I am designing a layout for an approximately 30' x 12'.  I plan on multiple levels.  So far I have been working on paper and using SCARM for small sections to learn it.  I want to now tackle the entire layout in SCARM.

I have learned the SCARM basics, of laying track, but still learning about benchwork and elevations.  I am a little hampered as I have a lot of track that is not in the SCARM library (K-Line tubular), but I am finding solutions.  Using Lionel tubular, K-Line Tubular, Ross switches and older Lionel switches.

My question is how to approach the drawing of a large layout?  Do you do the benchwork first?  The track first, then draw the benches?  Do you draw the demising walls of the room with objects first?  With a multi-level layout do you start elevations right away or add them later?  Do you set up levels right away.  On paper I define the levels first, then draw the benchwork for each level, then the track, but this may not be the best way in SCARM. 

Any suggestions on the best way to get started appreciated.


Original Post

I would say my experience with SCARM if fair. Several guys on here are very proficient at using the software and will probably chime in here as well. Did you buy the fully licensed version? It has much more functionality than the freeware.

I would recommend the following:

Set your benchwork dimensions first.
Use the layers tool to separate the different lines you are designing. Makes it easy to turn off the track that you are not working on. Remember to check the box on the layer you are designing or the work will wind up in the wrong layer.
I've had limited success with creating grades. Kind of hit and miss but I usually fumble my way through it.

Another tip is to adjust the tolerance settings - go to: tools-settings-edit-tolerances. Makes the tracks join up better if they are slightly off.
When you are far enough along the simulator extension is good to see how trains will run on the layout. Fun too!

The 3D tool gives a good understanding of your plan. You can rotate around the plan and look at things from different angles too.

Once you start building much will change but the software design is a solid place to start.

Keep us posted as you go.


Three Rails Are Better Than None 

I love Scarm.  It is a wonderful piece of really fun code to play with.  To do a layout the size of your room you will need the full license version as the freebie has a component limit.

One of the things to play with that will be an eye opener is the base / baseboard elevation.  IE. If you want your table top to be at 42 inches (baseboard), then make your legs base elev at -42. Example:

Also ask questions during your design process, there are some great folks on here that are also Mixy / Scarm fans.    Russ

Hi Bill. I'm attaching 2 SCARM files for you to review. The first has 2 separate levels. The second has 2 attached levels with a grade between the levels. To download them you need to right-click and select Save As or Save Link As.

Referring to the first file (see photo), here are some tips for how I do things:

SCARM likes inches, so I convert dimensions into inches, 360"x144" in your case, and use the Figures library to draw a starting space on a layer I name room. I add walls and any obstacles; water heater, furnace, pipes, furniture, doors (and which way they open), windows, etc. If there are areas I don't want to use for track, I add rectangles to define those. What I'm left with is the space for track and landscaping. Now, some folks skip this step and go right to defining just the work space. In many cases I do that too. Many times though someone has no idea where to start, so we start with defining the room, whatever works for you.

Once I have the final work space defined, I start experimenting with track designs. Usually I'm working with a single brand of track and want to know what size curves will fit, etc. In tour case, you're using multiple brands of track, so you might be a little more limited, but my point is that until you have a basic design there's no sense in defining the bench work because it will change.

Once you have a basic design (around the room with dual mains, loop to loop in a horseshoe, etc.), you can add the bench work. In SCARM, that's the baseboard, mostly as a basis for the 3D view. Since SCARM only allows 1 baseboard, you'll have to use colored rectangles or polygons for other levels. You can see how I did this by turning on most layers in the files and looking at 3D views.

You can see how I use layers and colors to keep things straight. I use a lot of layers to start and then consolidate some as I complete those areas. For example, the main layer in the first file used to be 6 or 7 layers as I worked on each of the dual mains, the storage yard, turntable, roundhouse, whiskers, etc. The colors helped visualize the different sections, but more importantly, they let me select those sections with a simple double-click. This is particularly useful when creating grades. You first make sure the "h" and "I" (Heights and Input) tools are on, color-code the tracks you want in your grade, double-click to select them all, change the first track to the low point, the last track to the high point and you have your grade. If it's too steep and there are more tracks that can be added, you color-code those and keep trying until you get a grade that's acceptable.

I don't use long tracks until my design is almost finished. Here I'm talking about 10" vs the 30" or 40" straights some brands offer. Using the longer tracks makes it harder to make adjustments along the way.

