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Any good track design software for wood track?

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  • Any good track design software for wood track?

    I am starting to design a new track and the software I have been using is far too crude. I need something that will render 3 lanes with freeform curves and supports multiple elevations. I would like to be able to see a 3D view of what I have designed. I suspect I won't find anything that fits these requirements, but I figured I would check before I start building my own tools.

  • #2
    I designed my routed track using an app for plastic track first. I got the basic design down, then transferred the basic design to butcher paper in scale to what the routed track would be. Then, I altered those parts of the design on the paper where I wanted the "free-form" portions—alternate curve radii, "esses" sections, etc., making sure that everything still lined up. Short of doing that, I don't know of any design app that will do what you want to do.
    Stan S.
    Newberg, OR
    Autodromo Rossa Colline (Red Hills Raceway)
    Member NASTE (Northwest Association of Slot Track Enthusiasts)

    Comment


    • #3
      Even the most primitive general-purpose drawing software should be able to meet your requirements. Almost any such software can create non-circular curves, curves and straights that are a set distance from each other, and scale layouts.

      What you don't need is 3D modeling. While inclines and declines will shorten the footprint of your track sections at ground level, the amount is small, and frankly not worth worrying about. What you can do is make one or two of your straight sections longer and then, on assembly, trim them to fit.

      Really, trying to figure out the impact of elevated straights and curves can get very involved. I'm a licensed Professional Engineer with a Master's Degree, experienced in 3D CAD software, and I have never even tried to work out the impact of elevation changes on my routed tracks. I've just made one or two straights a few inches extra long, assembled the track and cut those straights to fit.

      Have you heard of the legend of the Gordian Knot? If you haven't, look it up.

      Ed Bianchi

      Ed Bianchi
      York Pennsylvania USA

      Comment


      • Bal r 14
        Bal r 14 commented
        Editing a comment
        I calculate the extra length needed to cover the elevation using the pythagorean theorem (A2 + B2 = C2), solving for C.

      • HO RacePro
        HO RacePro commented
        Editing a comment
        Using the Pythagorean Theorem will give you an approximation, but it does not account for the curvature of the track going into and off of the ramp. Without any intermediate supports the track will form a curve that looks a lot like a extremely stretched-out 'S'. You could model that with a Bezier curve, and some computer design packages can give you the length of that curve.. But add in a support or two and that doesn't work so well. If the ramp includes a curve, left or right, that complicates things even further.

        There are times when trying to get a definitive answer by mathematical analysis is more trouble than it is worth. Instead you cut to fit at final assembly. Good enough is good enough.

        Ed Bianchi

      • Bal r 14
        Bal r 14 commented
        Editing a comment
        I agree. But, at least a little geometry gets me closer. Combined with the 3D software I'm using and I can get within my comfort zone. My biggest concern is getting the width of an elevated and banked 180 turn correct.

    • #4
      Track planning programs for plastic track can be a good place to start brainstorming, but since the constrains that come with plastic track don't exist for a routed track it can be limiting. With plastic tracks you have to wrestle with getting the ends to line up which is never an issue with a routed track.

      Consider starting with a list of features you'd like in the track - hairpin turn, switchback section, longest possible straight, etc. and then drawing different versions of how those features might be put together. Since my road course table was going to have one side against a wall I knew that was where the straight would go. I needed the hairpin turn to be at the very front side of the table for easy access. After drawing several versions of tracks with pencil and paper I settled on a general design. At this point nothing has to be to scale or be artistic in any way, you're just after a general design you like. Then I got some graph paper to layout the table size and sketched the favored designs on it. Using the grids for sizing, various curved objects for guides and a ruler for straight lines I could approximate the width of track sections to see if and how to make it fit on the table. I kept my track width fairly constant even though I planned to vary the lane spacing in certain places.

      Once you have a design that fits the allotted space you could get it converted to a program for CNC routing by Brad Bowman or Ed Bianchi (on HRW) or transfer the graph paper grid to sheets of MDF and sketch out where you'll route the slots. Make sure your plan includes adequate borders so cars stay on the track when cornering.

      Joe - central Maine

      Comment


      • #5
        I've come to the same conclusion and have read so many track building threads here at HRW, at SCI, SCT, etc, that have been posted in the last 5, even 10 years (frankly, by all of you...you know who you are). Reading way too much as I continue to lurk before putting bit to mdf. And as engineer here as well, I've concluded that nothing can do what we all want - seeing what it will actually look like before we start making dust. And I've never even attempted one yet. And many of you have done multiple tracks, so impressed with so many.

