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Confusion Laying Track

Nick writes:

“After spending a lot of time on updating myself with the model railroading methods used these days. I have obtained a lot of the supplies I need to begin my project. However, I believe I am now suffering from ‘information overload’ when it comes to the method I will be using to start laying track.

I was all set to nail my cork and track to the benchwork and I really like the use of foam board for some areas of my layout that I have seen many modelers using in the videos that I have watched.

Now I’m just staring at everything, not knowing what to nail, should I use caulk or liquid nails? I don’t need a lot of detail but if you would share your choice of track laying method you prefer I hope it might help me out moving forward with some confidence. Thank you.”

13 Responses to Confusion Laying Track

  • Glenn says:

    I started construction of my layout in the very early eighties. Homabed nailed to plywood and track nailed to the Homabed. About 3 months ago I decided to replace my yard. When I removed the track the nails were in excellent condition and except for a couple of bent ones, they will be reused. I am not a fan of using foam for roadbed, over anything, or using an adhesive, caulk or similar product, to hold the track. I am sure there are many who will disagree. Also, I have no confidence that thin cork is going to last very long without drying out. I have never seen any foam, or adhesive, that will last 40 years. Of course most model railroaders probably won’t keep their railroad that long. Yes, the track will most probably be held in place by glued ballast, so the caulk may not matter. I can only tell you that not only have the nails done their job for 40 years, but that if I want I can reuse the Homabed pieces. The impossible part will be finding Homabed. Glenn

  • Dale says:

    I generally glue down the cork roadbed since I never expect to reuse it; it does dry out over time. On a previous HO layout, I actually spiked down the track and found it to b a good way, even if tedious t do. On my latest N scale layout, I glued down some areas of the track and nailed down some areas. Both methods worked well.

    One piece of advice, don’t secure down turnouts; let them float, being held in place by the leading and trailing tracks. This will help ensure that the points won’t bind. Also, be sparing with the glue when applying the ballast.

  • Morgan Bilbo says:

    I can and will only say what I have done. Foam: 2″ pink from HD/blue from Lowes. Cut to size. Placed on metal brackets screwed into studs 16″ apart – for a shelf layout. Paint top and bottom/all surfaces is just my personal touch. I used foam for roadbed/again painted top and bottom. I pre-painted the track also. Wiping the tops of the rails before they dried. Then, after laying out the track and cutting roadbed and had all aligned up. Then, spread DAP Alex caulk on the base, and roadbed and track. Using caulk for all. Weighed down with cans. After all cured, was able to proceed with wiring, etc. Or, if you plan enough ahead, solder feeders to the bottoms of the rails and pre-drill holes for them, before caulking. DAP Alex is not permanent. You can pry up if necessary to correct errors. Has enough drying time for you to get this all aligned up. Other caulks and such are more permanent, but I preferred the ability to re-align track when needed. This was all feasible and low cost.

    • ROBERT SCHWORM says:

      Morgan has the best approach. Use PVA on the ballast, if you wet it again, you can get the track up if need be.

  • Nick says:

    Thanks for your time replying back.
    Good reminder about floating the turnouts.
    Think I will tack the cork down with caulk and glue, just enough to keep in place while nailing down the track when on the form board. Makes sense that installing the ballast will hold it all together. In addition I think I would prefer not to glue the track itself. Very helpful, thank you!!

  • geoff says:

    Use the DAP rather than liquid nails. DAP can be removed easily with a putty knife or paint scraper.

    I did a trial layout using cork DAP’d to foam and then the track DAP’d to the cork. I found it very hard to get the track lined up correctly, and impossible to do a flex track join on a curve. So for the layout I am building now I am DAP’ing the cork to a plywood bed and then pinning the track.

    Have fun!

  • Ron Scannell says:

    I build on extruded foam board. I do not glue the cork or track down, just wire nails. It is a lot easier to modify the plan if things arent glued down.

  • Frank H says:

    Make a track plan or use one you like. As a basic rule, everything should be bottom up on construction. Build benchwork (4’x8′ if it’s your first). Draw out your track plan centerlines on the top piece in decent detail. Now, knowing where your turnouts will be, plan out your tabletop bracing making sure no braces end up under points or frogs. Then, before legs, flip the table over & add buss lines & feeders under the table (but don’t drill holes up to the table top, just leave feeder lines hanging). Next comes cork (and uncoupling magnets), then track (take special care on track…no rush). While doing track, drill holes through the layout for turnout motors BEFORE final setting the turnouts IF your using cables or turnout motors coming up between the tracks. Now you can drill holes for the other feeder wires. While there, if you’re wired lighting or you’re automating anything else, locate them and drill holes for feeders. It’s usually easier to put in all structures you can before doing ballast or landscaping rather than after, things like roads/sidewalk, track crossings, overhead & crossing signals, billboards, statues, buildings, etc. But it’s not always possible & can be done later at the cost of some model grass.

