Inventory software is a great idea for several reasons.  It can help avoid buying duplicates, keeps an accurate want list, forms the basis for insurance valuations, keeps track of where your items are at and their condition.  The following is a survey of model train inventory software.  If you know of others, please add it in the comments below.

All Aboard Data Express by Tayden Design – “A new, innovative database software that was specially designed for Model Railroaders! This new inventory software is based on recent database technology, especially for model railroad equipment!”  Adobe pdf Data Sheet.  Tayden also offers separate programs to track maintenance, simulate layout operations and inventory literature and documents.  Dowload or CD from retailers. USD: $30 includes 2 years of upgrades, OS Windows XP, Vista & 7.

Easy Model Railroad Inventory by RCL Software, Inc. – “is designed to inventory all of your model railroad rolling stock, locomotives and cars, the structures, electronic equipment, book collection . . . there are many ways to view, query, report, and graph . . . functions to operate your railroad using a variety of methods” General specs page. This EMRI is a complete, integrated solution.  It tracks the locos, cars, MOW, including DCC info, structures, books, videos tools and does operations.  Tip: turn on Maintance History for an item by checking the “Do Maintenance Check” box under the Routing/Operations tab.  Update announcements and tutorials at MRH blog.  Download USD: FREE – Donationware, OS: Windows.  Current version 6.0 dated October 2012.

MiTrains by ShenSoft – “an inventory program specifically for model railroaders and rail fans. One that eased the burden of typing wherever possible” Includes database of N-scale Micro-Trains series.  MiTrains is highly customizable and regularly updated.  Integrates with Waybills program for switching and operations.  Download – USD: $50.  OS: Windows, Vista & Win7 with MS patch.  Current version 6.5.0 dated March 2011.

RailFanExpress- “An easy way to keep an accurate record of your entire model railroad inventory. Catalog every item, with its cost and even include a photo. The numerous report options make Railfan Express excellent for insurance purposes.”  USD: $20.  OS: Win95 to WinXP.  Not compatible with Win7.  Current version 5.1 dated July 2009.  Website down Aug 24, 2011.  Version 5.0, description and reviews available at download.com.

RRTrains 2000 – “is a small program used to create a detailed inventory of your model railroad collection.”  USD: FREE.  OS: Win95 to Vista.  Win7 unstated. Current version 2.7 dated July 2004.

SofTrack – “is the easiest to use and most complete solution for managing your collection of railroad equipment. It is designed for use on Macintosh or Windows computers with Filemaker Pro®.” USD: $60, OS: Mac OSX and WinXP, also requires Filemaker Pro database. Current version 2.0 has can be run without Filemaker Pro.  As of October 2012, this software is no longer available.  They are providing support and updates for the Apple Lion OS.

TrackMyTrains – “is a comprehensive database system designed especially for model railroading enthusiasts and collectors. Our subscribers keep their collection databases on our website with complete control over how it is organized and who can see their information.” USD: $30/year, Web Application.

TrainMinder – has optional paid modules adding Lionel and American Flyer images, data and prices.  Price data is updated with eBay and other pricing.  USD: $40-85, OS: Win98 to Win7.  Current version and last update unknown.

TrainTracker – offers very extensive optional  modules including, MTH, K-Line, Pre, Post and Modern Lionel and American Flyer data.  USD: $29-130, OS: Win98 to WinXP.  Vista and Win7 not stated as working.  Latest version 5.5 last update not stated.

YardOffice -Tracks motive and rolling stock with custom notes, photos and DCC codes.  Registered version allows printing of labels and reports.  Free limited version or registerd USD: $27 w/ 1 year updates.  OS: Win98 and up.  Also works in iMac Windows partition.  Latest version 3.08 dated August 2009.