        I'm just going to keep to my graph paper and use the plexiglass fence. As somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I will live with the art of the perfect imperfection...my racing lines... my free-form, yes!
        So close to finishing my design for all of the folks here to drop the knowledge
        Tony ... Tampa, FL, USA

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        • #6
          I created a number of tracks back in the last 60s and have now created two in the last 6 months. With the help of the folks here and long forgotten memories, I have a pretty good handle on the basics. I appreciate the suggestions, but I really need something with a 3D view. I haven't got any more room to go longer, so my plan is to go up and create something like the Thunder Bay track. The 3D view will allow me to see where the racers view and turn marshals are obstructed. I think the only flaw in my current track is the area where the racers view is is obstructed. I don't want to repeat that mistake. I want to ensure the best sight lines and turn marshal access possible, with 3 levels of track.

          In one of my previous lives, I was a level designer, modeler, technical consultant and texture artist for video games (Quake 2, Quake 3, Half life, Heretic 2, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and others). I will resurrect my Medal of Honor editing tools to create the track design I want. It will allow me to view it in 3D. It's kind of a pain in the ass, so I was hoping for an easy way out. But, I guess I always knew there wasn't one. I'll be happy to share what I'm doing if anyone is interested.

          I have enclosed an image of the Thunder Bay track, for reference. I hope the owner doesn't mind.
          Attached Files

          Comment


          • wrangler#3
            wrangler#3 commented
            Editing a comment
            that's some levels. and pretty cool on the video game stuff

          • mattb
            mattb commented
            Editing a comment
            How would you ever keep a car on track for a full lap?

        • #7
          Don’t get me started I’ve had thoughts of going wood for my road coarse and incorporating my oval Kind of a roval if you will. Problem is I’ve had the thought so it will most likely happen in the future and I know there’s no program out that will help so a pencil and by eye engineering will be my go to when it happens
          See I told ya “when it happens “.
          Dave
          Peterborough Ont
          CANADA

          Comment


          • #8
            A slot track is piece of wood with some slots cut in. Draw out something that fits your space, looks fun, and interesting, but not too complicated to run a car on. Draw it up and build a track. Don't overthink it.
            Matt B
            So. In
            Crashers

            Comment


            • Zippideedooda
              Zippideedooda commented
              Editing a comment
              Whole heartily agree with Matt's statement above.

          • #9
            A common mistake in track design is trying to fit too many features into a given space. Worse is trying to create 'trick' features. One chicaned corner is more than enough, and many great tracks have been built with none at all.

            There is a temptation to try to design your ultimate track. Not a good idea. Especially not if this is your first routed track. The odds of making a newbie mistake go up sharply with the complexity of the track.

            I always recommend that before you attempt to build your first routed track you build a small test track. It will help immensely in learning routing skills. Especially if you are going to rout with a compass and straightedge. You will come away tons smarter. And maybe some of that extra smartness will influence your final track design. For the better.

            Don't overlook the option of having your track CNC routed. If you can create a DWG or DXF layout of your track and find a shop willing to quote the job you may find it a much better option than doing all that carpentry yourself.

            Ed Bianchi
            Ed Bianchi
            York Pennsylvania USA

            Comment


            • Bal r 14
              Bal r 14 commented
              Editing a comment
              I definitely agree about doing a smaller test track. My first attempt after 50 years was pretty dismal. I thought I remembered enough that it would be a piece of cake. I didn't and it wasn't. My first real track was crude but it worked pretty well. My second was much better. My third will address all performance and design shortcomings of the second.

          • #10
            Ed has it all said. Keep the track kind of simple, that is actually more fun for actual racing. If you can get it cnc routed, go for it and leave that dusty critical work to a pro. Much easier for many guys. A first track is a learning experience. It doesn't have to cost much, A piece of MDF, some copper tape and a router and a bit. You will learn the do's and don't's pretty quick.

            We have so many guys on here that have built tracks, you can get any question answered quickly. Usually there are several ways to do what you need to do and the guys have done them all. Using a compass arm is a good way to rout smooth corners. don't get locked into the idea that you need different radi and tricky stuff. Do it simple and see how it races. Remember your #1 goal should be a track that races good for all 3 lanes and guys racing can have fun and not crash every lap.

            I've done many tracks the last 50 years, a few of them routed. When I built my current and probably last routed track. I copied a design that I've done over and over. It always races good and is a fun track. Lanes are almost equal for all drivers. It's a simple stretched figure 8. This design has the been the best we've ever raced on.

