Being on Track

Railroad Tracks

Recently I was asked if I had a Visio line pattern for railroad tracks. I did not, but it was not hard to create. Decades ago, I came across an AutoCAD collection of shapes for an Atlas HO train set, so it was not hard to use one of the straight track railroad ties to make a simple track line segment pattern.

Which, as a line pattern looks like…


A second request was for a river/stream line pattern.

On the first attempt, I created separate rectangles, but to reduce the number of components I switched from seven rectangles to four overlapping shapes.

One interesting technique was how I chose the Stream’s colours. Rather than chose random colours, I used Visio’s colour picker.
Shape Styles -> Fill -> More Colors… -> Colors -> Standard
I just chose consecutive hexagons to get a smooth transition.


One interesting accidental pattern was a snakes skin. The problem was that I had used the first behaviour pattern for the railroad tracks and forgot to change it for the Stream pattern. The Stream pattern needed the Stretch Behaviour ( number 3)


Before I did the Stream Line Pattern, I decided to create a Rainbow pattern to refresh my memory about how Line Patterns are created. The first task was to determine the RGB values that would make up a rainbow. I found a seven colour rainbow and a twelve colour rainbow pattern.

Converting from AutoCAD

The AutoCAD collection of Atlas tracks appeared to be a good starting point for a Visio stencil of railroad tracks. Unfortunately, the designer of that collection used a trick that is also available in Visio. You can use any image and encapsulate it in a Visio shape. It may look good, but you can not edit the components of the shapes and is subject to jaggies when stretched. Unfortunately, this is a technique used by some Non Visio teams at Microsoft to make Visio stencils. If their collection contains an SVG set, that is a good sign their icons are NOT encapsulated images.

If the AutoCAD shape does contain real shapes, there is a good chandce that something that looks like a rectangle, is actually a collection of disjoint lines that can not be simply changed to a rectangle by using Visio’s Join command.

So, the railroad tracks have been put back on hold. If I do go ahead, I will not make a one to one representation of the Lionel track set, but a piece of Flex Track and a few cross overs and switches.
(Yes, I will be lazy and only make switches that can be flipped to change from left to right. 😉 )


For more information, check out John Goldsmith (VisualSignals) or Chris Roth’s (Visio Guy) posts.

Thank you John G & Scott.

I hope you find this useful.

John… Visio MVP in x-aisle

Published by johnvisiomvp

The original Visio MVP. I have worked with the Visio team since 1993