2-D Layout Modeling: SketchUp

SketchUp is a 3-D modelling program, frequently used for architecture, interior design, and game design. After being acquired by Google in 2006, a free version of SketchUp was made available for home and personal use. Event though SketchUp was acquired by Trimble Navigation in 2012, they have so far contiued to support the freeware version of the software, although now marketed under the name SketchUp Make.

SketchUp is really geared for 3-D modeling. You can do 2-D drafting with it, but it's really not the right tool for the job. That being said, it does have some big advantages that make it very useful for modeling BRIO track layouts:

  • Its components feature, which is similar to what other CAD programs might call blocks, lets you drop and manipulate groups of drawing objects as a single unit without interfering with other drawing objects. Specifically, you can use components to represent track pieces.
  • It automatically creates faces—or polygons—inside of closed boundaries—or edges—which can be colored in. This works exceptionally well for representing track pieces. Most 2-D drafting programs only work with lines because arbitrarily filled areas are not a part of 2-D drafting standards.
  • It's easy to use. Traditional CAD tools have a paper-centric design, forcing the user to deal with drawing scales, extents, and so on. SketchUp has an open-ended approach to the modeling space.
  • It supports precision drawing. Albeit it a limited fashion, you can still draw precise lines in SketchUp by entering measurements and relative positions as you go.

All of the track and road drawings on this web were created using SketchUp Make. You can download a SketchUp drawing file using the link in the sidebar.

As with all CAD modeling of BRIO parts, do not expect to get perfect fits on asymmetric and non-trivial layouts. Your goal is to just get close enough that the Vario System will let you pull the track together.

What's in the model files?

Components that represent most BRIO "standard" track pieces. Specifically, the track model file contains components for the following BRIO track:

A, A1, A2, A3, B, B1, B2, C, C1, C2, D, E, E1, EE, EE1, F, F1, F2, G, G1, G2, H, H1, H2, H3, I, J, K, K1, L, M, N, N1, O, O1, P, P1, R, S, T, U, V, X

In addition to the standard track, it includes models of these track and accessories:

  • #33276 Round Turntable (can also be used for #33460 Grand Turntable)
  • #33351 Viaduct Bridge
  • #33355 Track Support
  • #33361 Mechanical Turntable
  • #33386 Overhead Crane

As well as these non-BRIO track pieces:

  • Jesse's Toy Box 3" Straight
  • Maxim 3" Mini Straight

The road model file contains:

Straight, Curved, T-Switch, Level Crossing and end ramps

To view the components, go to the Window menu and check Components. To view the components in the model, select the home button in the Components window.


Here are some handy tips and tricks for laying out pieces:

  1. Don't explode components. This is just asking for trouble. When you explode components, they are turned in to individual edges and faces, and will interact with other unexploded objects. Faces and lines will merge and intersect, and so on.
  2. Use a top view with a parallel projection. Find these options as Camera -> Standard Views -> Top, and as Camera -> Parallel Projection. This mimics a 2-D drafting environment.
  3. To produce an overpass/underpass effect, use the Move tool to move an object in the Z direction. Once you click a reference point for the move, you can use relative coordinates to move it "up" and "down". Enter relative coordinates in angle brackets. e.g., <0,0,-1>.
  4. Use the "flip along" option in the context menu to flip switches, curves, and ascending track for proper orientation. Right click on the component and select "Flip Along", choosing the components red, green, or blue axis as needed.
  5. Snap track together by using corners as the reference points rather than centerlines. It's much, much easier.

What about 3-D Modeling?

See 3-D Layout Modeling.

Download the SketchUp Models

The SketchUp Model files have components pre-made for repesenting BRIO track and road pieces.


Name: 2d_model_20140901
Size: 617 KB
Last Update:
Sep 1st, 2014


Name: 2d_roads_model_20150718
Size: 282 KB
Last Update: Jul 18th, 2015

What's new?

The road model.


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