Newbie question, Foam - Yes or No ?

Discussion in 'Tips & Tricks' started by JDC916, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. JDC916

    JDC916 New Member

    OK So finally after 3 months of watching the trains go around on the floor,sign1 I got my bench done ! So, I bought 2 sheets of 1/2 inch pink foam because I had no way to get a 2 inch think piece in to the back of my SUV. The 1/2 inch is somewaht flexible and I figured I could glue them together. However after reading this forum a bit, a couple of questions come to mind.

    Any help is greatly appreciated !

    1) Do I really need this foam if I am going to do cork roadbed or this other stuff I have seen which looks like black rubber.

    2) What do I glue the foam to the plywood with if I go that route ?

    3) Should I glue both pieces of the 1/2 in together or just use 1 sheet ? And what do I glue them together with ?
  2. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    1)yes you need the foam for any carving and scenicking you might do,and it provides a good base to glue scenery too and deadens sound further
    2)i use liquid nails special foam glue,cant remember the name exactly but i use it :D.
    3)use them both,i use 2in and i think 1in is barely enough.and glue them with the same stuff as in question 2.
    hope this helps.--josh
  3. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Be careful what kind of Liquid Nails you use. There are several types and some of it will eat right into the foam. I've used white glue for foam-to-foam and foam-to-plywood and it does the job.
  4. JDC916

    JDC916 New Member

    Are you refering to the Elmers white glue ezdays ?
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Yes, that is what he is referring to.
  6. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    To deal with your questions.

    1) Do you really need the foam if you've got a plywood deck? No. The plywood deck will support your track.

    2) Do you really need the cork or Woodland scenics roadbed - that all depends on what you want to do. It's your decision. Roadbed makes things look nice and neat. However, if you don't want to use it, no harm done.

    3) Glue - white glue, yellow glue, polyurethane glue, no-more-nails (the latex kind), contact cement (the latex kind!!!!)
    - stay away from contact cement that is not the latex kind. test on a couple of scrap pieces. It can melt the styrofoam

    4) Paints - only use latex paints. Alkyd paints will melt the styrofoam.

    Myself, I use the foam board as part of the deck. I don't use any plywood. I do "module railroading" on modules that are 2' wide and 2', 4', or 6' long. As I transport these modules every 5 - 6 weeks from my basement, out to my van, and to a hall where my HOTRAK club meets (, I need modules that are very light. This means no ½" plywood deck, no plaster, no chip board, or other heavyweight materials. I build a "module frame" out of 1"x 5" pine and glue a piece of styrofoam into the module frame. For gluing, I've used carpenter's glue but I discovered polyurethane foam which works even better. For further details on my construction techniques, click on this link.

    Because I want my modules to be lightweight, I've also used styrofoam for my scenery. I first carve the blocks of styrofoam to the shape that I want (either by knife or hot wire), then glue the styrofoam to my styrofoam deck (using polyurethane glue), blend the seam between the deck and the scenery with lightweight spackling compound, paint the styrofoam (shades of brown and grey), and then apply the scenicking materials.

    In addition to being lightweight, I find that I can more easily control the shape that I want without worrying about the material setting up. Nothing against plaster but you can be rushed in getting the materials in place. With styrofoam, it is more of a sculpturing process where you can take your time, take a look at what you've done, cut out a bit here, a bit there, until you're satisfied with what you've got.

    Or you can simply use the styrofoam as a support for your scenery and use the standard plaster techniques.
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Bob's "foam only" modules use the 2" thick foam, which is strong enough on its own when glued into the 1x5 pine frame (although you can add a crossmember for additional strength).

    The 1/2" foam is not strong enough on its own. However, if you already have a plywood deck, you can use (not mandatory) to make landscaping easier. You can even eliminate the cork or foam "roadbed" and carve your profile right into the foam itself. MR has had a few articles on this over the years - very neat idea. See the Index of Magazines at to track down the issues in question.

  8. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    i say use it,it cant really hurt and its the way I've done it and it makes contouring the land sooooo much easier.if you don't you could end up with a flat "plywood prairie".and since this is such a common practice,just about everything is written to comply to foam as a base--josh
  9. JDC916

    JDC916 New Member

    Thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far ! Appreciate all the various opinions and input !
  10. jimbogibbo

    jimbogibbo Member

    foam mountain

    is it possible to make a mountain for a train to climb. out of foam.:oops: . i have just bought this ho scale silver moon express that i would like to have going around a mountain.

    Attached Files:

  11. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Slightly offtopic quesiton, but .... how did you get your pen to stand up like that in this picture? tooth1 [​IMG]
  12. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    This is just my opinion so feel free to disregard any or all of it. Do you need foam? No. If you are however; interested in creating something akin to reality in minature (which is what model railroading is about) you will need some method of making topography. Foam fills this need very well. As has been stated above, "it also deadens the rumble of train on track" which you will get from running on plywood. As for roadbed, its a prototype practice and again you are trying to create reality in minature.
  13. aboyette

    aboyette New Member

    You need foan to make your rivers and low places.

    I use gorilla glue to hold it down.

    DON'T forget to remove the plastic barrier. The foam sheet has a vapor barrier over one side that is used in home construction to keep out moisture. You might have to pick at it with your fingernail but once you get it started it will peel right off. It's kind of hard to see. If you don't take it off now, it might start to peel by itself and your scenery might come undone.
  14. Tommybza

    Tommybza Member

    Getting ready to lay foam . now as I understand laytex glue.
    down the line i will look for a air brush system .are the paints for the air brush laytex ? Iam just trying to avoid the O darn syndrome .
    what is a good paint for this ?
    thank you .
  15. who_dat73

    who_dat73 Member

    I saw in the begining that you mentioned the black rubber looking stuff instead of the cork roadbed. If you are talking about AMI Instant Roadbed then stear clear of it go with cork.. I tryed it when I first started and if you dont know what you are doing cork is forgiving but the AMI isnt you will end up with a mess on the board and ruined track!!! If you are talking about Woodland Scenics Foam Roadbed from what I have heard here and what I have seen in the LHS might be more forgiving then cork but havnt used it so cant say for sure..
    In short if you are just begining and a newby to layouts leave the AMI to the pro's
  16. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    Check out the pictures in this thread....
    On pages 2 and 3 of the thread, I think will give you a good idea of how to use your foam and what the construction process looks like. Any questions, feel free to ask. My layout is far from complete but if you look through the majority of the thread, you can see a lot of steps from start to finish (sort of).
    Also, check out these threads for a lot of similar questions (and some you have not encountered yet)...
  17. TrainJunkee

    TrainJunkee Member

    1) No you dont need it... It is mostley used for terrain..If you look on someone has put nine step by steps on using extruded foam..

    2) If you decide to use the faom liquid nail makes stuff specifically from gluing foam..

    There are several ways of doing terrain...Search for extruded foam
  18. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    In terms of foam... is there a certain kind to buy? What thickness is minimum?

    I'm going to start benchwork next week and I want to make my layout light so that it's not a total pain with moving the moduals in and out using castors. If I use cross members every foot or so and glue a base of 2 inch foam right onto the cross member (no plywood base) would that be okay?

    Should I use the pink/blue foam for the $35 CAD a sheet? or is this Totem Building Supplies sufficent (at half the price!).

    How about epoxy?
  19. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    They are calling it rigid foam on there web site so it should work. You may want to ask them when it gets cut does it break apart or hold its solidness.
  20. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    Has anyone tried the Woodland Scenics Roadbed? And if so what were the results?

    Does the plastic film barrier have to be removed from both sides of the foam or just the side facing up?

    Thanks guys.

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