2" foam

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by CAS, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. CAS

    CAS Member

    i am getting a little confused here[​IMG] . If somone can please help me with these questions. Forums are for questions to be asked. So here i go, again.(verse fom Whitesnake)

    I've been reading alot of the last post in alot of different forums. In the posts and the pics i've seen alot of people are using the 2" form, for the base. Should i be thinking of using when i decide on my layout? How does the blue foam help? Are there alot of advantages using the foam? Does it help with the grades? What tool do you use to dig the foam out with? for instance for a overpass? When using switch machines mounted on the underside of the layout, is the wire that goes from the machine to the switch long enough?

    Sorry for alls these questions. Yes, i consider myself a very big newbie.

  2. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    So here I go again? Garth Brooks? Vanilla Ice? Ah well.... I certainly don't remember Whitesnake singing about "Forums are for questions to be asked" :)

    IMHO, 2" foam may well give you more problems than it answers. Yes you will have problems with switch machines (particularly Tortoises). It will likely not help with grades at all. Various tools will be used with varying rates of success and mess. I'd suggest you try to get an offcut and muck with it. Lots of people use 1" foam with good results.

    Personally, I found some low-density fibreboard (I have no idea what it'd be called in the US). It used to be used in the 60's for insulation, as it's easier to put up than plasterboard (US-drywall?). It's about half an inch thick and comes in 8x4 sheets, but you can break it with your hands -- made of lumps of sawdust and some kind of glue obviously, but not a hard resin like MDF. It's advantages are: it's firm (only needs a bit of 1x2 underneath to support it, it's soft and easy to carve and chop with a knife, it doesn't resonate like plywood, and yet it's still firm enough (and thin enough) to mount a tortoise underneath with the supplied wire to control the switches. For easy and good grades you really need either (1) proper cookie-cutter plywood (or something) sub-roadbed with risers, or (2) WS foam risers stuck on whatever you're based on.

    I'd suggest you find a really big DIY store and wander around looking at what's available. You may be surprised at what you come out with. I was.

  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Cliff, you asked about foam and grades. Here is how I did it:

    I temporarily laid the track on top of the foam and marked the location of the cut.

    I cut the foam under the track right out. I was left with a "Y" shaped piece of foam that I could take outside for cutting. On the side of the foam I marked the incline I wanted. Note you will be discarding the bottom piece of foam so mark it correspondingly. Then with a large kitchen "Butcher" knife I cut the incline.

    When I put the top of the foam back onto the layout, I still had the smooth surface up, so I could easily mount the cork and tracks. The rough cut surface was on the botom and easily glued to the bench.

    A similar method was used for the incline to the left.

    Attached Files:

  4. CAS

    CAS Member

    Thanks for the replys. I have seen so many people using the foam for their base, and i didn't understand why. I guess it can be personal prefference.

    Yhanks again for the help.
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    2" foam is strong enough not too need a full plywood base under it. It only needs support every 2 feet or so - members of our local modular club (www.hotrak.ca) build 2x4 foot modules with no support across the middle. They are very lightweight, and easy to build. Carrying a 2x8 sheet of 2" foam to your layout room is easy, and does not make holes in the wall like a 4x8 sheet of ply ;) :D

    You can cut it with a bread knife, or a hot wire tool. Shape it with a knife, sandpaper, surform tool, or whatever. The foam can be cut into risers as Will noted, or cut out for rivers, lakes, etc.

    Mounting Tortoise switches is not difficult, and you can even use the Atlas solinoid type through multiple layers of foam. You can also use groundthrows mounted on the surface.

    Be sure to get the blue or pink (extruded) foam, not the white (expanded) beadboard type. The extruded is much stronger, and does not make quite as much mess...! The white can still be used for landscaping if you wish, as long as it is not taking any load.

    Hope that helps - and don't apologise for the questions... That's how we all learn new things! And welcome to The Gauge! :)

  6. CAS

    CAS Member

    Thanks MasonJar,

    I have not yet started my layout. Been looking thru books of plans.
    I'm not sure what type of railroad i want to model after. But i'm thinking on the lines of:

    N scale
    era - 1970 to present
    alot of switching for industial sidings
    maybe a point to point (not sure on this one)
    single line main

    And thinking maybe 2'x8' to start small and expand after more experience with wiring, laying of track, and all the other wonderful n scale modeling has to offer.

    Thanks again for all your help. Hopefully one day i will being my advice here in the forums.

  7. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Cliff, I was in your position last year. In Dec. 2003 I got back into the hobby after about 30 years absence. I asked so many questions, I thought the other fellows would get sick of me. However, this year I am able to answer some, even have some of my own ideas. :D Some of those ideas are good ideas. :cool: (At least I think they are good.) :rolleyes:
  8. 13Mtrainer

    13Mtrainer Member

    ok now heres a question from a older newbie. i am about to put a coal mine in my layout but my base is not foam it is plywood (newbie mistake) i want the mine to sit up a little higher than usual to make the tracks look like the are going down. ok so heres my question could i use 1" foam or even 1/2" foam.( the 1/2" would be nicer but i can live with 1")?

  9. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    13Mt, of course you can. Simply glue the foam to the plywood. I use undiluted LePage's White Glue, if you are not in Canada, then you could use Elmer's White or Construction Glue.
  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    You can make slopes in foam with the hot wire tool. I tack a piece of very smooth wood along each side and run the hot wire up it. Need to watch out for grain and splinters that will catch the wire. For grades you can cut the roadbed under the track free and gently bend it up (or down). Not too much, or it will snap. It will give a gentle curve into the grade. Then support it as required.
  11. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    I think some of those idea's are very good !! :thumb:
  12. unelex

    unelex New Member


    Igree that the idea's are good I use 4" foam to buid up the hight of the bench I was able to get the foam for nothing.
  13. cpr_boy

    cpr_boy Member

    Masonjar quoted

    "foam is strong enough not too need a full plywood base under it. It only needs support every 2 feet or so"

    Really? I'm thinking of making another n-scale layout in my bedroom and foam would be light and portable. I have space for possibly 2x6'. Current layout is 3'x4' and sits on an old Ikea table. I'm getting bored with it and need a new project.

    Anyone else try foam as a base?

  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Really![/] Our 2x4 foot modules have only corner gussets to support the foam. It is set into a frame made from 3/4" paint-grade maple plywood, and glued all around the edge with either carpenters (yellow) glue (which takes a looooong time to dry) or polyurethane glue (much better).

    Only modules longer than 4 feet (at our club, standards are for multiples of 2') need to have bracing across.

    The foam takes away almost all the weight you would have in a plywood deck. Even 1/2" ply at 2x4 feet weighs quite a bit. Plus extruded foam (pink or blue - do not use the white "beadboard") is very strong itself.

    Try this link -> www.railwaybob.com for more info. Look at the "DCC" link - it contains DCC info, plus a bunch of pictures and explanations of building modules.


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