Foam or Plywood (Yes, again, but specific this time)

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by kchronister, Jan 9, 2006.

  1. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Okay, gang. I know it's been discussed before, but the track, turnouts, etc are ordered, supporting benchwork is nearly done, and I have to decide: Foam or plywood for the base of the layout.

    Here's what I see in it:

    1) Plywood

    Pro: Have used it many times, no problems. Easier to mount tortoise machines, wires, etc. on bottom of layout.

    Cons: Heavier, harder to lay track (nails versus pins), flat and can't be carved.

    2) Foam

    Pro: LIght, can be carved for ditches, etc. Easier to pin track down during gluing.

    Cons: Harder to mount things on underside. Never used before.

    I should add that I have 90 turnouts, most of which I run off tortoises... so the mounting-on-the-underside thing is a major consideration..

    What's the room have to say? Am I missing something? What else should I consider...
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Use 1/4 inch luane door skin material with the foam bonded to it with contact cement. The weight will be light and strong, and you can mount the tortoise machines to the luan with screws.
  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    I am in agreement with Russ, if you cannot find the luane material, any wall panelling would do the same job. You just need "something" to screw the Tortoises to.
  4. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Thanks. That makes it 100% for both (here and also on another board where I asked)... So I'm thinking I better listen and do that...
  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Gotta go with the others on this. 1/4" to 1/2" of plywood, MDF or OSB under at least 1" of foam. More if you plan on doing anything like ravines or water under your tracks.
  6. jkinosh

    jkinosh Member

    I did the same thing. Made my benchwork from 1 x 3 and nailed a sheet of 1/4" Plywood down, and put the foam ontop. Makes it very easy to work with and extremely light.

  7. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    I also used 1/4" plywood with foam on top. Works good. Only bad thing, In my location I could get the white beaded foam and it sure makes a mess when cutting it.
  8. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I'm just a little too set in my ways to use expanded styrene foam for subroadbed. I'll continue using plywood (2" wide straight and curved) on risers, with homasote or cork. If I use foam for anything, it would be as a base for buildings, or scenery filler.
    It's not a matter of opinion, simply what I learned to use, and I'm comfortable with it. Besides, I've become ancient enough that I don't have to change. :D :D
    I learned to do scenery by watching the prototype being built! jawdrop
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you plan on using foam for the benchwork (i.e. sub-roadbed) be sure to use the EXTRUDED stuff, not expanded. The extruded material comes in pink or blue, depending on the manufacturer. It is very strong compared with the other styrofoam. Comes in 1/2" thicknesses from 1/2 to 2". In Canada we can also get it in 4" thickness. 2" recommended for benchwork over a grid of no more than 24"x24". If you are going to cover a traditional ply tabletop, you can use whatever thickness is appropriate to the landforms you will carve.

    The EXPANDED styrofoam is the traditional white "beadboard". It also comes in a slightly better (more solid) form that is pink-ish. The key to identifying this stuff is that you can actually see the little foam beads that are bonded together to make the slab of insulation. Also comes in various thicknesses, but even the thickest stuff is not nearly as strong. Useful only for landscaping on top of established benchwork.

  10. b28_82

    b28_82 Member

    Theres an Ntrak club near me that used plywood for their edges and for the whole top of the module. They've had it for about 5 or 6 years now and they are having warping problems where some members are getting tired of it and started running with us that have plywood tops for our layout.

    My suggestion would be to use plywood for all your subroadbed but do the "cookie cutter" thing and styrafoam for the scenery with wood struts for support.

  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Could you clarify. Maybe it's just the end of a really (really) long week, but I read your message as "those with plywood tops have warping issues, so they now operate with those of us that have plywood..." :confused:

  12. b28_82

    b28_82 Member

    Sorry forgot to add styrafoam somewhere :thumb: :oops:
  13. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Well, in the end, the decision was (at least the materials have been bought for) 1/4" plywood under 2" foam. Hopefully that will be the best of both worlds...

    Having said that, the ply+foam will be under the "flat" parts of the layout - yards, stations, mainline... Effectively this means the front 1-2' of the shelves will be ply+foam, and one entire peninsula (the passenger station and loco service area - all "flat").

    The rear 1-2' of shelf and most of the other peninsula are raised terrain, so will be cookie-cutter plywood as roadbed, on risers, with hardshell scenery around it.

    Still have to spackle and base-paint the backdrop before I put 'surface' on, so I'd guess a week or two yet before it starts going down.

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