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Track Spacing

Started by Hairyscotsman, September 25, 2019, 07:16:00 pm

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Hi, when planning to lay track side by side, is there a way/method to "fix" the space between track to be correct? I.e. similar to using a peco way gauge tool in real life?


Good question. I usualy take a turnout and a turnout counterclockwise. It always gives the right distance. Then laying some tracks and glue them. Then remove the turnouts.
But there must be an other way, but didn't figure it out yet.
Grtz.<br /><br />Kees

Tom Springer

For flex track, you have the "Add parallel flex" option; select the track, and the option is available from the Track tab at the top of the screen or via the right-click of the mouse.  Choose your distance and direction.  Works only on single track pieces, so you would have to do it piece-by-piece. Works for any type of track, curved or straight.  For curved, the new track has either a smaller or large radius, depending placement 'inside' or 'outside' the selected track piece.  If 'smaller', it might violate your minimum radius setting and would then get flagged if you have the "Alert on too sharp curves" set on.

Turnouts would require addition considerations, so they have to be done "by hand".

Sectional track ... no.  It's not flexible.
Tom Springer

(Unintentional Pyromaniac)

Bob Bryce

September 26, 2019, 01:25:26 pm #3 Last Edit: September 26, 2019, 03:04:04 pm by Bob Bryce
I usually turn on the roadbed, make sure it is the width I am actually using on my model railroad, and leave about 1/2" between the edges of the roadbed.  So far it has worked for me everywhere except for tight curves (18" or less in HO).  May need to leave a bit more room for long rolling stock or articulated steam engines on curves.  That is where TrainPlayer really is useful.  I have found that if it won't work there, don't expect it to work for real, but just because it worked in TrainPlayer, verify it works for real before gluing the track!  In TrainPlayer, long passenger or even long freight cars are displayed accurately on curves but articulated steam engines are not.

On my upper level I have 2 parallel tracks coming out of a mountain (Alaska).  The inside rail is the Alaska Mckinley Explorer which has some really LONG and HIGH passenger cars that don't exactly follow the radius of the track on the inside.  On the outer rail, there is a freight train with normal freight cars, but pulled by a Big Boy steam engine.  (I know, the ARR didn't have any Big Boys, but mine does!! :)  In this case, the articulated rear of the steam engine overhangs the track so far on the outside of the curve, I needed to custom make a really wide tunnel portal to allow the Mckinley passenger cars to clear on the inside edge and still allow the Big Boy to clear on the outside edge.  Wish I had 1 more foot of railroad space in my train room to allow the trains to exit on a straight path instead of a slight curve, but just like the prototypes, we work with what we have.

98% of the time, 1/2" between roadbed edges works.

C.R. Wagus


The advice given above is useful for drawing purposes but does not include industry accepted guidance from the National Model Railroad  Association (NMRA).  I recommend using their guidelines for minimum track spacing found on the website (NMRA.org).  If you have very long cars or engines, you might wish to 'temporally' install two rails and try using your longest car or engine.  Install the first curve at your minimum accepted radius and the second curve with the NMRA suggested minimum spacing for your scale.  You will quickly find out if your preferred minimum curve radius and/or the NMRA spacing works for you. If not, try using the NMRA spacing on straight sections and a larger spacing on curves.  My longest car is a MOW flat car with stub caboose and crane.  For areas where I want to use this consist I have to use more than the suggested NMRA Minimum spacing.  The 'copy parallel' command is very useful for spacing your track once you find your ideal minimum spacing.

Switches are quite a different matter.  Each make of track has a different requirement for track spacing when crossovers are made with their switches.  Normally, if you use NMRA spacing or some random spacing such as 1/2" there will be a slight gap between the two facing switches.   A short piece of straight track will bridge this gap easily.  The trouble is trying to locate the two switch positions along the length of the parallel tracks.  When actually laying track you can put a switch in one track, install the small piece of straight track on the first switch and then install the second switch.  This second switch should (???) line up with your parallel track at the desired track spacing.

Preparing a track plan can be done the same way but it is tedious snapping to the small bridge track.  Years ago I became quite frustrated with this approach, especially in staging yards or multiple sidings.  I took the time to build several files for S, N and HO gauges for multiple manufacturer's track I derived from the AnyRail track libraries.  I submitted these files to AnyRail and they were kind enough to post them in the Examples section of this website.  Please feel free to copy and use them.  Every time I start a new track plan I copy the desired units to my file.  This greatly speeds up development of my track planning.