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Foundation Material for Model Railroad Layout

John asks readers:

“I am seeking Pros & Cons of using solid 2″ insulation for my N scale layout base please?”

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13 Responses to Foundation Material for Model Railroad Layout

  • Don says:

    I am using both. 2 inch can be used with very little suport, a perimeter framework. It is very rigid. 1 inch is better with a lattice like a bed frame.I also mount 1 inch on 1/2 inch plywood for flat areas such as yards. Some people make very lite portable layouts without any suports. Both can be bonded with Liquid Nails for Projects. It is also good for bonding roadbed and risers. Track can be bonded with DAP caulk. Latex paint, flat works well with it. Lastly, I have been able to spray paint it with Rustoleum 2X for plastics. Test your foam first, it may not work with all foams.

    • John says:

      Don, wonderful suggestions. Greatly appreciated.

      Thanks, john

  • The Salty Smith says:

    2″ foam works great as a base, it is easily glues together to create elevations and easily carvable to make streams and rock formations. Foam readily accepts plaster, paper mache, paint and is easy to plant trees and fences into. Myself I lay a base of homasote then build up the foam as this gives me the sound dampening I need, remember to glue down as much as possibe with as few mechanical fastners as possible. Nails and screws will trandfer sound down to your base structure. 2″ foam is also great to moisture resistance.

    • John says:

      Salty Smith Thanks. Members response & suggestions have extremely helpful.
      John

  • David Broad says:

    Don’t use a solid 2″ base, Nothing says toy train more than a flat baseboard. Use L girders and maybe 1″ insulation over 1/2″ ply for the track bed, but keep the area with no tracks low or higher than the tracks. That’s the way to make your road a model not a toy train.

    • John says:

      David, your input is greatly appreciated.
      Thanks, John

  • William Hardardt says:

    I have a 4×8 n scale layout on foam . It has worked well . Quiet easy to handle ,just poke your trees etc in and it stays. Only drawback is it dents, don’t drop your tools or engines on it . Bill

    • John says:

      Bill, appreciate your response. Never thought about potential denting. Definitely leaning using insulation.
      Thanks,john

  • Ron Scannell says:

    I agree with everything Don says…but I admit I didnt know about Rustoleum 2X, I will have to try that. I am using 1 inch foam (should have 2 inch). Mounting switch machines can be a problem…I have seen articles that show cutting a hole large enough for the swich machine, mounting it on a piece of plywood and imbedding it under the switch. I also recommend you get a hotwire tool for cutting the foam (try your local craft store).

    • John says:

      Ron, sound, constructive suggestions.
      Thanks. John

  • J E Wilson says:

    I have a 6′ x 11′ layout and have used essentially every type of base and build up there is. Some is base of homasote for the yard area and the rest is either wood girders with foam build up, or base of foam and built up from there with various types and thicknesses of foam. Foam is very easy to shape with a knife or hot wire foam cutter, after getting the rough shape of the mountain wanted I build up with rock molds of plaster or foam ant then I finish mold areas with ‘sculpt a mold’. I think that you will enjoy the foam a lot, I certainly do. My layout is HO, HOn3, HOn2 1/2 (N scale track) and Z gauge for a low mining area far far away. Have a bunch of fun with it.

  • Lloyd says:

    Use thicker than 2 inch of you plan on having underpasses ( for clearance ), and to have depth for deep rivers cuts.

  • Lloyd says:

    Go thicker than 2″ if you won’t to drop the track, have under passes ( for clearance). Or deep river cuts

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Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help hobbyists “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.



Micro control technology can be used for:

Rolling stock and scenic lighting effects, street lamp lighting, lighting up of structures, emergency vehicle flashing lights, replicating a campfire or arc welding, tall structure tower lighting, block occupancy detection, turnout operation, motors/servos, solenoid, infrared, right-of-way signal lighting, current sense, crossing gate & signal operation, semaphores, flashers, turntable control, gate arms, draw/lift bridge control, fast time clock, DCC testing, scenery sound control, wireless controls, and lighting fixture day to night control. Read more...

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A simple DC (Direct Current) transformer will give you a nice chugging locomotive going one way on your model train track, however, with a DCC unit you can have the flexibility of having an entire train-switching yard happening right in front of your eyes! That is the adaptability that is available with this coming-of-age technology in the hobby!



By using the Digital Command Control, you are opening up a whole new range of possibilities. A continuous electrical current is sent to all of the many things you have installed on your train layout, however, now you have a digital receiver installed in each various items. You can therefore control each and every one of them with the selectable controller and enhance the operation and, more importantly, the look and feel of your system.

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Your rolling stock and locomotives might actually be the center of attention on your layout, but the scenic features that surround and envelop your layout is what's likely to make your train setup stand proud of the rest. Your selection of scenery and structures will add an element of customization that will make your railroad truly unique.



Scenery, structures, and fine detailing is a fundamental aspect of any good model railroad, particularly if it is intended to replicate a true-to-life railroading scene. How realistic or authentic you make your railroad is entirely up to you... and you alone.

Some enthusiasts like to replicate every tiny detail so as to accurately depict, in every aspect, a miniaturized version of a real life scene.

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