            Don't think you can't have fun on an oval track like Indy or an oval with one wide corner and short chute and one 180 corner. The trick here is a small voltage adjuster for each lane and each lanes voltage fine tuned so you run same lap times on each lane. This is a good way to get your feet wet building a track and have something fun to play on till you get your future track plans figured out.

            Current track 2017. Full sectional mdf sectional build
            Click image for larger version

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            3rd routed track in 1984. Solid table top track with plywood end
            sections that were not banked, but just ramped up a little at the
            each end. This track was a lot of fun and is still being used today
            Click image for larger version

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            Attached Files
            Matt B
            So. In
            Crashers

            Comment


            • #11
              I'm sure having somebody use CNC to cut your track is great. But, I really enjoy laying out the track and doing my own routing. I'm finding I enjoy designing and building tracks is more fun for me than racing the cars. I see so many things I would like to try. I have posted these before, but here is my current track. I can find a number of things that are wrong with it that I would like to correct.
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Bal r 14; October 23, 2021, 09:02 AM.

              Comment


              • mattb
                mattb commented
                Editing a comment
                Bal, you might just take what you like best about the current track and use that with changes you think would make it better. You got a pretty racy design right there.

              • Bal r 14
                Bal r 14 commented
                Editing a comment
                That's what lots of people say, but I can find at least 6 things I would consider design flaws. If I had a 3D view during the design phase, there's a better chance I would have noticed them. Every full track or test track I design gives me more insight.

              • Mickey thumbs
                Mickey thumbs commented
                Editing a comment
                So building tracks can be as addictive as building cars. Hmmm. I think I may “just say no” to building my second wood track and stick to cars.😄
                That is a seriously nice track you have already. Have a ball building the next one!

            • #12
              Another mistake newbies make is thinking the first track they build will be the only one they will ever build. As Mickey Thumbs observes it is possible -- even likely -- that track building will become a hobby in itself.

              That "first and only" misconception commonly leads newbies to be overly ambitious in their first track build, leading to tears. The KISS principle applies here. A simple track can still be a blast to run. What you should be aiming for is 'flow'. Like all the greatest things in the world, 'flow' is hard to define. But you know what it is when you experience it.

              A track with good flow lets you get into 'The Zone'. 'Nother great thing that is hard to define but very obvious when experienced. It is the Zen-like experience when you, the car and the track are one.

              OOOMMMM...

              Ed Bianchi
              Ed Bianchi
              York Pennsylvania USA

              Comment


              • #13
                You could start out by routing a simple two lane track on a single sheet of MDF before you go for the real thing. For a larger layout you could do a full sized mock-up using sheets of cardboard. Once you have the layout finalized you could route it yourself or have someone like Brad's Tracks convert it to a CNC file so any shop that does routed signs could do the job at a reasonable cost. My local Maker Place has a CNC router that can take 4X8' sheets.

                Comment


                • HO RacePro
                  HO RacePro commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Rich, you are lucky to have such a well-equipped maker place local to you. I did a lot of checking here in Central Pennsylvania and came up dry. I ended up using a shop that makes kits for small boats, located in Annapolis Maryland.

                  Back in the 1990's I had a half-dozen 4 x 12 foot HO 4-lane high-banked oval track kits routed and cut-out for me by a shop in New Jersey. I still have two of them. Both of my experiences with having shops CNC rout tracks for me turned out really well -- quality work at reasonable prices. Both times all I did was provide CAD layouts of the track sections I wanted and they did the rest.

                  This last time it turned out to be a bit of a trick getting the largest track sections into my mini-van. An unexpected issue, but I managed it.

                  If anybody has an interest in one of those HO banked oval tracks email me at [email protected].

                  Ed Bianchi
                  Last edited by HO RacePro; December 15, 2021, 08:22 AM.

              • #14
                Click image for larger version  Name:	20211215_043058.jpg Views:	14 Size:	639.9 KB ID:	137331 I've used printer paper as it gives you a good idea of how your vision would look. If you haven't built your tables yet, then lay out a course and build your tables to fit. Don't forget to leave some room for aprons for oversteer on the corners.
                Last edited by Tycosaur; December 15, 2021, 07:56 AM.

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                • Bal r 14
                  Bal r 14 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  That's a pretty good idea.

              • #15
                Lacking suitable 3D software and the skills to use it existed I drew my track up in a 2D cad program and then printed it out and made a model of it. I put the elevations in and then looked at the model from a few different angles.

                In saying that it seems that sketchup can do 3D as I have seen some examples on slot forum done in Sketchup.

                cheers
                DM
                Dangermouse to the rescue.

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