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revised 26-April-2007

backgrounds  and  scans

Some notes about using Background Shapes and scanned images in Templot.

Click the control > background shapes menu item (or press CTRL-S) to access the background shapes window:

These background drawing functions allow the addition to the drawing of such features as baseboard rectangles and joint lines, or other fixed obstructions such as a control panel space or turntable well.

In addition, picture shapes are rectangles which can contain a bitmap image, such as may be created in Windows Paint or similar programs, or obtained from a scanner.

Scanned images from maps, published track plans, hand-drawn sketches and tracings can in this way be used as a background guide to your track design. In addition, scanned images of printed track templates, rail-rubbings or even scanned items of actual trackwork can be displayed full-size and incorporated into your track plan. There are some screenshots showing scanned images used as a background guide at the end of this web page.

 Please be aware that scanning published material may require the permission of the copyright owner.

You can also add short labels to identify different parts of the drawing. "Short" means not more than 50 characters. If you want to make detailed notes about the drawing you can enter these as memo notes for each template (click the edit memo... button on the storage box window).

It is also possible to add target mark shapes (small cross-hairs symbols) to the drawing as alignment and reference markers.

The background shapes are treated as part of the grid, in other words they are unaffected by the shift and rotate template functions, and are not included in the template data files saved from the storage box. They can, however, be included in a DXF export file if the background shapes layers are enabled.

 These background shapes are not included in template data files when templates are saved from your storage box in a .box file. The current collection of background shapes can instead be saved to a separate .bgs file by clicking the save all as... button, and a previously saved collection of shapes can be reloaded by clicking the reload... button.

In this way a saved baseboard design or scanned image can be used as the basis for several different track plan designs. You can build up a collection of shapes from more than one file by clicking the add file... button.

 Background shapes are not included in Templot's automatic restore feature after a system malfunction. If you have done a lot of work with background shapes it is worth saving a .bgs file immediately, rather than waiting until the end of the Templot session.

If the general options tab > hide on reload option box is ticked, the background shapes window will be hidden after reloading a shapes file. Otherwise it will remain visible for any additions or changes to be made.

Background shapes can be drawn in several different ways:

The size and position of existing shapes can be changed as required, either by using the mouse actions or by entering new dimensions directly. When mouse actions are used the background shapes window will be temporarily hidden to give a clearer view of the drawing pad.

Here are some more detailed notes about using the background shapes window:

To add a background shape to the drawing pad and printed templates do this :

In the new: panel click one of the shape: option buttons to select a line, rectangle, circle, label, target mark or picture.

For a line, click one of the line: option buttons to select a solid (continuous) or dotted line. This setting also applies when drawing lines freehand with the mouse.

For a rectangle or circle, click one of the style: option buttons to select one of these styles:

  clear means that the underlying grid or other previously drawn shapes show through.

  blank means that the shape is drawn empty, blanking out anything underlying it.

  hatched means that the shape is drawn filled with a cross-hatched pattern.

Enter a name for the shape or the text for the label in the name or label text: box. Other than for labels, this name will not appear on the drawing, it simply provides a reference in the list of shapes.

The shapes are drawn in the order shown in the list, so blank or hatched shapes may be overdrawn by subsequent ones. Labels are always drawn as a blank rectangle containing the text. Shapes should therefore be placed in the list in an order which allows for any overlaps. They will always be overdrawn by any overlapping part of the track drawing.

If there are already some shapes in the list, click the list to select the entry below which you wish to add the new shape.

Now you can choose whether to set the position of the new shape by clicking on the drawing pad, or by entering dimensions directly:

By clicking the mouse:

If you want to locate the new shape with the mouse, click the pad in two locations, representing the ends or opposite corners of the shape. For a circle, "opposite corners" refers to an imaginary enclosing square box.

To locate a label with the mouse, click the pad once to indicate the top left corner of the label.

To locate a target mark with the mouse, click the pad once to indicate the centre of the target.

To locate a picture shape with the mouse, click the pad once to indicate the bottom left corner, and again to set the width of the picture. For scanned maps and track plans you will normally want to enter dimensions for picture shapes instead - see below.

Then click the add clicked shape button to insert the shape in the list and add it to your drawing. (If you re-size the window to get a clearer view of the pad, this button will remain in view.)

By entering dimensions:

Alternatively, for a picture shape intended to contain a scanned map or track plan, or if you want to enter dimensions for other shapes directly, click the enter dimensions... button and enter the dimensions for your shape as requested.

 In this way scanned track plans can be automatically scaled to suit your current model scale. Click the help flags on the data-entry form as they appear for more information.