In the comments that follow, I have made some suggestions and expressed some personal opinions.  However, my likes and dislikes should not scare you off from looking at all the software.  From looking over the software, I think all of the inventory programs are good.  There are two programs that are no longer supported.  One, the website is down, the other is supported, but no longer providing updates.  I would choose a program that is currently supported and verify it has not been years since the last update.
Much of this is personal taste, interests and the look and feel of the software and your tastes are probably different than mine.  Please use this post as a starting point, do the research and then pick out a couple of programs to try out, most offer a demo.  Actually entering some of your collection into the programs will tell you if they do everything you need and want and if you like how the program operates and if it works well on your computer, operating system and printer.

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This month’s feature is the Spokane International Railway (SIRy) submitted by Mike Pagano, the layout’s builder and a contributing author to N Scale Railroading magazine. The SIRy is an N-scale, lightweight, portable layout consisting of 4 sections with two separate track loops depicting the SIRy near Sandpoint in the Idaho panhandle. The portable layout is available for exhibitions and is headquartered out of Bellingham, Washington.  Photos and some text by Mike Pagano.

Layout Name: Spokane International Railway 

Famous for: Mike’s prototype signature scene on the SIRy is the Sand Creek Trestle, which was pictured on the cover of the July/Aug 2007 issue of N Scale Railroading. The Jan/Feb 2008 issue of N Scale Railroading describes how the project was conceived, including fitting the 650 foot scale trestle onto a portable layout. On the SIRy website, you can compare Mike’s efforts, as featured on the front cover of N Scale Railroading, with the prototype photo by Laurence Shawver in the 1950’s. It was important to Mike to have a historical railroad background for his project railroad and to also have a signature scene that would give the layout an identity. Read the rest of this entry »

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TomThorpeCurvedBenchwork.com is again online, featuring exquisitely made modules for building a sectional layout.  The site is worth looking at just for the artistry of the construction techniques.  This is the place to go for bridge modules or sectional layout benchwork to fit a specific space.  Pricing is appears commensurate with the high quality of materials and the complexity of the construction techniques.

 Harold Brosch is the official supplier for the European Fremo standard.  There are a large number of Fremo standard profiles, which Brosch has laser cut.  His online store, eisenbahn-modulbau is currently in german only.  Brosch sells a 100 cm long straight module with Fremo-USA profile ends for 52.00 Euros as of Oct 2007.  Shipping and customs to the USA are additional and significant.

Berret Hill Trains builds custom benchwork, layouts and modules to any standard.  The website advertises custom benchwork can be as low as $12-15 per square foot.  At the $15/sq. ft. rate, a 2×4 foot module would be about $120 plus shipping. Read the rest of this entry »

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Layout design software or CAD is helpful in designing and building layouts, modular setups and shelf layouts.  The products range from manufacturer specific 2D layout templates, to 3D CAD programs that can simulate operations and building design.

3rd Plan It – “Built on a strong, innovative set of design tools, the new 3D terrain and landscape features let you really visualize your layout like never before.” Download – USD: $125 or Printed Docs & CD – USD: $170.  OS: WinXP

AnyRail - “is probably the easiest-to-use model railway design tool around. It’s also entirely independent, so you can build with almost any track. Enjoy designing your layout – AnyRail ensures everything fits.” – USD: $55.  OS: WinXP

Sandia Software CADrail – “The original railroad CAD program. Cadrail has all the extra features that will satisfy advanced users.” Download – USD: $60 or Printed Docs & CD – USD $100 + shipping.  OS: WinXP Read the rest of this entry »

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Virtual roading is very similar to train simulators, but can be pursued instead of railfanning and/or model railroading. 

Riverside TimeSaver – operate a TimeSaver switching puzzle online.

Virtual Railroader – “Home of train/railroad simulators, virtual railroading and V-scale modeling”

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This is a short list, but here it is:

RodneysRRTools.com offers several tools for the module owner.  Among the various HO, N and Z scale tools are 3 N-trak tools and an HO step gauge tool.

