Model Train Help For Free

model train help

In this post I thought I would share with you a couple of cool little gadgets that I found on the web which can help you out with model railroading.

The first is this cool little widget which converts real life measurements and converts them into OO, HO, N, or Z scale. This little tool is from Coalville Models and its ideal if you are planning on scratch building anything from real life and want to get the scale correct.



The second is XTrackCAD. Basically it’s a design program which is specifically made to design model train layouts. AND IT’S COMPLETELY FREE.

Its main features allow you to:

  • Design layouts in any scale and gauge,
  • Use the predefined libraries for many popular brands of track and turnouts to help you get started easily,
  • Add your own favourite components,
  • Manipulate track much like you would with actual flex-track to modify, extend and join tracks and turnouts,
  • Test your design by running trains, including picking them up and moving them with the mouse.
  • At any point you can print the design in a scale of your choice. When printed in 1:1 scale the printout can be used as a template for laying the track to build your dream layout.
  • Learning XTrackCAD is made easy with the extensive on-line help and demonstrations.

You can download XTrackCAD and read all about it here.

I’ll be honest with you, XTrackCAD is an excellent bit of kit, but it does take a bit of practise. Admittedly that does depend on how good you are with computers; it took me a few days and some trial runs before I had the hang of using it, whereas my son just started picked it up straight away.

Hope you find those useful in building your dream model railroad.

And of course you can always find discounted model train stuff here.

If anybody has any experience with XTrackCAD, or if you know of any other resources like the ones I’ve mentioned, then please leave your comments below.

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Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan fell in love with model trains at the age of six when he visited an NMRA Convention in Seattle with his father. Forty two years later, his passion remains just as strong. After achieving a successful career in architecture, Dan’s particular interest is within layouts and buildings. With a wealth of knowledge on the subject, Dan loves nothing more than sharing this with others and is delighted in the forum of members who are brought together over the hobby they have in common. Dan lives with his wife Helen in Washington. As a professional painter, Helen has learnt through Dan about Model Trains and they now enjoy working on projects together. The only member of the family who isn’t allowed to join in is their over-enthusiastic Labrador called William who has been strictly banned from the workshop! You can find Dan on Google here!


Leave A Reply (17 comments so far)


  1. Simon
    5 years ago

    AnyRail is much easier to use than XTrackCAD although it’s only free if your using it for small layouts (50 track items I think). I only make small/micro layouts so it’s never been a problem for me.

  2. George Lungu
    5 years ago

    Hy guys, I have modeled a lot of things in MS Excel. One relevant animated model would be a 3D rollercoaster created on a 2D scatter chart in an Excel 2003 file. You can check it out by visiting my site and typing “rollercoaster” (without quotation marks) in the search box. There is a Youtube video preview there too if you are reluctant to download the file. A coaster is pretty much like a train track except it has more Z-axis changes and steeper twists.

  3. Pete Blake
    5 years ago

    Found xtrackcad quite difficult to use – is there a newbies help site?

  4. Ray Mager
    5 years ago

    very intseresting i try occasioanlly to build a model from a picyture this will help

  5. Al
    5 years ago

    If you have an iOS device Woodland Senics has a great App Model Scaler for conversions.

  6. John
    5 years ago

    I’m not sure it you know about RR-Track? It is a graphical softwarefor track layouts

  7. Dr Bruce
    5 years ago

    What a great device not only for us rail roaders but in fact all scale model builders. an absolute mudt have

  8. Korey Gregory
    5 years ago

    Wow! These tools sound like they will be indispensable. They are the best price, too– free! Thanks for the great info!

  9. Robert G, Hurd
    5 years ago

    to save on your layout. try and make every thing you need , there will be things you can`t make but a lot you can`t build most all you on structures look for paterns of rock brick, siding make copies with printertheres a lot of iitems have fun

  10. Jose Fonseca
    5 years ago

    Nice advice, specialy for one like me that has difficulty to get things here (in Portugal).

  11. Rob
    5 years ago

    Well this tool certainly comes in handy

  12. Dan Morgan
    5 years ago

    I have to agree with you on that. I found that with AnyRail, I was able to just pick it up and run with it, it is very easy to use from the start. Like you say it is free if you are designing a layout that contains no more than 50 pieces of track. However if you are building something bigger then it is basically a choice between paying for the full version of AnyRail or spending some time to get used to XTrackCAD. From what I’ve seen they both do pretty much exactly the same thing.

  13. Clyde Laing
    5 years ago

    Downloaded the XTrack for Mac, the latest version, looked like it was going to work fine until I tried to bring a turnout on to the track. Got a message basically saying there were none and telling me to select . This is when I found that there were no such files.

    Is there anyone out there who has had success with the Mac version?

  14. Joost
    5 years ago

    I checked out many programs, but most of them were pretty expensive or limited.
    Ended up with XtrackCAD too. Indeed not that easy to begin with, but it really does the job.
    Still working on my first design, in the meantime I have laid out a test track to experiment with the (Dutch) digital control program Koploper (
    Koploper is also used in the huge setup of Miniworld:

    4 years ago

    Dan Morgan on one of your videos I saw short vide showing a tthree train track that looked simple and exciting. I didnt see a lot of but what i saw I liked. Is it possibler for me to get the track package for this . If so adprice also. thks

  16. Will Annand
    4 years ago

    XtrkCAD is a powerful program and once you follow the Demos and learn the program, I find it much better than anything else I have tried.

  17. john
    3 years ago

    i set up our 60 some year old O scale Lionel train we are beginners. The train was gone thru last year and cleaned up and lubed (tune up) . It runs slow and at the furthest turn it almost stops. I think it might be the transformer which was bought about 20 years ago and might be to small can anyone steer me in the right direction . Could it be the wire size? How much transformer should there be and the markings are erased on the back of the transformer any help would be appreciated my 16 month old grandson is in love with it

model trains for beginners


model trains for beginners