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Hello, just getting started on a layout with my son.  We are just finishing the table build (5'x10') and wondering about recommendations for best materials/thicknesses for table tops based on user experience.  I'm looking at 1/2" maple or birch smooth plywood, but wondering if that is thick enough?  The table substrate is very structurally solid and the ply will be well supported.  Also, do folks ever use another material as a top layer over their plywood?

Also, from a 2013 thread I found that SeattleSUP posted the layout below.  We like this layout and are considering it, but wonder about a parts list if anyone can help and/or higher resolution plans?

I've never used any track design software, so trying to keep this simple.

Thanks for any help!  Stuart

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Lewes Trains:

A suggestion.  Your track plan will allow ONE reversing path from the outside loop to the inner figure eight, but not a return reversal (unless your back-up through the topmost switch. Consider adding another crossing path so that a train could be "re-reversed" without a back-up maneuver.  That would enable continuous running AND direction changes.

Carry on, valiantly ...

Mike M.   LCCA 12394

Based on your assertion that the table substrate is very structurally solid and your centers are 16" apart or less, then 1/2" ply should be more than adequate and let you climb on it if necessary.

Running on bare plywood can be very noisy, so many people opt for either a 3/4" or 1" foam top glued to the plywood (available at your local big box store in 4' X 8' insulation sheets or a homasote top. In addition, many people run a cork, rubber or foam roadbed directly under the trackage, either separately or in conjunction with either the foam or homasote topper.

Personally, I run Fastrack over 3/4" foam and like the foam because it's easy to work with, takes paint well, and is an excellent medium for inserting accessories like trees, light poles, etc. Not knowing which kind of track you plan on using makes specific recommendations difficult, but you can search the Forum for ideas.

Lewes Trains:

A suggestion.  Your track plan will allow ONE reversing path from the outside loop to the inner figure eight, but not a return reversal (unless your back-up through the topmost switch. Consider adding another crossing path so that a train could be "re-reversed" without a back-up maneuver.  That would enable continuous running AND direction changes.

Carry on, valiantly ...

Mike M.   LCCA 12394

Maybe I am missing something, but I don't think you have to back up to get back to the outer loop. You can get back by going through the figure 8 part.  Granted, you'll be going in the opposite direction.  I think it adds some interest.

Brendan

Last edited by Brendan
@Richie C. posted:

Based on your assertion that the table substrate is very structurally solid and your centers are 16" apart or less, then 1/2" ply should be more than adequate and let you climb on it if necessary.

Running on bare plywood can be very noisy, so many people opt for either a 3/4" or 1" foam top glued to the plywood (available at your local big box store in 4' X 8' insulation sheets or a homasote top. In addition, many people run a cork, rubber or foam roadbed directly under the trackage, either separately or in conjunction with either the foam or homasote topper.

Personally, I run Fastrack over 3/4" foam and like the foam because it's easy to work with, takes paint well, and is an excellent medium for inserting accessories like trees, light poles, etc. Not knowing which kind of track you plan on using makes specific recommendations difficult, but you can search the Forum for ideas.

Richie,  That's very helpful.  Thank you.  I was thinking about some sort of topper for noise, vibration, and ease of use relative to plywood.  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on foam vs. homasote.  I know foam is available at Lowe's/Home Depot.  Not sure about homasote...

We are using fastrack for the layout.

Thanks again, any insights are fantastic as we are neophytes. Best, Stuart

I think foam vs. homasote is one of those issues where everyone has their own opinion and there is no universal best way. Certainly, supply chain issues may impact your decision. In addition to the big box stores, homasote may also be available at smaller, local building supply stores in your area.

Also, if you're going to use a topper, you may want to re-consider using a hardwood veneer plywood as a base, since it will not need to be super smooth and you could save a little money by going to a cheaper plywood.

I really like Homasote better than foam, and have used it for almost 50 years on numerous layouts. The foam does not hold track nails or screws well. However, having said that, I am using foam on my next layout due to the weight of homosote. I am getting old, and carrying homosote to the basement is not going to work anymore. So foam is going under the track this time. I need to experiment with different types of track hold downs now. Folks seem to have good luck using foam, so we will give it a try this time.

@John H posted:

My experience  has been that ceiling tile works better than foam. It has more bite for fasteners, and is much quieter than foam with Fastrack. Its easier to handle, too, as it is in bundles of 2' X 2' pieces.

John - with such small pieces, is there an issue with the multitude of seams needing to be dealt with in some way in order to achieve a uniformly smooth surface  and one that won't shift or move around when trains are running over it  ?

Last edited by Richie C.
@John H posted:

My experience  has been that ceiling tile works better than foam. It has more bite for fasteners, and is much quieter than foam with Fastrack. Its easier to handle, too, as it is in bundles of 2' X 2' pieces.

Thanks John. That seems like  good idea. I wonder if the bigger tiles used for drop ceilings will work the same? Then there would be less joints to deal with.

Jeff

For what it's worth -

My layout (8x12 with FasTrack) version 2.0 was 1/2 inch rough pine (cheap) plywood with 1/2 inch pink foam board glued on top.  The foam had many advantages in terms of easy painting but anything that I wanted to fasten to the top (like track) was difficult because you can't bite into the foam and you need to drill down into the plywood itself. The foam can often chip and (because of the size and configuration of my layout), I needed to climb on the table frequently (frame is 2x4s) to work on building placement and scenery.  This left many dents in the foam.  I guess it was self-made terrain features and I lived with it.  I didn't find that the foam dampened the FasTrack sound much and it seems that many people agree there is not much you can do about that anyway (wish I had started my modeling adventure with Atlas track but too late now).  For my layout version 2.1, I am now trying nominal 3/4 inch sanded birch plywood painted with no other surface material.  It is plenty smooth, no need to worry about dents and chips, and much easier to affix the track with conventional track screws.  Have not finished yet so I am holding my breath to see if the noise is really any worse than with foam.  I read many opinions on the best layout surface with seemingly little consensus, so I just decided to try the experiment.  Half of the layout will have foam top (version 2) and half will be straight plywood (version 2.1).

