What type of road bed do you use?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by iis612, Oct 28, 2008.


What type of road bed do you use?

  1. Homasote

    13 vote(s)
  2. Foam

    33 vote(s)
  3. Cork

    72 vote(s)
  4. None/Other

    21 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. thedowneaster

    thedowneaster Brakeman

    I have found similar foam to WS roadbed at Home Depot. This material is translucent blue and about 6-8 inches wide...and cheap! It seems to work great with flex track since it cancels out small imperfections in the sub bed. It comes in a nice width to more than cover dual track roadbeds...and super easy to trim around corners.

    My only concern is static electricity. Is there any link between foam roadbed and increased arching?
  2. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Arching is a product of poor conductivity between the rail and the wheels. Electricity follows the path of least resistance (just like water). That is the primary disadvantage of steel rail in HO. The advantage to it is better adhesion. In the past, people combined steel rail with oil to reduce the arching...but it usually doesn't solve it and it loses its advantages in traction. Arching occurs when the path of least resistance is to jump a micron or so to the wheels...when the wheels are aren't fully in contact with the rail due to dirt/corrosion. In summary, it should be fine.

    Thanks for sharing on this other material. Sounds good.
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Radio Shack sells a static eliminating spray for use specifically on electrical and electronic equipment.

    Static electricity is a tremendous problem in Colorado because of the dryness - average humidity here in the mountains at just over 20%. I get a small shock off the car door frame every time I get out.
  4. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    I don't have my own layout at this time, but at my club the answer is none/other.
    Roadbed for visible trackage is mostly spline with handlaid track laid directly on the spline. No cork or foam roadbed. And absolutely no homasote or other pressed paper type products.
  5. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Off topic warning:

    • why "absolutely no homasote" and
    • what are your club's yard or other flat areas built on? Handlaid straight on plywood?
  6. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    Our layout is located in an insulated (kinda) but unheated (except when we're actually there) quonset hut - so it behaves basically like a really big shed. With the heat and humidity swings that are possible out there between frigidly cold winter and boiling hot summer we don't want to even risk something that's basically pressed paper. Maybe it would work fine - but we don't want to risk having roadbed go wavy and wobbly 3 years later because of humidity doing anything to it. Expansion and contraction of the existing materials is already enough to deal with in a large layout in such an environment. Certainly in a home layout, any such danger wouldn't ras much of a concern.

    Yes, flat areas (where they actually exist - only a couple places outside the main yard) are laid directly on the plywood.

    At any rate, we haven't found the use of additional roadbed to be absolutely required.
  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I agree, but there is no way in heck I'll do that again! :mrgreen:
  8. Stu McGee

    Stu McGee Member

    I want my staging to be quiet and sneaky - very backstage. So it will be foam on foam for the staging and the cork on the visible track work - it also me to be finiky while laying track which to me is real important.
  9. Relic

    Relic Member

    Being somewhat frugal{m'lady calls it cheap}I use scraps of paneling and maranti board,cut slightly wider than the ties and round off the edge with one of those foam sanding blocks,glue down with caulking,nail track with straight pins,ballast with stuff I sifted frm gravel where an asphalt plant once sat.
  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I'm thinking of "throwing together" a small layout on a piece of foam board and skipping the roadbed part. The foam should help to absorb the sound. Does this sound like a good idea or am I crazy to skip the roadbed? ... I could later define a road/ballast area by chiseling out grooves on either side of the track. Rob
  11. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Roadbed isn't essential (unless you're hand laying). Go ahead and skip it if you feel like it.
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks! Although I realize I might have to use some glue to fasten the track to the foam (the spikes probably won't hold it well enough). Rob
  13. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Right! My old HO layout had less than 30% of the main & branchlines on roadbed. The rest was on OSB and plywood.
  14. VunderBob

    VunderBob Member

    I mostly use cork, with framing shims to provide the grade between road bed heights.

    I have some Homabed on hand for those occasions where I need to handlay some custom track, but I've never used it.
  15. ZeldaTheSwordsman

    ZeldaTheSwordsman Thomas Modeler

    The plastic roadbed that the E-Z Track I use comes in.
  16. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Homasote the undisputed gold standard!

