrkCad has been around since the mid-90's, so it has had plenty of time to get it right.

If you have been thinking about putting a model train setup together then XTrkCad may be just what you were looking for.

great app

I tried to download the debian from the owner's site, first as a tar and then as an rpm...the tar didn't extract into a useable form, and the rpm seemed to direct me to some type of "video/music" player...

So...I downloaded your deb and it worked great! xtrack is a great program but, nowadays probably to "technical" for the "new" model railroader. They want real EASE OF USE and immediate rendering into something that looks like it came out of a film.

NOt to say that it isn't easy to use, because it is, just click, drag and drop the track pieces, kind of close together and then hit the "stitch" button and it makes the layout...really easy.

This was the fustest with the mostest and is still the "standard" of excellence.... I used the demo in Windblows many years ago, but my model RR was way too simple to need such a powerhouse...

Now that things are expanding a little I'll definitely use it... the various manufacturers "libraries" of track sections are available, so if one is going to use say Atlas Snaptrack, one can.

Basically the deb downloaded to the Xandros desktop, I clicked it, Xandros Networks popped up to ask me to go into administrator mode, one of the advantages of Linux, for the Windows person reading first, it then installed it without a whimper.

There was no menu item, which is normal for Linux with a port from Windblows, but I just used the search function and found it in usr/lib.

I then used menu maker to put a menu item on the applications/graphics menu, it took about 15 seconds, and then went back to the apps site and tootled around for about 5 minutes.... they have a relatively complete site of what you need, not huge but all the basic stuff, after using their basics, you are off and running, ...

Anyway, there is a nice set of heralds for verious railroads and "fallen flags" and I downloade the Chessie "sleeping kitten", which is my favourite and opened it in Kikon edit and resized it to 20 by 20 pixles, saved as a png.

Went to the menu item and edit, went to the icon, opened the Chessie icon and saved and there it was..pretty as a picture....

Not counting the time at the site getting the original graphic, total time to put the menu item on was maybe a minute..

clicked the menu item and it opened, as it had before with just the menu item and as it had before that by clicking the KDE gear in usr/lib...

a good app....and your download worked fine!

deb installation

Thanks for the report on your experience with XTrkCad. I do like how Xandros Networks will install individual deb files that have been downloaded. It makes things much easier and I wish Synaptic and Adept would do the same. Fortunately Kubuntu adds a menu to install when you right click on a deb file in Konqueror.

first evaluation of software and comment on site

This is actually a very powerful program. It is also, on the simpler situations, very easy and intuitive to use. It is "icon" and "menu" driven, after one just clicks and drags the track....

The size of the apps presentation is good. Some of the Windows apps present a very small "working area".... which can, of course be expanded, but the default of this app is a good size for the new poerson to be able to comprehend what is happening.

After using the app a little more, I will comment further.

Again, thanks for providing such an easy to use resource.

I PERSONALLY think that when there are enough "kiosks" such as this around, Linux, in general, will start "ramping up".

The "wikis" are fine, and the "forums" are fine, etc. etc....

But are intimidating to the first time, inexperienced, user.

This type of format is both "interesting" to the "experienced" person, who is looking for a "quick read" and maybe quickly download something, while it is also not "intimidating" for the absolutely new user...

All, in all, nice site..


Does what it does best, cad without cad knowledge

I'll keep this simple. If one goes to the site, one can see a screenshot of the controls etc. with some examples.

As I said above, this is a relatively "heavy duty" model railroad CAD program that is very easy to use.

I spent several hours fiddling with it, and the only non-intuitive thing to me was the "layers"...which are recommended if you are going to make a complex do it in "subsections" (the layers) and then look at the whole thing.

It has a simple "drag" and drop interface with a "right click" hook on the track sections which is used to rotate them. When they are relatively close together you can join them with a joining function by clicking the two ends and join and it does it.

The track appears as "lines" when manipulating the pieces but then colors to a kind of "orange/sand" so you can see things easier.

All the standard track companies, such as Arnold or Atlas etc. are provided and you can also make your own... and can use "flex track"...

It takes into account elevations and uses an "easement" function to make sure that the "grades" (rises and falls) are ok...

There are also functions for drawing circles, squares, etc, and insertion of "buildings"..

After you make the layout, you can run trains on it, but this is disabled in the downloadable version, at least I couldn't get the cars, they were supposed to be in usr/lib/xtrk and I couldn't find them.

One also cannot "save" your layout and the layout is limited to 96 inches by 48 inches(and you can work in metric).

As I posted above, this is a CAD system and a VERY GOOD one which is easy to use and works is kind of showing it's age in terms of "the new hot software" that the newer, hot software gives you a 3-D, textured view and lets you sit in the engine to "ride" on your layout...

But....the POINT of a model railroad is to BUILD it... :) and this software helps you to do that VERY WELL.....

It is estimated that probably as many as "half" of the people who subsrcibe to model railroad magazines...and that REGULARLY purchase model railroad equipment NEVER BUILD a layout....they dream about it...

Well....this package will let one dream, but only from overhead.... but then.... that is all I ever had with paper and pencil when I was a guess that is ok tooo..

For a child who is doing a first layout it is, because it also introduces basic CAD stuff...

and two:

It's a LINUX app!!! ....with a deb and rpm that, from here anyway...installs just fine....

And... I'm going to buy the full version and use it for my NEW layout....out in the garage.... he, he, he... :)

So....from me...this gets a big thumbs up....