The Tragedy of CAD-Too-Soon

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cuyama

Member
There have been a number of posts recently on the other leading forum that involved designs drawn in CAD. Oh, the horror, the horror ...

Layout design is so much more than drawing. Unfortunately, the cheap or free CAD drawing programs make everyone feel that they are an expert layout designer because they can drive a mouse. In fact, there are whole web sites seemingly dedicated to catalogs of poor designs or whose main purpose appears to be handing out bad advice in the form of unbuildable, non-opererable designs.

What's worse is the ready chorus of "Attaboys" that greets these sorry track plans when they are posted on the web. I've tried to gently suggest to some of these people in off-list emails how they might improve their work. And my first suggestion is always to put down the mouse and slowly back away from the screen.

Bu they don't -- such is the virulence of CAD-Too-Soon Syndrome (CTSS). They just keep pounding out plans: each one more dreadful than the last.

I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece on this for my website:
http://www.modelrail.us/id40.html

The sad part is, that article is not an exaggeration.

I wish there was some way to encourage these enthusastic but misguided CTSS sufferers to take the time to gain the foundation in layout design needed to understand the process instead of just blindly jamming track components in because they'll fit. But in the same way that cheap digital photography unleashed a wave of bad photos on the net, the legacy of cheap or free model railroad CAD seems to be a trail of layout tears.

Don't let CTSS remain a conspiracy of silence. Tell the sufferers there is help -- and hope. But they have to first be willing to help themselves by putting down the mouse and making the investment in time to gain some knowledge, background, and perspective.

Regards,

Byron
 
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SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
The good thing is that on these forums amongst all the attaboys a few sane individuals, like yourself, step to the plate and holler "Bullpuckey!" I know that I've gotten good advise from you on multiple occations.

By the way, Attaboy!

On the other hand, if a person draws a trackplan without a template, a CAD program will help show the person what will and will not fit. Either way, a CAD program and/or a pencil and paper, so not substitute for research and the advice of the old pros.
 
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CBCNSfan

Registered Member
Staff member
Unfortunately, the cheap or free CAD drawing programs make everyone feel that they are an expert layout designer because they can drive a mouse.
Golly! just where does that leave me? I can't seem to get the Knack of using those programs.:( Oh! well the pencil, compass, scale and paper was my method, even at that mistakes were made :mad: All in all I enjoyed the link to your website, fairly accurate article, and I've seen such threads a few times on the forums. :D

Willis
 

hminky

Member
All CAD programs are just an electronic Etch-a-sketch. They will not make you a layout designer.

Been a pencil designer and a CAD designer and the program will not give a person talent to design. It is just a tool.

Just a thought
Harold
 

cuyama

Member
SpaceMouse said:
The good thing is that on these forums amongst all the attaboys a few sane individuals, like yourself, step to the plate and holler "Bullpuckey!" I know that I've gotten good advise from you on multiple occations.

By the way, Attaboy!
Thanks, but I've pretty much stopped offering advice for the same reason I eventually gave up trying to teach my dog to sing:
1) It's rarely successful
2) It seems to annoy the dog

People are very reluctant to go back and make changes .. once the basic concept is in CAD, it's the same as being set in concrete. And they _really_ hate being told something they've done might not be correct.

I'll leave it to others with more patience ...

regards,

Byron
 

cuyama

Member
For you, MouseMan, anytime. Of course, I will still be harping on you to stop dithering and start the darn thing. :D
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
:D :D :D

I figure I gotta finish one layout before I start another. Besides, I have to practice all that good advice about operating on a 4(5) x 8.
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
hminky said:
All CAD programs are just an electronic Etch-a-sketch. They will not make you a layout designer.

Been a pencil designer and a CAD designer and the program will not give a person talent to design. It is just a tool.

Just a thought
Harold
So true!

I can design a real railroad on my machine, give approximate quantities and a cost estimate, but a layout? Not a chance. Why? I don't have the education for it. Hopefully one day I'll get to the part where I can study layout design, but that's pretty far off right now.

About CAD not giving designers talent: the vast majority of CAD operators I know and have worked with have never used a triangle set, dividers or a scale. You'd be amazed how often you can tell when someone doesn't have that background.
 

cuyama

Member
SpaceMouse said:
Byron,

You doing any clinics in Philly?
No, unfortunately, I don't have time to travel for the convention this year. Trying to get my own layout going (the shoemaker's children always need shoes), as well as a backlog of work for clients.
http://www.hendoweb.org/ohb

I do think that Otis McGee and Jim Providenza are giving a clinic on Otis' fabulous SP Shasta Division layout, where I've been helping out with the operations plan. I think they may be talking more about the design (by John Armstrong, published in the April, 2005 MR) and construction, but they may touch on ops as well.
http://www.spshastaroute.com/

regards,

Byron
 

hminky

Member
RCH said:
So true!
About CAD not giving designers talent: the vast majority of CAD operators I know and have worked with have never used a triangle set, dividers or a scale. You'd be amazed how often you can tell when someone doesn't have that background.
But using a triangle set, dividers and a scale don't give you talent either. There are more pencil guys without talent. They were just slower and had less opportunity to display their lack of ability.

Just a thought
Harold
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
hminky said:
But using a triangle set, dividers and a scale don't give you talent either. There are more pencil guys without talent. They were just slower and had less opportunity to display their lack of ability.