    Homasote is the gold standard, especially if you are hand laying track, which takes a considerable learning curve, but gives you much better looking track. Homasote gives you unparalleled support of the ties, holds a spike better than anything else, and has exceptional sound deadening capabilities.

    also some folks say why have road bed at all? real railroads have ballast to support the track above the surrounding ground level and provide drainage. this will be very noticeable on a main line, and less so on sidings and yards. Unless you are modeling a poorly built short line, the track will set on a grade with a raised profile, and representing that profile, and the sound deadening capabilities are what we use roadbed for.

    I have said that homasote is the best, and of course, I'm correct in this, but there are some issues with homasote that must be dealt with in some fashion, or it's use is impossible or will lead to disastrous results I will cover them here.

    #1 Availability.

    I live in a town with more than 100,000 people in it. Only once have I bought a sheet of homasote here, and it isn't here now. from what I understand it's main use now days is to fill places for expansion cracks when someone is pouring concrete. You can by homasote that has been milled into the proper roadbed profile From the California roadbed company. It is called Homabed, and it comes with half a box pree slotted to make it easy to curve. on request you can get the whole box slotted, or the whole box straight. you can also by blanks for under switches. good stuff, and I have gor good service from them.

    #2 expansion and contraction.

    Many folks have had very ugly experiences involving the expansion and contraction of homasote. It is often assumed that this problem is due to heat expansion, and while homasote does expand with heat, it does it at about the same rate as the plywood in rests on, and so that is not a problem. The problem comes from moisture. homasote is basically pressed paper mache. If there is humidity in the room, it will suck it up, and hold it for what seems to be forever. when it sucks up the moisture it expands on all axises, and this can be a serious problem. It is a problem however with a simple and easy solution. When the homabed (or sheet homasote, or strips cur out of sheet homasote) is glued to the plywood , before anything else happens, paint every exposed edge of the homasote with paint. I use the craft acrylic paints, painting the roadbed grey. you can use house paint, anything, any color, the important thing is to get two heavy coats on every exposed surface, to seal the Homasote so that moisture can't get in. For this reason I wouldn't recoment homasote over spline roadbed, unless there was plywood over the spline roadbed, cause you don't want that exposed unpainted homasote down there between the spines sucking up moisture.

    OK, that is my spiel about homasote. Next lets discuss cork. Reading the posts there seems to be three themes; cork is wonderful, cork is OK, and I'm never using that stuff again. What no one seems to have pointed out is there are two types of cork material.

    The first appears to be a sheet of natural cork, which has been cut to shape for our use. from my experiece, this stuff is ok under flex track (I like to paint it too (it helps get a better look when it is ballasted), but it is unsuitable for handlaying switches, as it doesn't hold a spike well enough.

    The second type of cork material looks like a composite material . it looks like a bunch of cork has been ground up, and it has been cast into shape in a black rubbery material. this stuff is denser than the plain cork, supports the track better, is less likely to degrade, and hold a spike better than the plain cork but not as well as the homasote.

    down in my staging yard I have used some WS foam under flex track in one section of the yard. Another section is salvaged from a previous smaller staging yard, and has homabed. the sound difference is huge, there is a lot of rumble on the foam, and only the click of metal wheels on the homabed.

    for those interested in hand laying track I am doing a tutorial on building switches over in the logging mining and industrial section on Bill and Tom's excellent adventure. Questions about hand laying track will be answered there. There is also a lot of photos of my interesting track nearby in logging in east TN on the DG,CC,&W RR in 1928

    whatever roadbed you use, even none at all have fun with the trains that is what we are here for.

    Bill Nelson

    Attached Files:

  17. kokoracer

    kokoracer Member

    I got into the hobby with the LL click track. After about 18 months and 1k , I got frustrated and swapped to EZ track. While I was making the switch, I went from steel to nickel silver. My layout is currently 14x24 and growing!
  18. Trainiac77

    Trainiac77 Member

    Pictures please!
  19. ZeldaTheSwordsman

    ZeldaTheSwordsman Thomas Modeler

    Why does it keep saying that guys post is new?
  20. Elliott

    Elliott Senior Member

    Someone probably cast a vote in the poll. Because the poll results have changed the system considers it a new post. Nature of the beast. :|

Share This Page