Please help me with NON wood train board

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by DENNISJR60, Jul 26, 2006.


    DENNISJR60 New Member


    I am new here & I'm looking for train board ideas that are not made of wood. I would like it to be around 4 x 5 to 4 x 8 in size. What would be a good material to buy? Foam? Cardboard? or anything else. Also where would I go to purchase these types of boards?

    This will be something I'm doing for my 5yr old son who just got his first electric train set.

    Thanks to you all for the help!
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Dennis,

    Welcome to The Gauge...!

    Are you looking to create a portable layout, or install something permanent? In either case, you can use extruded (pink or blue) styrofoam in 1" to 2" thicknesses. For module (portable) construction, the framing is still wood. If you are installing a home layout, you can make the benchwork from metal framing studs. My friend Andy did that - you can see his pictures here... - look for "Pictures of the Benchwork".


    DENNISJR60 New Member

    Right now I'm just looking for something portable that I can put up on a table of we can use on the floor. I just don't know what type of store to go to for this type of material.
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Any Home Depot type store (outside of California) should carry both the foam and the wood needed to build a frame.

    Take a look at and for ideas on building a modular portable layout.

  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Why don't you want wood? If you build a frame out of 1x4 lumber with 1x2 cross braces on 12 inch centers, then use a sheet of luan 4x8 door skin type material, it is very light weight. Another method makes very lightweight layouts, but is a bit more expensive is the method developed by Bragdon Enterprises

    DENNISJR60 New Member

    I just don't want wood because I don't want the weight. I want it to be as light as possible So I have no trouble moving it.

    What is laun door skin type material & where do I find it?

  7. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Luan plywood is a thin 1/8" thick plywood, common in dollhouses and modeling.

    Something 4 feet by 8 feet in size is just not going to be super lightweight, no matter what material you use. You could use 2" thick extruded Styrofoam, but it will be vulnerable to breakage and damage unless it has a wooden frame around it. You don't need to use super-heavy lumber or anything--1x3 or 1x4 framing material is just fine, with the aforementioned 1x2 cross braces--you don't need to use 2x4s or 4x4s or anything--and it will be nice and strong.

    Cardboard=not good. Not very strong, it warps readily, easy to damage.

    DENNISJR60 New Member

    Thanks for the advice you've been very helpful as well as everyone else.
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Where do you plan to store the layout?
  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    All of the suggestions so far will work fine, but if you need an easily moveable layout, why not frame it out of 1"x2", and cover it with a piece of 3/8" roofing plywood: this will be strong, but not too heavy. Get good quality 1"x2", not strapping grade. You can find the materials at any lumber yard, and most will cut it to size for a nominal fee. Put it together with drywall screws: 1 1/4" should work fine. Size the layout to fit under your son's bed, or if you don't want him to have unlimited access to it, size it to fit under your own bed. Get a set of those plastic rollers that are meant to go under heavy appliances, like refrigerators, (makes them easy to move), and mount the layout on that. If the "under-the-bed" storage isn't suitable, skip the rollers, and instead, store it in a closet, standing on end. The track should be tacked down anyway, and any buildings or scenery (keep it simple for now, you can always upgrade it as your son gets older) can be fastened in place or stored separately.

  11. DENNISJR60

    DENNISJR60 New Member

    Sorry to sound stupid, but when you say cover it with 3/8" roofing plywood do you mean cover the styrofoam? Is there a good site that explains "framing" for train tables? When I lived back east I had a huge setup, but I was a kid then so starting from scratch is new to me...

    Yesterday 09:28 PMRuss BellinisWhere do you plan to store the layout?

    Under the bed or standing up in the garage
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I think that Wayne is suggesting that you basically create a shallow, upside-down box using 3/8 ply and 1x2 framing. You would then put the styrofoam on top.

    Take a look at the and links I provided earlier. You can frame up a sectional 4x6 or 4x8 layout out of 3 or 4 2foot x 4foot modules. They will not need a plywood deck - only the 1x4 or 1x5 framing with a single 1x2 or 1x3 crossbrace. The sections can be bolted or clamped together, and then taken down and stored when not in use.

    Two sections can be packaged together with "carry plates". Each pair should weigh under 40 pounds, depending on how you complete the scenery, etc. (Hint - plaster landscaping is heavy ;) :D).

    I have attached a quick diagram to show how you might divide up a 4x8 table. For 4x6, just leave off one end section. :)

    Hope that helps.


    Attached Files:

  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Sorry for not clarifying the construction details. After you've decided on the size of the layout, assemble the 1"x2" frame: using the pieces "on edge", construct a perimeter the same size as the layout, then place crossmembers every 16" (or less) across the narrow width of the perimeter "box". Use two scews at each joint, and for 1"x2", it might be a good idea to drill pilot holes first. When you've assembled the frame, place the plywood on top, even with the edges of the frame, and use more drywall screws to fasten it down. Either start at one end or side and work across to the other, or start in the middle and work towards the edges. This will avoid causing a "bubble" or hump in the centre of the plywood that could occur if you fasten the edges down first. Use a screw every 6" to 8": there should not be a need to drill pilot holes for this operation. If you want to add foam on top of this, use construction adhesive especially designed for foam, available where you buy the foam. Personally, I would skip the foam: the plywood top will be plenty strong, and if you use the sheathing grade, it's soft enough to allow easy placement of track spikes with a pair of needlenose pliers. The foam is useful if you want to add lightweight scenery, but there is not really a need for it under the track. You can lay the track right on the plywood, or put down cork roadbed first. To lay cork on the plywood, I use yellow carpenters glue, then tack it down where required with 2" nails: just tap the nails in far enough to grab the plywood. When the glue has dried, remove the nails, then sand the top of the cork with some medium/coarse sandpaper to remove any irregularities.
    It's proabably a good idea to temporarily lay your track, tacking it in place, before gluing down any type of roadbed, as this will allow you to see if your trackplan will function with the locos and rolling stock which you plan to use. (Once that yellow glue dries, it'll be very difficult to remove the cork.) When you're satisfied that everything will work as planned, mark the trackplan on the plywood, then lift the track, and lay the cork.

  14. Iron Horse

    Iron Horse Member

    I don't want to ruin everyone's suggestions, but maybe (depending on size) you could just use one of those plastic type folding tables you can get at home depot or wal mart, target or something. This can save you the hassle of building benchwork if you are not comfortable. What scale are you modeling ? If these are lionel trains, this idea probably won't work.

    If you do decide to build something, check out the academy here on the is very good. Also you might want to try some of the beginners' books from Kalmbach publishing (the people who publish model railroader magazine).......They are usually very good and you might be able to find them at your local free library just to get ideas.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The largest plastic tables I've seen are 30" wide by 6' long. If you need the layout to be bigger, you could put a 3/8 plywood board to allow it to hang over the side and/or end of the table by a few inches. If there is enough clearance the board could be bolted through the top of the table and It could be set on a "piano dolly" to roll it under the bed after the legs are folded..

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