An Introduction to Rail Design in Civil 3D

March 15, 2019 Bryant Quinney

When working on Rail design in Civil 3D, you may (or may not) have realized there is a toolset directly aimed at that purpose. Over the past few releases, Autodesk has begun to better integrate it into the software. For instance, depending on the release in question, the Rail Layout module is accessed or found differently:



Civil 3D 2016

Civil 3D 2016 Productivity Pack 1

Civil 3D 2017

Civil 3D 2017 v1 Enhancements

Civil 3D 2018

Civil 3D 2018.2 Update

Civil 3D 2019

Included with the standard release


Going forward, in the many blogs, video tech tips, and white papers to come, 2019 will be the version upon which discussion will be based. With that said, documentation on this feature mostly comes from the installed Help section (though there is some minor updating that may need to be done). Not much discussion or feature documentation can be found elsewhere.

As a linear feature, the design is based on rail alignments, which you probably noticed in the Type selection when creating an alignment. This selection triggers the additional tab in the Properties dialog of the alignment, labeled “Rail Parameters”. This is where the width of the rail track is controlled. 



Also, the alignment is now placed in the Rail Alignments subgroup in the Prospector (inside or outside of a Site).


The Rail Layout module brings up a ribbon which facilitates the various steps needed in the design of railways. Left to right, each panel of tools perform the following tasks:

  1. Alignment: Create rail alignments by layout (Creation Tool) or by converting object geometry,
  2. Platform Edge: Specify the sizing and placement of platform edges found on each, or both, sides of a railway.
  3. Cant: Allows you to create, edit, and view the amount of cant (superelevation in roadways) in the design rail. Similar to a profile being shown in a profile view, the amount of cant is illustrated in a cant view.
  4. Crossover: Create, edit and delete a set of turnouts and a connecting alignment which allows rail car travel to be transferred between two alignments.
  5. Turnout: Create, edit, and delete a turnout object type for the continuation of an alignment layout from a baseline alignment.
  6. Table [Turnout Table]: Generates an AutoCAD table of the data used to describe each turnout found in the drawing or a selection of turnouts. Each crossover generates two turnouts.
  7. Content: These are the building blocks to the turnout specifications and the track design.


In upcoming discussions, we will break down the various, and many, parts of module and how they interact with other Civil 3D geometry. Until then, kick the tires and bogies and see you on the other side.

About the Author

Bryant Quinney

Civil Solutions Applications Expert<br><br>Working with clients to implement various technologies and techniques within civil engineering disciplines. With my travels, I teach/train, troubleshoot, solve, configure, and implement solutions based on client needs. Drawing on many years of experience across various types of projects, I continue to enjoy doing this type of work.

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