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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lessons Learned - Train Cadd friend or foe?

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Somehow, I avoided this trap. Actually, it was quite accidental, it was dumb luck. As a guy with a high geek quotient, reaching out for a train drawing program was a natural. In my hiatus years, I had played with the Railroad Tycoon games and my last foray had been with Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Of course, I am talking about train cad programs. They remind me of Visio gone mad, or dumbed down AutoCad. Getting my railroad up and running seemed to be dependent upon my getting my layout into Cad. Why, I don't know, but it seemed real important. To get there, I first went to Atlas' Right Track. Cost was free, impact was about two weeks lost to the layout. The layout I produced was, OK, I suppose.

Then a friend (?) told me I should be using Xtrakcad. It will slice and dice, make breakfast; just connect it to your DCC system, Digitraxx preferred, and it will automatically draw your layout. Just kidding about the DCC tie, but I swear someone probably thinks it will. Another three weeks lost to the layout, and no discernible drawing output from the program, I just never got the hang of it.

Those beautiful adds in MRR got my attention. You know the ones I am talking about, 3pi has some wonderful adds. So, I plunked down $85 bucks and got the 3rdPlanIt program. Help group was really good and someone even had a perfect rendition of my 1st layout, the Atlas Midland Central Railroad. And it was in 3D. In a week, I was deep into my new layout and within two, I had a solid design that I was sure it would work for my new space. After a couple of weeks working with 3pi and reading the Yahoo news group, my hobby was in serious jeopardy.

What do you mean Joe, well the program has 3D! You can run trains on your layout and even put scenery on the thing. Imagine, a complete operational railroad without even so much as a single piece of flex track. Talk about a shelf railroad! Then I started noticing the politics on the Yahoo board. Whew! Actually, I am really glad I saw it. Something jogged in my head. I've been putzing around with my laptop for over two months and my layout has not matured one little bit!

Right then and there, I decided that my hobby is Model Railroading, not computer simulations. Was the time planning wasted? Certainly not, but I was starting to become absorbed in the Cad program, even more than my layout. That was not good. But, as I said, I escaped. Back to the reality of trains and tracks and bench work. You know, the good stuff!

Cad is a useful tool for model railroading, but it is not an end unto itself. I guess it is like everything in the World's Greatest Hobby, it is about balance. It takes planning, bench work, track laying, electronics, yada yada yada.

Here is my assessment of the three programs I mentioned in this blog.


Posted by Joe Daddy at 2:57 PM 6 comments


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