For a picture shape, the load file dialog will then appear, so that you can select a bitmap image (.bmp file) to be loaded into this picture shape.

 If you save this bitmap image file in the same folder as your .bgs shape file containing the picture shape (usually C:\TEMPLOT\SHAPE-FILES\), it will be automatically loaded into the picture shape whenever the shape file is reloaded.

There are two options for the way bitmap images are displayed. If the modify shape: > picture content: > transparent option box is ticked, the bitmap image will be displayed transparently so that underlying shapes and bitmap images show through. If this option box is unticked, the bitmap image will be displayed normally, obscuring anything below it. Select the required picture shape in the list to change this setting independently for each image.

If the picture options tab > borders on pad option box is ticked a border rectangle will be added around each picture shape.

There are some screenshots below showing picture shapes containing scanned track plans.

To delete a shape from the drawing, select the shape in the list, then click the delete shape button or press the DELETE key on the keyboard. To delete all the shapes click the delete all button.

To change the details or dimensions of a shape, select the shape in the list, make any changes in the new: panel, and then click the modify shape: > modify... button.

Alternatively the selected shape can be adjusted by mouse action. Click the modify shape: > mouse actions: > corner 1, corner 2, shift or scale buttons to make the required changes.

The details of the currently selected shape are shown below the list, and the shape appears highlighted in red on the drawing pad.

Shapes drawn freehand with the mouse or added using the spacing-ring tool can be modified and deleted in the same way as shapes which have been entered directly.

A rectangle shape can be converted to  the 4 separate line shapes marking its outline, by clicking the modify shape: > rectangle to lines button. This enables you to modify or delete each line separately if desired.

It is also possible to similarly make changes to all the listed shapes, using the buttons in the modify all and mouse actions all tab panels. To rotate all the shape locations by a specified angle, click the modify all > rotate all by... button. The shapes will be rotated around the current location of the spacing-ring tool, which should be positioned first (tools > spacing-ring menu item). Note that only the locations of the shapes will be rotated.

 The outlines of rectangle, label and picture shapes, axes of elliptical circle shapes, and target mark arms will remain square to the grid. If you want rectangle outlines to be rotated, they must first be converted to lines by clicking the modify all > rectangles to lines button.

The appearance of background shapes can be changed using these buttons in the font/colours tab panel.

Handy Hints :

These background shapes will not actually appear on the drawing pad unless the pad > pad background options > show background shapes menu item is currently selected, nor on the printed templates unless the print > printed element options > print background shapes menu item is currently selected.

When labels are printed they appear rotated through 90 degrees relative to their position on the screen. This is to match the paper orientation. The top-left corner location remains fixed. Bear this in mind when adding labels to the drawing.

Spacing-ring pre-sets:

When entering dimensions directly, if you request a pre-set dimension by entering a slash "/" on the data-entry form, the relevant dimension will be taken from the positions of the most recent copies of the spacing-ring tool. This is useful if you need a shape which is a specified distance from the rails, for example. Set the size of the ring accordingly.

If there are insufficient ring copies the current spacing-ring position will be used instead. It is not necessary to request the pre-set for all four dimensions, any figures entered will be used instead, which might be useful occasionally.

Click the tools > spacing-ring menu item and click the what ? button for more information about using the spacing-ring and making ring copies.

Remember to save your shapes before you quit Templot if you will need them again. They are saved separately from your template data files so that you can start a fresh track design with your existing baseboard outlines.

Finally, here are some screenshots showing the use of a picture shape to contain a scanned bitmap image:

This is part of a 40ft to 1" (1:480) railway rating plan for Bakewell (MR). It is very faded and because of this proved to be a hopeless case for vectorising to DXF. But as a scanned bitmap image in a picture shape it is quite usable as a guide to the track design. It is proving to be remarkably accurate, as you can see from the overlaid curved B-7 turnout in S4/P4 gauge.

Original plan © British Railways (London Midland Region)

This is a model track plan scanned from a magazine. It illustrates the need to be careful when such plans are enlarged to full construction size. In order to keep the minimum radius within 750mm/30" for EM (even that is very tight of course), this curved turnout cannot be shorter than a B-8. Which means that the toe is somewhat further round the transition curve than the designer envisaged (indicated by the position of the signal), and it is going to be a tight squeeze to fit in the double-slip within this radius constraint. Notice also that where the inner track has been added (tools > make double-track TS menu item), it has shown up a discrepancy in the drawn centre-line.

track plan courtesy Iain Rice ©


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page revised  © 26-April-2007