The Switching & Sipping Society of N.C. have a template for drilling module ends, but does not sell the template.  A standard, high-precision template is necessary for this type of module interface.

If you know of any other tools, please let us know by the comments form below or the contact form above.

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Cardstock models are ideal for quickly populating a new layout or module, or building low relief buildings for background and backdrop applications.

 Illinois Historic Preservation Society – has over a dozen free historic buildings that may be printed and assembled.  A must see resource.

The following are commercial, paid products, but all offer some free downloads.

ScaleScenes –  “download and print realistic model railway kits from your PC now!”

CleverModels – “craftsman card models and high resolution texture sheets”

PaperCreek – sells laser cut paper craftsman kits for structures and textures.

ModelBuilder – “”Use our building software to inexpensively add hundreds of paper buildings to your layout. Print realistic buildings or backdrops for your model train layout.” USD: $45, OS: WinXP.

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There are several kinds of simulators.  Prototype, cab operations, model layout simulation and regional dispatch simulators.  Your selection will depend on the scale of operations you are trying to simulate.

BVE – Boso View Express - “Freeware Japanese train simulator; the latest version features new realism and high resolution graphics (1024×768), supports most 2.x version routes in CSV format.” Cab view simulator.  OS: WinXP

LocoMotion – “Use railroads, trucking lines, buses, airplanes and ships to outmaneuver ruthless competitors and see who is best at meeting the needs of a growing metropolis.” Regional dispatch simulator. $10 + shipping.  OS: WinXP

Rail3D – Model railway simulation software for building routes and running multiple trains. Model layout simulation.  Freeware download.  OS: WinXP

Train Dispatcher – “control the movement of trains over large track territories. This game simulates the gargantuan routing tasks a real-life dispatcher faces daily.  Regional dispatch simulation.  USD: $45, OS: WinXP.

Train Player – “offers bold new adventures in mouse-driven armchair model railroading. Designed for the railroader who studies track plans and dreams of an empty basement.”  Model layout simulation. USD: $30-100, OS: WinXP and Mac OS X.

Microsoft Train Simulator –  “brings the power and excitement of some of the world’s most famous trains to your PC” USD: $45 – possibly not a current release. Cab view simulator.  OS: WinXP

Auran Trainz Simulator 2009 - a 3D train simulator boasting “more realism, more rail lines, more features, more flexibility, more community” USD: $30 Cab view simulator.  OS: WinXP

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Free-mo is a similar to Fremo, but a different North American standard for single track modular railroading. Free-mo meets generally part of a larger exhibition with other scales and open to the public for viewing.

The most recently found Free-mo photo galleries are listed first:

Three photo galleries of the August 1-2, 2009 regional Free-mo setup at the San Bernadino, Calif. depot by Brian Kreimendahl, Rob Forrstrom, and Dan Risdon.

Brian Kreimendahl’s and Perry Lambert’s photo galleries of the April 2009 Free-me photos from Winslow, AZ are no online.

Photos of the March 2008 RITMRC, Free-mo setup on the RITMRC website, with more photos by “Kruppinator”.

Bob Schrempp’s pics of the March 2008 Free-mo SLOBarn setup at Arroyo Grande, CA and  September 2007 Free-mo setup in Aptos, California. Read the rest of this entry »

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Layout automation software has two main uses, to allow the simulatio of dispatchers on model railroads and to create automated displays for museums and similar situtations.

Automatic Train Control – “operate digital command controlled locomotive across the Internet or North Coast Engineering, Wangro System One, Digitrax, C/MRI.”  Free.  OS: WinXP

CTI – “a powerful, user-friendly software makes it easy to control every aspect of your model railroad from your PC.”  Supplier of both hardware and software.  USD: $40.  OS: WinXP

JMRI – Java Model Railroad Interface – “The JMRI project is building tools for model railroad computer control written in Java.”  Open Source Project. OS: Java

KAM Industries

Model Railroad System – “is a software package that can help you run your railroad, from running trains to working your signals and switches. Software supports for a network of Bruce Chubb CMR/I USIC, SUSIC, and/or SMINI nodes and/or a network of Lenz’s XPressNet DCC nodes. Create switch lists for freight car forwarding and timetables.”  Free download, open source.  OS: WinXP and Linux.