    I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but that’s what rewatching those videos just before starting the next stage is for.
    Good luck.

  • David Stokes says:

    Mate, you have a layout plan, you’ve built the benchwork, you know where the rails will go on that.
    However, have you read the “literature” – Model Railroader, Model Rail, BRM, AMRM.

    Now comes your sticking point. Some guys stick the cork down with PVA (White Glue), others No More Gaps (decorator’s caulk, others use Silicon sealer, but none nail the cork down. The rail sections come next. Some chaps use all or one of the above adhesives, others use track pins, and some even use screws.

    I use Liquid Nails (construction adhesive) for both.

    Pick a method, try it, doesn’t work for you; try another; invent a new way.. No one will bung you in the brig for being different.

    Building a layout on an 8 x 4 is a good idea, but see if you can cut it down the middle sometime in the future for expansion. Oh Yes, you will want it to grow one day.

  • David Stokes says:

    Thanks guys, sometime I wonder if I spend too much time on this Q & A, but responses like that make it worth while

  • John Ryan says:

    Love all of the above suggestions, but after trying to decide which way to go (trying to translate US, British and Aussie terms and products confused me a lot), I found the building contractor nest door using some insertion rubber (foam – Abelflex – expansion joint filler which is closed cell, cross-linked polyethylene foam). I got a sample from them, put it on some of my baseboard (12 or 15mm marine ply) and placed a piece of code 100 Peco track on it. The foam is 10mm thick.

    I purchased two rolls from our local Bunnings(hardware store chain). One roll was 100mm wide and the other 75mm wide and 10m long, although rolls of 5, 10 and 25m long are available. It curves reasonable well (although I have adopted a minimum of 1m minimum radius and 1.5m for almost all of my mainline) and I initially used spray adhesive to stick it to the base boards. I used double sided tape (Bear carpet tape), but at about $15 a roll of 3.5m, this was becoming expensive, but it held the track in place very securely. (stuck like the proverbial to a blanket). I tried Scotch Double sided tape, but this wasn’t very good. I found that on the smaller radii curves, the rubber started to straighten out a bit so I needed to find a better glue.

    I then found that the builder was also using some of this rubber which came with an adhesive backing. So checked out the various stores and found that Mitre 10 sold 25m rolls for about $25 to $30 a roll depending on width. Bought a few rolls of the 100mm and one of 75mm and have used one roll of the 100mm to lay my track base around the room. I have laid about 20m of double track on this and there is no sign of movement.

    I have also changed my method of securing the track to the rubber underlay. I use a hot glue gun to hold the track at about 100 to 150mm spacing. I put a dab of glue on the end of the sleeper and stick it to the rubber. My curves are pre-formed to the radius I want (~1.5m) by soldering 3 lengths of track together (adjusting the rail lengths as I go) and leaving it on the track base overnight (curved) before gluing the next day. The ply support for the rubber was already cut and finished to 100mm wide and cut accurately to the radius I needed. This ensured an accurate guide when laying the rubber. I vacuumed the baseboard before sticking the rubber down to ensure no dust would decrease the adhesive strength. The rubber also has a cut that runs longitudinally along the edge as the builders remove this 10mm portion after the concrete is set and apply an epoxy sealer over the joint. i used this line to guide me in the placement of the inner edge of the curved track and I used the glue gun on the outer edge. This combination gave me a very smooth curve for the 90 degree corner curves.

    The parallel track was placed in a similar fashion but using spacers of 300 to 400mm long for straight track and 20 to 25mm long for the curves. These were laid on top of the sleepers between the two inner rails. because the first track was already fixed in position, it was very easy to add the other track very quickly.

    This track work has been in place for some 8 months now with no movement. I have spaced the parallel tracks at O gauge track spacing and run some of my father’s old O gauge loco’s on it (They weigh some 5 to 10kg). No sign of trouble, so I think it should be OK for my HO trains.

    The room is 6m by 7m with an around the wall shelf varying from 300mm wide to 800mm and a U shaped peninsula in the middle of the room connected to the outer circle on one leg of the U. Hope this assists people with some new views on issue requiring solutions.

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