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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.”

12 Responses to Confusion Laying Track

  • Glennsays:

    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

  • Dalesays:

    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 Bilbosays:

    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.


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

  • Nicksays:

    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!!

  • geoffsays:

    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 Scannellsays:

    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 Hsays:

    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 Stokessays:

    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.

    • Geoffsays:

      If it was possible to “like” comments, David, I think your reply would get a lot!

      • Richsays:

        Yes, I agree. A wealth of wisdom!!!

  • David Stokessays:

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

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