PanelPro – is used for “creating schematic panels to handle the actual configuration for signals and Panel Editor providing exactly the appearance desired.” Open Source, OS: Java.  Integrates with and created by JMRI above.

ProTrak – “Operations, control and design software for your model railroad.” USD: $349, OS: WinXP.

Rocrail – “is an Open Source Project that can control a model train layout from one or more computers.”  Open Source Project. OS: WinXP

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First off,  Ulf stopped by and indicated all this information may now be found at his www.GoldenValleyRoute.com website.   The following article has been updated with this new information.

 “My first module” details the construction of a European Fremo standard straight module that uses Marklin “C” track.  The scenery is made of foam and plaster coated gauze and includes a bridge over a dry wash.  ulf999’s thread starts with photos of the module parts goes on to module construction, terraforming the foam an gauze and concludes with scenicing and trains running on the modules.

“Golden Valley I” is a set of four modules that represents the “Golden Valley” and includes a cannery, water tank and engine house.  Golden Valley page 2 shows that 3 modules can be set up either as a 16 degree curve or a 90 degree curve.  Note the roads and track line up in either the 16 deg. or 90 deg. configurations!

“Two 16 degree curves” shows the construction of a pair of Fremo curved modules from wood frame work to scenery and trees.  All the threads have extensive written details and an abundance of high quality photographs.

 “Flexible 180 curve” shows four modules making up a 180 degree curve.  Parts of the curved track is hidden inside the tunnel.  Trains are easily accessed through the tunnel module’s removable tops.

  Ulf’s GVR website also has nice sections on his first layout and various structures.  Reviewing the White Rock Freight House is recommended is a recommended diversion from module hunting.

This same information was previously only available under the screen name  of ulf999 in various threads on the “the Gauge” Modular Layout Forum.

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In preparing to build a module for my HO module club, I have been searching for the “ultimate” in module construction.  Construction techniques should be applicable to all standards, Fremo, Ntrak, NMRA, etc. and scales.  The list below outlines what seem to be the basic criteria for the “ultimate” module construction:

  • Simple to Construct – basic skills, tools and obtainable materials
  • Lightweight – favoring foam and luan plywood
  • Strong & Rigid – rail grade flat and strength to move
  • Precise – easy to build plumb and square
  • Deep Contour Scenery – not “table top” flat
  • Durable – edges and scenery have some bump protection

From the information I have collected, the following module construction techniques appear to be the superior in some areas:

Switching and Sipping Society “Waffle” Modules – Probably the best example of module construction that is precise, lightweight, strong and rigid.  S&SS modules do not appear to provide either “deep profile scenery” or the goal of being “simple to construct”.

 Calgary Free-mo has developed a nice lightweight and sturdy module construction system that appears to meet all of the “ultimate” criteria, except possibly durability.

 Railway Bob has developed especially easy to build modules.  The one concern might be about the long-term sagging of the foam top between the supports.

Sacramento Modular Railroaders have an extensive article, and soon to be updated, article on lightweight module construction.  The update notice indicates the newer design is “lighter . . . stronger . . . more interconnectable” than the older design.

The editor’s current favorite is the mentioned on the eisenbahnstudio weblog as the “Black Forest Fremo:87″ module in the Continental Modeller March 2009 issue.  An exploded view indicates the construction would require a tablesaw.  Generally, the Black Forest module seems to strike a good balance between all the “ultimate” criteria. 

 BTW, Kevin Hunter at Berrett Hill Trains has an excellent article comparing and critiquing various module construction techniques.  Kevin’s ‘rant’ specifically discusses foam shrinkage with temperature and humidity.

