I’m SCARMing

1 to 1 Scale Print Out of Layout PlanNo, I’m not singing a song from Bob Marley. I’ve been doing some layout planning in SCARM.

SCARM (Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeller) is a free layout planning software package. I’ve never used any software like this before. It’s easy to download and install, and I could quickly start planning a layout. I followed the tutorials and had my first plan in 10 minutes. If only all software was this easy – many thanks to the guys at SCARM!

To make a modular, ‘What If’ layout based on Thaxted I would start with a country terminus. I’ve got a sketch of my ideas.  For storage reasons, I’d like to fit it all on a baseboard 113cm long x 33cm wide (roughly 44 x 13 inches).

I used SCARM to see if I could fit all this in. SCARM has PECO 009 track as one of the standard templates.

Here’s an early attempt using PECO 009 main line points throughout (E495, E496). It’s a cramped for space lengthwise and there isn’t much room between the two lines in the passing loop.

Thaxted 3 with 14 degree points mainline 113cm

Substituting smaller radius PECO 009 points (E491, E492) for the three points in the loop helps a little.

Thaxted 4 with 3 tighter points in loop 113cm

When I use smaller radius PECO 009 points throughout, things get better. These points are slightly shorter, and have a sharper radius than the ‘mainline’ points. It seems to help everything fit into the space that’s available. For example, the headshunt is now a much more usable length and the clearances in the passing loop are greater.

Thaxted 7 with all tighter points 113cm

This is version 7 of my plan, and it’s the design I prefer (at the moment).

Using SCARM as a ‘sketchbook’ to create a basic design and then build new variants based on the previous versions of the plan was easy to do and very instructive.

Now, here comes the best bit.

You can print out the plan at 1:1 scale and use it to see how the stock and buildings would fit on your preferred plan. So far I’ve tried some stock (see the image at the top of this blog). I’m going to keep working on this and use it as a ‘paper prototype’ for the layout. It’s got to be better to make mistakes (and correct them) on paper than to make them when I build the real layout!



  1. What a really clever idea, if only this had been available all those years ago when we started!!
    Opps that was before computers of course and only the “bodgit and stickit” system was in place.
    Well done and good luck.


  2. I was a little sceptical about using software to do this planning. I am definitely a ‘bodgit and stickit’ person… In fact the software worked well. The online tutorials and help were really useful while getting started, without those I wouldn’t have got this far. The real benefit is once you have a layout plan it is easy and quick to make modifications and see what effect they have. I’d definitely use SCARM again.


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