Track layout for Autonomous Toy Train

Here’s a rundown of the steps to build the track for the project I’m presenting at the 2014 Seattle Mini Maker Faire I’ve given myself a requirement that the track layout for the autonomous toy train be interesting but use as little space as possible in the 6′ x 8′ booth space. With that in mind, I’ve designed a track using the free XTrackCAD layout software.

NOTE: The Lionel O27 track definitions are incorrect – a circle is about an inch and a half too big. I measured the real track and modified a subset of the template, resulting in the track below.In case you need it, here is the fixed definition file, rename the extension from txt to xtp and put it into the params folder: Fixed Lionel O27 subset track definitions for XTrackCAD

After a number of hours learning the tool, I’ve managed to layout a basic track. The numbers are track height above zero (or tabletop in my case). Some of the track will be elevated. The red track indicates a grade that exceeds (slightly) the maximum set grade of 5%. The two turnouts for parked trains on the left will not be in the final design – I included that in case I was able to obtain more switches. For now, only two switches.

Before I printed this layout in full size, I ran some trials on a smaller layout so I understood the process. After two botched attempts I came up with these print settings.

Then I printed the actual layout, about 60 pages worth. We taped the pages together into the actual layout.

But I didn’t like the fact there was little room to check out the trains in the center area, and saw that I could widen it by adding some track, so I redesigned it a little and printed out the changed parts, which amounts to about eight pages taped over the original pages. Here it is with all real track overlaid.

Then, I got some plywood, taped the paper to it and started cutting the edges. Here’s the result:


After finding track joins and using a dremel and large rounded engrave bit, I drilled the track  centerline location with dimples that I colored with a Sharpie. After removing the paper I did a connect-the-dots to show the layout on the plywood

Then I added the support beams and legs. There are a total of 9 legs, each drilled individual to a corner, so each leg is numbered for later assembly (legs come off for transport).

And here is the final product – two tables bolted together at the planned seam. Eventually I will build the ramps for the track.


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