SCARM stands for Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeller. It’s a simple-to-use, challenging-to-master CAD train layout planning tool. When I started visiting the N scale model train Facebook groups, I saw references to SCARM consistently with regard to layout planning so I went to the website and downloaded the free version of the program, which allows you to use up to 100 pieces of track to build a layout. The track libraries are extensive, and of course I could find the complete Bachmann EZ Track library. I quickly purchased the paid version for about $45 US (and I see from software splash screens that there are regular discounts offered!) so that I could use an unlimited number of tracks.
SCARM is, in a word, amazing. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but there are a bunch of tutorial resources on the SCARM website. After getting down the basics (I really suggest the video tutorials because it’ll just click for you faster) I was ready to plan my 4×8 layout. You build a baseboard so you know how much room you have to play with. The Bachmann EZ Track library is complete, so once I got the hang of dropping track I was ready to explore and create. And create I did! I spent over a month with SCARM every single night, designing my 4×8 N scale track.
SCARM has tons of useful features, but I’m going to be honest– I’ve only needed a few basic ones to be happy with the software. I never got comfortable with trying to add elevations or too many non-track components to the track plan, and the freehand drawing function was challenging for me to get right. The Layers function, however, was very useful and allowed me to add a LOT of information to my track plan (because I could put notes on a layer that I could hide when I didn’t need it. ) The most amazing feature by far is the ability to print out your track plan in beautiful real-life size! It takes 50 sheets of paper and you have to tape them together– but when you do, you have a life-size blueprint of exactly where each piece of track goes. This tool was INVALUABLE to me, and the sizing was PERFECT, which really helped me get the most out of my 4×8 space.
I consider SCARM an essential tool for anyone interested in designing model train track plans. Its $45 price is well worth the money and it’s provided me with many hours of entertainment while saving me hours of time.
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