Videos & Photos Videos How To Track Planning Track planning software roundup

Track planning software roundup

By Gerry Leone | October 23, 2023

Computer track planning software is becoming an increasingly popular way to design a model railroad layout

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Although pencil and paper still reigns as king of the ways to plan a model railroad layout, computer-aided design (CAD) track planning software is increasingly popular as model railroaders become more comfortable using computers.

This is a roundup of current (as of 2023) track planning software designed to give you a good idea of the depth and range of software as it currently exists. Many of the programs contain track and structure libraries based on manufacturers’ specs. We’ve included screen shots from the manufacturers’ websites.

Note that many of these programs contain myriad features, and not all features are mentioned here. It’s best to visit each vendor’s website for a full listing.

Most vendors offer a demo version that can be downloaded and used for free, although some features of the full version may be disabled, or the demo may have a time or layout size limit. To help you decide which program is best for you, download several of the demo versions and spend some time getting used to their features, then choose the one that best matches your computer skill level and the way you think and work.

The titles are in alphabetical order.

AnyRail Track Software

A screen shot of AnyRail showing a computer-drawn track plan


  • Price: $59; “limited” demo version (up to 50 sections of track) has no time limit
  • Layouts in all popular scales can be planned with included track libraries
  • Creates shopping lists from a track plan
  • Library includes components from all major manufacturers
  • Has a user forum and free email support
  • Free upgrade to version 7 when available
  • Windows only

Current version: 6.44.0

Atlas Track Planning Software

A screen shot of Atlas track planning software showing a computer-drawn track plan


  • Price: $39.95; free demo version
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Handles both sectional and flextrack
  • Allows for multi-level layouts
  • Promise of layout libraries with future updates
  • Windows only

Current version updated 4/27/22


A screen shot of CADRail showing multiple views of several track and structure plans


  • Price: $99.95; fully functional but limited free demo
  • Windows only
  • Design layouts, buildings, benchwork, schematics – virtually anything
  • Plan, Profile, and 3-D views
  • Hundreds of powerful CAD tools
  • Can run trains on track plans
  • Libraries include thousands of shapes
  • Multiple views available on one screen
  • Bitmaps, JPGs, and GIFs can be loaded and traced

Current version: CADRail 10

Rail Modeller Pro for Mac

A screen shot of Rail Modeller Pro showing a computer-drawn track plan


  • Price: $39.99; RailModeller Express is the name of the free, limited demo
  • Mac OS only
  • Can also be used to plan slot car layouts
  • Over 270 libraries with more than 6500 elements from popular model railroad brands, from T (1:450) and Z (1:220) up to G (1:22.5)
  • Up to 99 lockable layers
  • Allows users to create complex layouts in three dimensions
  • Generates shopping lists

Current version: Rail Modeller Pro for Mac 6.4.11


A screen shot of RR-Track showing a computer-drawn track plan


  • Price: from $69 to $169 depending on which package and scale is selected
  • Windows only, but will run on Mac using an emulator
  • For sectional track
  • Heavily based in O scale
  • Multiple accessory libraries available for purchase
  • Up to 128 distinct drawing layers
  • Benchwork can be created in Terrain View; 3D view also available

Current version: RR-Track v5.3

SCARM (Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeler) Model Railroad Software

A screen shot of SCARM showing a 3D rendering of a model railroad station scene


  • Price: $40; limited number of tracks and objects in free demo
  • Windows only
  • 225 libraries
  • 3-D preview available
  • Allows for multi-level layouts
  • Creates shopping lists from track plans
  • Multilingual

Current version: SCARM 1.9.2

Templot Track Software

A screen shot of Templot showing a tutorial guiding a user through making a curved turnout template


  • Price: free
  • Windows only, but will run on Mac using an emulator
  • Made exclusively for handlaying track
  • Includes precision construction templates for turnouts, crossovers, diamond crossings, and slip switches, all based on prototype designs
  • Maps and third-party track plans can be scanned and loaded as a guide
  • “Sketchboard” lets you add colorful scenic detail and structures to plans

Current version: Templot 2

3rd PlanIt Track Planning Software

A screen shot of 3rdPlanIt showing a 3D rendering of a model railroad in a frame building


  • Price: $124.95; limited version is free
  • Windows only, but will run on Mac using an emulator
  • Any gauge and scale, from tabletop Z-scale to basement and outbuilding empires
  • “SoftTrak” feature lets you draw two points and the software creates the curves and easements automatically
  • Extensive manufacturer library included
  • “Master Training” (one-on-one training with the developer) available for a fee

Current version: v12

Trax Track Software

A screen shot of Trax showing scenery being applied to a track plan


  • Price: free
  • Web-based track planning software (not installed on your computer) so it can be used by Chromebook, Linux, Windows, and Mac computers and tablets
  • Over 100 track libraries
  • Design snapshots can be made
  • Aerial photos can be used as a planning background
  • User forum
  • Scenery, measurements, and annotations still under construction

Current version: not listed

XTrkCAD Train Software

A screen shot of XTrackCAD showing a computer-drawn track plan


  • Price: Free
  • Runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux
  • Any scale and gauge
  • Predefined libraries for popular brands of turnouts
  • Track can be manipulated like actual flextrack
  • Designs can be tested by running trains
  • Design can be printed in any scale, including 1:1

Current version: 5.2.1

This article originally appeared in Gerry Leone’s book, The Model Railroader’s Handbook. It is available for order in the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

3 thoughts on “Track planning software roundup

  1. Has anybody else noticed that the Atlas program is just a stripped down version of SCARM? For literally a penny more, you could get hundreds more track libraries with SCARM.

    I use SCARM and AnyRail extensively. SCARM is great for flat layouts, but will not let you place switches on a grade. AnyRail does not have that restriction, so I tend to use it more than SCARM. AnyRail will also let you build multilayer layouts just like SCARM.

    1. I’ve used SCARM for several extensive projects after previous experience with 3rdPlanIt.
      I hadn’t noticed it, but you are right about no turnouts on a grade with SCARM. I do like the relative ease of SCARM compared to 3rdPlanIt, I didn’t use 3PI often enough, so I spent too much time re-reading the documentation. SCARM could use a few enhancements, like handling hidden track (below the terrain baseboard) better and allowing multiple baseboards (for sectional layouts).

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