I'm not a fan of changing the default setting for track tolerance. While SCARM was originally designed for HO scale and it's default tolerance is .079", RR-Track was designed for O scale and it's default tolerance is only .05". The point is that if you get all the tracks to join with either of those tolerances, they are guaranteed to join when built. That said, there is generally enough "give" in tracks so they will join when built even if they don't join in SCARM, so don't waste too much time trying to get everything to line up perfectly at first. Once you have a basic design, then you can work on fixing things so they join. Depending on choice of track brands, you may have to learn how to cut tracks to get the design you want. If you're okay with cutting track, then SCARM has the "Snip off" tool to do just that. As Bob mentioned, you can change the tolerance if you want to run a simulation. RR-Track setting go to .20" and that makes me think most tracks can be coerced to fit with all it's settings. Those of us who help others tend to play it safe and try to stay within the defaults.

As always, I encourage you to post your SCARM files so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. If you need help with things like grades, don't hesitate to ask.


Cheers, Dave

USAF E-9 (Ret) Aim High!


Photos (1)
Files (2)

Doubledaz posted two SCARM files in reply to my query.  These files are complex with multiple levels, tracks, benchwork, etc.  Looking at these really jump started my efforts.  I recommend them to others looking to jump in.

I started by setting up many levels following DAZ.  These really help.  Then I set about defining the room.  I got it done, but I found it hard to be precise.   Using the ruler I see that I am plus or minus a couple of inches over the 30 foot room.  When creating an object, I don't see anywhere to see the size of the object, other than the rulers at the top and side, that are difficult to use with precision.  I have been using the measuring tape.   Am I missing something?  Is there a way to see the dimensions of an object?  Can live with the precision that I have.

I added text.  Is there a way to adjust the font size?

I started preliminary track and dealing with the height seems quirky.  I sometimes get odd results and don't know why, but gradually gaining on it.


Bill, when you create an object with the Figures library, the dimensions are displayed in the status bar at the bottom, but you have to zoom in if you want to be exact. For example, when you draw a rectangle, you can see the A & B coordinates; A being the horizontal length and B being the vertical. A circle shows the diameter. A polygon shows the X-Y coordinates and length of each section. Unfortunately, the only way to get close to exact is to create a basic object and then zoom in to move some points. For example, when I draw a rectangle, I start at 0-0 in the upper left of the rulers and draw the basic shape. Then I zoom in on the 0-0 point and make sure it's at 0-0. After that's set, I zoom in on the lower right point and move it until I get "close" to the A-B lengths I want. It's a real PITA, especially with polygons and large rectangles, like 30' walls. It'd be so easy if Mixy would expand the Toolbox to allow creation of polygons, other than the baseboard, using coordinates. Then you could just define a 30' wall as coordinates (0,0), (360,0), (360,-4.5) and (0,-4.5) like I can in RR-Track. I realize he can't copy RR-Track and add it to the Properties dialogue, but if the Toolbox can be used to define exact coordinates for the baseboard, why not for regular polygons?

As a side note, I drew a 10'x20' rectangle eyeballing the grid lines. Like you said, it was off by well over an inch on both the length and width even though it looked like it matched the grid lines. So, I went through my process to make sure the starting point was at 0,0 and then zoomed in on the 240,120 point to move it until it was exactly 240,120. Admittedly, this generally isn't super critical unless you're trying to squeeze every inch out of the available space by placing track along the edge of the layout, trying to stuff specific accessories into tight spaces, etc. If you're at a point where a couple of inches matter that much then you're probably trying to fit too much into the space.

As for text, when you place text, look in the upper right, there you'll see the font and size. One note here is that the default size changes with the zoom factor and it may look okay until you zoom back out, so make sure you change the font size or always add text when in full view mode.

Cheers, Dave

USAF E-9 (Ret) Aim High!

When it comes to track elevations, it would be helpful if you'd post your file so I can see exactly what seems to be going wrong. If you don't want to post in public, you can send me the file in a PM or email (address is in my profile).

Cheers, Dave

USAF E-9 (Ret) Aim High!

Thanks for the thorough response Daz.  One other quirk is the move function.  Sometimes I just want to move an object slightly, but when I click on move the object jumps to the cursor location of "move" in the dialog box.  Any way around that?

Improving on using the elevations, will post or send file later.


I rarely use the “move” command. I usually select the piece, then hold the CTRL & left button to move it. It can be a little quirky at times, so sometimes you have to press the CTRL key and move the cursor a little over the piece, then press the left button for it to actually “grab” the piece.

Cheers, Dave

USAF E-9 (Ret) Aim High!

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