Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Printing a full size track plan in Xtrkcad

Now that construction of hidden staging is almost complete, I'm moving on to building the trackwork of Talheim station and its adjacent industrial areas. There are several challenges for me with this area.

Plan and reality don't quite match. While I'm shocked with how acurate I was able to reproduce the plan of staging, I noticed only very late that the way I laid out the track in the space available is off by about 10cm from plan. That means the upper levels of the layout would need to move by that offset as well. However, Emsingen station has very tight space restrictions due to access hatches in the back of the layout and can't really move in either direction. This means I have to match up plan with reality.

K-Track on cork roadbed. I've never done this before. In staging I used Maerklin's original M-track and just glued corksheets on the ramps. This method is very forgiving and tolerates non-perfect alignment just fine. With K-track, once the cork roadbed is glued to the sub-roadbed, the track actually has to end up in the right place with only a couple millimeters tolerance. Since the track can't really move and I have a tricky switch combination right at the north end of Talheim, I need to be much more careful when installing the cork, so that cork and track end up in perfect alignment in the end. Since the cork forms the base of the track roadbed which will be ballasted later, being careful here will ensure better looks, and better operation later.

Flextrack. I never used flex track before. It's potential uses sound awesome and Maerklin's version is a marvel of engineering (an expensive marvel at that...)
Using flex track I can build the Talheim station in a fairly wide curve and have much more freedom with arranging and connecting the industry trackage.

So, what do I do to get just the right curves in the right position *before* I cut the baseboard from that large 8x4 1/2 plywood board and fit it in the layout?

Print the track plan in 1:1 scale and lay out the track on top of the printout. This way I can bend the flextrack to just the right radius, pin it down, mark it on the board, install the cork, and finally put the track on the cork. I learned this technique from Joe Fugate's video series.

Xtrkcad thankfully supports splitting up the printout into multiple sheets. At first I figured I use the maximum paper size I have available at work and print on that (11x17), but the prints either came out in the wrong orientation or with a Letter size boundary box, or all white with cutting marks in the corners (very annoying...)
I didn't find a way to get around the boundary box problem, so eventually I resorted to just printing on Letter size paper.

Here are the steps to check proper parameters for printing:

  • File -> Print
  • In the Print Dialog, click [Setup]
  • make sure settings are as follows: Printer FILE, Paper Size Letter, Printer None, Format Portrait
  • Click [Ok]
  • In the Print Dialog, verify the settings as follows: Print Scale 1, Page Width/Height 8x11 (21.59x27.94), Page Format Portrait, Print Order Normal, Uncheck Engineering Data
  • Set the remaining check boxes as you like
  • Xtrkcad shows a grid on your track plan, click on the boxes that cover the area you want printed.
  • Since Talheim station is at roughly a 45 angle, I used the Origin X/Y, and Angle textfields to adjust the grid so that two rows of boxes cover the majority of the station area.
  • Hit Print enter a file name. This will produce a Postscript file.
  • Next I used ps2pdf to create a PDF from the Postscript file, which can then be loaded into your favorite viewer for checking.
  • To print to the printer I'm using OS X Preview, or KDE's kpdf and adjust the printer settings to print in grey-scale only. Don't need to waste that expensive color toner...

Overall, I hope the end-result will be worth all that effort...

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