@Richie C. posted:

I think foam vs. homasote is one of those issues where everyone has their own opinion and there is no universal best way. Certainly, supply chain issues may impact your decision. In addition to the big box stores, homasote may also be available at smaller, local building supply stores in your area.

Also, if you're going to use a topper, you may want to re-consider using a hardwood veneer plywood as a base, since it will not need to be super smooth and you could save a little money by going to a cheaper plywood.

Thanks, Richie.  I was thinking with the topper I could use a more affordable base layer.

@mowingman posted:

I really like Homasote better than foam, and have used it for almost 50 years on numerous layouts. The foam does not hold track nails or screws well. However, having said that, I am using foam on my next layout due to the weight of homosote. I am getting old, and carrying homosote to the basement is not going to work anymore. So foam is going under the track this time. I need to experiment with different types of track hold downs now. Folks seem to have good luck using foam, so we will give it a try this time.

What type of nails/screws/etc. do you use for securing track to the homasote?

@LewesTrains posted:

What type of nails/screws/etc. do you use for securing track to the homasote?

I have generally used small wire nails of various lengths. Some  of my favorite sizes are, #18x3/4,  #17x1" or, #17x3/4".  I drill extra holes in the ties as needed, ( if using wooden or plastic ties), with lots of them in the curves. I have also used small screws to hold down the Lionel "Super O" track, since I have had trouble with the small nails coming loose. I can not remember the screw size, but they also fit well to hold my Lionel trestle risers to the homosote. I like the nails to go through the homosote and just slightly enter the underlying plywood for a really firm grip. That is why I use the 1" length sometimes. Of course, this may transfer some noise to the plywood, but if so, it does not bother me.

Jeff

@John H posted:

The tiles are 9/16" thick, and also come in 2' by 4' sections. I worried about seams at first, but scenery took tare of them. They also are louder if installed with the back on top, as I found out later on a few I put down that way.

Thanks, I am going to try some of those when I start rebuilding my layout. When we moved, I saved some sections that still have 1/2" homosote on them. So, the 9/16" tiles will match up easily. That homosote, ontop of plywood, made for some heavy, expensive moving. However, with the cost of lumber going sky high, I figured it would be worth the moving cost. I thinK I have about 8, 30" wide sections, stored in the basement. That will give me a good head start.

Jeff

I used Homasote when I lived in NYC.  I'm in New Orleans now and homasote is scarce and expensive here... so, I used Sound Board which is dirt cheap here.  It's made from sugar cane (after the sugar is extracted) instead of used paper (wood pulp) for homasote.  They share the same texture, sound dampening, and ease of use properties.  I've tried foam... but, prefer homasote/sound board.

I used Homasote when I lived in NYC.  I'm in New Orleans now and homasote is scarce and expensive here... so, I used Sound Board which is dirt cheap here.  It's made from sugar cane (after the sugar is extracted) instead of used paper (wood pulp) for homasote.  They share the same texture, sound dampening, and ease of use properties.  I've tried foam... but, prefer homasote/sound board.

Do you have a link to that stuff.  I am only finding wood fiber sound board.

Thanks,

John

I don't use any glue around the track. It makes it too hard to relocate track, if you want to change anything later, and I do a lot of that. I mentioned above, I do like my little wire nails, or screws, to go just slightly into the plywood. The Homasote  top does hold pretty well, but to be sure track does not pop up, I use long nails/screws.

Jeff

Since Homasote is primarily a paper product, gluing it to your plywood layer will make it next to impossible to recover should your circumstances change.  Using just a few screws along the edges of your plywood/Homasote layers will hold everything well enough together for model railroad purposes.

Oh, try not to put those screws where you plan to put track.  The buried screw is always the one that needs attending when issues arise.

Chuck

@PRR1950 posted:

Since Homasote is primarily a paper product, gluing it to your plywood layer will make it next to impossible to recover should your circumstances change.  Using just a few screws along the edges of your plywood/Homasote layers will hold everything well enough together for model railroad purposes.

Oh, try not to put those screws where you plan to put track.  The buried screw is always the one that needs attending when issues arise.

Chuck

Chuck, Thanks for that info.  Duly noted- a few screws (strategically placed) seems the way to go.

Stuart

I read your post wrong. I do use glue to hold the Homasote to the plywood. I just spread some "streams" of wood glue back and forth across the plywood, then lay the Homasote on it and weigh it down with bound volumes of train magazines until it dries. I usually put a few screws around the edges to make sure it stays down tight when the glue dries.

With small streams of glue, the Homasote stays down well, but it can still be pulled loose if you ever need to remove it. do not paint/spread a layer of glue on the plywood, or, your Homasote is pretty well down for good and pulling it loose is not possible.

Jeff

@mowingman posted:

I read your post wrong. I do use glue to hold the Homasote to the plywood. I just spread some "streams" of wood glue back and forth across the plywood, then lay the Homasote on it and weigh it down with bound volumes of train magazines until it dries. I usually put a few screws around the edges to make sure it stays down tight when the glue dries.

With small streams of glue, the Homasote stays down well, but it can still be pulled loose if you ever need to remove it. do not paint/spread a layer of glue on the plywood, or, your Homasote is pretty well down for good and pulling it loose is not possible.

Jeff

Sounds like a good plan, Jeff.  Thank you!  Stuart

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