Just a thought
Harold
So you are a half full kind of guy.:)
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
While I will agree with much of your editorial, I believe CAD programs are not any more to blame for bad layout design than the pencil. Without a doubt, the lack of research and understanding is. Let's not forget that we all have different starting points and even though the expertise of others may be welcomed, our own creativity should determine the final design of the layout...not the ideals of others. Prototypical? If that is what you want. Freelance? Why not. Spaghetti bowl? Sure.
 

TrevorG

ProtoLancing-Fretotyping
I designed my old 8x4 and my new 16x9 using Atlas' free righttrack software. I use it as a general guideline to see what fits and what doesn't fit. Invariably there's always some fiddling and adjustments to be made. It's like anything else, and aid, or a tool to help you get something done. I don't think one should put all of their stock into em, but they do have their uses. There's no substitute for a good eye and some time worn advice.

Trevor
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
TrevorG said:
I designed my old 8x4 and my new 16x9 using Atlas' free righttrack software. I use it as a general guideline to see what fits and what doesn't fit. Invariably there's always some fiddling and adjustments to be made. It's like anything else, and aid, or a tool to help you get something done. I don't think one should put all of their stock into em, but they do have their uses. There's no substitute for a good eye and some time worn advice.

Trevor
Very good, Trevor. I probably have over 100 revisions to my original CAD designed layout each coming from learning a better way or from a change in perspective.
 

hminky

Member
SpaceMouse said:
So you are a half full kind of guy.:)
No, I just carried a bunch of those dead donkey's behinds in the work environment. Don't tell me about the good old days when everyone used a pencil and paper and was brilliant.

Just a thought
Harold
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
hminky said:
But using a triangle set, dividers and a scale don't give you talent either. There are more pencil guys without talent. They were just slower and had less opportunity to display their lack of ability.

Just a thought
Harold
That comment was directed toward CAD designers/drafters in particular, of which there are two types: 1) those who have drafting experience that predates the implementation of CAD and 2) those whose experience postdates the implementation of CAD. In my line of work, if you cannot operate the equipment, whether it be board drafting tools or a computer, you won't be hired. Obviously there are no prerequisites for anyone to use layout design CAD software, other than owning a computer and installing a copy of the software. My intent was to point out that the problem often extends to the professional environment.

As an example, at my office, we have a couple guys who are degreed professionals specializing in CAD, but whose college experience didn't include board drafting or all the techniques that implies. Of my coworkers, the fellows without prior board drafting experience show it in many ways, some not so subtle. I find it frustrating when they don't understand why what they're doing is poor form. Just because it can be done on the computer doesn't mean it should be. If nothing else, this statement bears out the point of the original thread topic.

hminky said:
No, I just carried a bunch of those dead donkey's behinds in the work environment. Don't tell me about the good old days when everyone used a pencil and paper and was brilliant.

Just a thought
Harold
Not what I was implying, exactly. I have to endure the rant about the good old days of DOS every time I have to seek the help of one of my coworkers, and I'm not convinced that the good old days were better by any stretch of the imagination, whether with DOS or pencil and paper. However, drafting as a craft is something that is being lost in favor of the high production that is gained by relatively unskilled users operating computers. Failing to practice the craft properly can result in confusing, illegible or even incorrect documents, simply by viture of poor form alone. When the stakes of correcting one's mistakes were higher, simply doing it right the first time was a principle everyone seemed to relate to better. Now the attitude seems to be, "it doesn't matter," since mistakes can be corrected in a few minutes. Most mistakes are caught, some aren't. The only change I really see from the old days to now is the esprit de corps. Does CAD enable operators with less talent to complete the requirements of the job at hand? My own limited experience would indicate it does, but I can only speak for myself.
 
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GrandpaCoyote

Wiley Old Dog
Well I have to say that this post hit home far too hard.

*steps up to the mike uneasily and taps it once to check if it’s on*

Hello my name is Coyote and I am a CTSS sufferer…

*looks ashamed*

It was just so… easy… I admit I knew better, I had taken drafting back in high school and first year college and had even worked with CAD in very limited and simple ways in cooperation with some surveying and drawing design. But when I came to make a track plan did I stop and lay it out on paper first. *looks down* No, no I found a simple Model Railroading based CAD system and started using it, it seemed so easy so simple and so convenient… but it wasn’t enough soon I needed bigger and more powerful CAD systems... eventually I ended up using 3rd Plan It, by this time I was lost.

I tried to keep true to some of my old ethics by tossing whole plans away and starting fresh when I found their basic idea or principle to be flawed. But all too soon my vision narrowed and I found myself in tunnel vision.

Then by luck I received an email from a fine gentleman, our own Byron in fact. I had lost the email from when I first received it and only by chance did I stumble across it again. After reading it and some long thought I came to realize that I was lost down a tunnel of my own making. Now thanks to the help of CTSSA (CAD-Too-Soon Syndrome Anonymous) I am taking the blinders off and trying to see the big picture again.

*holds up a pencil*

This is my Four day pencil.

This terrible condition can be stopped in our lifetimes, please give generously.

Peace.
Coyote

P.S. Although my tongue is placed somewhat against my cheek I do want to say thank you to Byron. You have helped me a great deal Sir.
 
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modelbob

Administrator
While I agree CAD won't make you a better designer, I think it can be helpful to new model railroaders for a couple reasons.

First of all, very few folks can lay out a ladder with pencil and paper and make it as long as it works out to be in reality. Turnouts take up a LOT of space, and often the space allocated is nowhere near enough.

Secondly, the ease of changing and modifying designs will help them experiment and learn. It's a lot easier than starting over on a graph paper.

Granted, to learn they have to ask question and/or read books, but that's also just as true if you're using pencil and paper. They're all just tools, no more, no less.
 




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