Track Planning: The Top 5 Free Websites & Resources 2018

track plans free resourcesIf you’re struggling with the track plan for your railway, these 5 free track planning websites and resources are a great source of inspiration, ideas and of course entire plans for your layout.

Most gauges including N, OO (Hornby), HO and others are catered for.

When planning a railway track plan, the choices and decisions to say nothing of the technical issues can often seem overwhelming. It’s a lot easier when starting to use an existing track plan but where to get them from?

Recently, while rethinking the layout for one of my planned layouts, I was looking for layout ideas to build and started browsing the web for inspiration and example layouts. There are of course many websites but having visited a LOT of them there are several that are far above the others in the number of plans shown, the details included or the ability to find plans by size, scale or feature.

These then are the best 5 free track plan websites and resources. Enjoy.

#1 Freetrackplans.com

A huge collection of plans, apparently 400 designs, categorised by size and type (oval, double oval, branch line etc) and location (for prototyping) although these plans are mainly focused on the London Midland region.

What I liked: Simple, easy and straightforward, plans broken out into common shape and size. Includes large library of Hornby track plans based on Hornby Track Plan manuals.

#2 Scarm.info

track plan scarm

A track plan from SCARM; includes 3D pictures to help you visualise what the completed layout could look like.

Claims to be the most complete online database for free model train track plans and layouts of SCARM projects and designs. (SCARM standing for Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeller, an application for Microsoft Windows available to download from the same website).

What I liked: Lots of ways to find and filter track plans: by scale (including HO, N, Z but not OO), size, type, era, track make and combinations.  The 3D representation of the plans is also handy to visualise how the different layouts will look (saves me drawing them later).

Note: Although the site obviously promotes their own application, which is free, the track plans are clearly visible and there’s nothing to stop you using them as a base for making a railway without having to get the software.

#3 Track-plans.Net

A very small collection of track plans but great for inspiration and ideas with lots of pictures.

What I liked: The pictures of layouts showing what each track plan could look like if built and breaking out the plans by setting – steel works, harbour, yard etc is really useful if you’re looking for ideas around a theme. It’s N scale only but I really liked the photos of scenes on each layout. They fire up the imagination as to what yours might look like.

#4 Thor Trains

One of the smaller collections of track plans here, just 20 in all, and the least functional in site functionality but it’s simple, quick and easy to just browse the layouts. It’s only HO so if this isn’t your scale this is really just for ideas.

What I liked: No bells or whistles, you just browse the HO plans by clicking on them but, in a way, this simple approach helps. With some of bigger searchable sites, it’s possible to get wrapped up in the search process. With this site, there’s nothing to distract and I found myself focusing on layouts and track much more.

#5 Model Railroad Hobbyist.com

Not a website about track plans specifically but a forum with a long thread of forum members track plans. Tends to be mainly American theme

What I liked: Many of the track plans include not just the plan but illustrations, details and construction notes so you get a better idea of what the layout and the thinking behind it.

Alternatively, C.J Freezer — esteemed modeller and former editor of Railway Modeller magazine — published a compact guide to track plans. This popular book 60 Plans is worth a read for anyone thinking about their track plans. A particular strength of the plans in this book is their adaptability.

A final, personal, note: I spend a LOT of time testing, photographing, writing and often wrecking my own layouts researching techniques for these articles and don’t charge a penny for them. If this article is useful to you or helpful, please add a comment to say so, it gives me encouragement to continue. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.

Picture via model-railroad-hobbyist.com



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4 comments
  1. Good day! Thanks for all the useful advice.
    Recently downloaded SCARM (edition 0.09.37) to compare with Any Rail. SCARM basically OK but when tried HELP, web site seems to be down: “This page isn’t working. http://www.scarm.info didn’t send any data”.
    Any clues please?

    Thanks

    • Hi Andrew, I can’t really help with issues on the Scarm website. There’s a contact button at the bottom of their webpage, might be worth dropping them a line and seeing if they can help. Andy

  2. This looks like a very good resource page. However, my interest is O guage. Is there any similar resource for this scale? Many thanks, Ken

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