Your thoughts comments and suggestions for the “ultimate” module construction are welcome!

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GrimstadLine – is a English language blog covering the Norwegian Grimstad Frolands Banen (“GFB”) prototype with Fremo modules.  Modules have a very high standard of scenery.

FREMO-Italia – is a Italian language weblog covering Fremo module construction, and from the pictures, some North American models.

West Texas Joe Ramblings – a T-trak moduler weblog!

White River Southern – a sectional layout depicting a small New England area branchline.

Berrett Hill Trains – Covers the construction of Kevin Hunter’s 1 foot wide On30 sectional layout.

Eisenbahnstudio – “Railroad Modeling in Proto:87″ and the author is building a set of four (4) FREMO:87 modules

Motorized Dandruff – Bills itself as “The worlds first (and so far ) only NZ 120 blog”, and covers the NZ120 scale and module scene in New Zealand.

Ed’s Model Railroad Diary – Lots of info on Ed Harrison’s Free-moN Modules, including a staging module, leg brackets and corner module construction.

Confessions of a Model Train Geek – Musings on model trains, layouts, design and construction.

Bayside and Tidewater – Has information on module building, including the “module in a week” post.

Peter’s and Hope’s - Has a nice entry, in both German and English, on the family’s construction of several Bend Track modules.

the UMG – an informal group of model railroaders from the Canadian Maritimes based on Free-mo.

Ida-HO Model Railroaders – Located in Kuna, Idaho, USA, this blog covering HO NMRA style modules was last updated in 2006.

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The following are shelves for holding model trains for display.  These are handy if you have a large collection of trains and no place to display them.

Glenn Snyder Display Systemshttp://www.gsds.com/

  • HO/S Gauge $12 per 6 ft section
  • O Gauge $15 per 6 ft section – I purchased and can recommend these.
  • O/STD/LGB Gauge $25 per 6 ft section
  • Aluminum extrusion
  • UPS shipping additional

RailRaxhttp://www.railrax.net/

  • HO/S gauge – $15.00 per 6 ft. section
  • O gauge – $19.50 per 6 ft. section
  • #1/ G/ Standard/O – $28.00 per 6 ft. section
  • Aluminum Extrusion
  • UPS/FedEx shipping additional

Dechants Model Railroad Display Shelveshttp://www.mrtrain.com/products.asp?cat=10

  • HO/O Gauge $15.75 per 4 ft section
  • Reversible for HO or O Gauge
  • Aluminum extrusion
  • UPS shipping additional

ShelfTrax - http://www.shelftrax.com/woodenmodelrailroadshelfpage.html

  • O, S, or On30 Gauge $35 per 6 ft section
  • HO or N Gauge $24 per 6 ft section
  • Wood moulding
  • UPS shipping additional

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Fremo is a European standard for single track modular railroading.  The meets are usually a private meeting for Fremo members and generally exclude the general public.  Fremo members pay the exhibition hall costs to exhibit and run their modules.

The most recently found Fremo photo galleries are listed first:

 Sfra photo albumGMO-Frisco photo album and GMO-Frisco YouTube video from the Fremo HO-USA Southwest Division Weekend in Mutschelbach, Germany on May 21-24, 2009

Harald Brosch has two photo galleries from the May 2009 Fremo convention in Perleberg Germany, May 22 photos and the May 23 photos.

Harald Brosch’s has two new photo albums  Ths first is of the Jan. 2008 Fremo meet, Braunschweig, Germany, with additional photos by Thomas and Joerg.  The second is the Feb. 2008 Fremo meet in Hamburg, Germany, with additional photos by Thorsten.

Klaus Rilling has photo albums of the Oct. 2007 Fremo in Prague and the Frankfurt 2007 Fremo meet. Klaus’ site is in German only. Read the rest of this entry »

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