Salvaging an old layout...

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by tomfassett, Oct 22, 2002.

  1. tomfassett

    tomfassett Member

    I would like to save parts of my old layout which were built 15-20 years ago. The track is not of good quality (I didn't have a lot of cash laying around) and it was not given a proper foundation (I didn't know what the heck I was doing and was in too big a hurry to read up on the subject...):p
    My question is, what would be the best way to replace the track without tearing up the whole layout? The scenery is quite detailed and surrounds the track. I would like to give the track a better foundation than the plywood it is laid on, particularly where there are joints. I don't mind raising it a bit if I have to (if cork is the answer). Anyone care to weigh in on the issue? I would like to get started as soon as possible but once again, I am too impatient to do major research on the subject. This time though, I have access to all the masters here...;) :D

    Tom F
  2. Ravensfan

    Ravensfan Member

    Not that I'm an expert on this stuff, but you post begs some questions. If you remove the foundation, isn't that taking the bottom out of everything? If the only thing you want to salvage is the "scenery" how can you replace everything around it without tearing it down. It seems to me that what you need to do will involve a ton of work and time - take a video record of everything so you know exactly where the pieces go, take exacting measurements, so you will have you placement perfect, then dismantle what you have and start from the ground up with your new foundation and track.
  3. NYCentral

    NYCentral Member

    What about homosote? it would raise your roadbed, but give you more support.
  4. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    K.I.S.S. Cork, and flex track, would probably be the easiest to lay, with all the scenery still in place. Unfortunately some "patience" will be required to avoid destroying the scenery. In any case, I wish you luck retracking a finished layout.
  5. tomfassett

    tomfassett Member

    Actually, the track can be pulled quite easily and only the ballast would be disturbed. The problem I have is the track is secured directly to the plywood which causes kinks in the rail when it gets humid. It also causes problems at the point where the various pieces of wood butt up together. I need something that can be laid over the existing plywood that I can then lay the track on. It can be allowed to raise the track a bit as I could just detail this to look like normal raised roadbed (which is common in the southwest). I would like to limit it to around a quarter inch in height, though. I need something tough, thin and easy to work with that will help keep the track from flexing too much, but will allow the normal amount of expansion and contraction with temperature changes (extreme, where I am...):rolleyes:
    I used cork roadbed on another section a long time ago. I will use that again unless someone comes up with a better idea.

    Tom F
  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    After you pull up the track, remove all the ballast by scrapping and using warm water(if you glued it with white glue), then plane or sand those plywood joints if required. Use cork of precut homasote roadbed(I prefer homasote), lightly sand the shoulders of either product to eliminate rough edges, paint with earth colored latex paint to seal it.

    I have some hidden trackage laid directly on plywood on a pike in a basement, and had trouble with humidity kinking the track. I had laid it in the summer when humidity was high, when heating season came and the basement got very dry, the wood shrinks and the track, being nailed down to the wood, kinked between nails. I pulled the nails and used a dremel cut off disc to remove alittle rail(maybe 1/8"). I was then able to stretch the track to meet, removing the kink. I left the gap there and just added a new feeder. I haven't had the problem again in the areas I treated this way. BTW, I now lay track only during heating season. And I seal all roadbed with latex paint. Problems are mostly gone, and never cause problems.

  7. marty w.

    marty w. Member

    I agree with Phil and Gary on using Homasote. Homasote comes in 4'x8'x1/2" sheets. If you want something thinner try Homabed @ They have pre-cut Homasote strips with a 45 or 60 deg angle cut on side and thickness is 1/4".

  8. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member


    I, too, have taken up a layout a long time ago. It sounds almost like the conditions you have. When I started my new layout I decided NOT to NAIL the track down as it is much harder to remove. I am just using wallpaper paste and ballast method that
    Shamus mentions in the archives and on his site to hold the track down this time. I am using Midwest Cork roadbed and am very pleased with its shape and usability.

    I do believe that Homasote is much better for "nail holding" than cork if you are going to nail the track down.

    My preference is cork and glue or paste. Easier to take up again if you decide to redo the layout (as we all do) in the future. :) :)
  9. tomfassett

    tomfassett Member

    As many of the areas are hard to work, I have decided to go with Midwest cork and glue for the inside "retrofitting." For the new construction and the level and wider areas, I will go with Homasote as planned. I am way too "UNambitious" to fit the Homasote to all the little curves inside the mountain on the mine section. Besides, I would end up with as many joints in the Homasote I have in the plywood cutout sections the "flyways" inside the mountain were made out of. The mountain stands 8 feet tall (and 4 1/2 feet off the table) and is completely hollow. Inside the mountain is three levels of HO track and 5 levels of N gauge track acting as a mining ROW (I have some N gauge locos I modified to look like old Porter air driven mine engines). The N gauge stuff is foolproof as it was built much later and with more foresight from the problems encountered with the earlier HO track installation. I also plan to add another access through the mountain for through trains from the (future) yard I am getting ready to build. This I will do with Homasote over plywood as I have to cut the plywood flyways anyway...

    Tom F
  10. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member


    My only other suggestion is to NOT line up your homasote and plywood joints. I have staggered the joints on my layout per a suggestion from another forum This keeps moisture from expanding both joints in one spot and possibly messing up your track alignment. While I do not have my scenery on the layout I have checked the alignment of the joints periodically over the past several months and none have moved at all.

    Have a good day.
  11. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Tom, I'd like to see that mountain, and the Nscale engine's sounds really interesting.

    good luck with "the Big fix"


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