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52E91E53-8EF6-4E26-8345-6C3D22D36397I used ceiling tile over foam on plywood on my lower level. The upper level is sound board on plywood. the track is all Fastrack. The upper level is a bit noisier, but the ceiling tile, in my opinion is as quiet as homasote. The video is of three trains running, each with two engines, with sound off.

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Last edited by John H

I am really happy to hear that screws through the homasote into the plywood makes little difference.  I always thought that was true but had no proof.  I am currently building my new layout and I am laying down 1/2" pink foam as my base and then homasote speckled painted road bed.  I like the pink foam base because:  1.) it should soften noise, 2.) It is removable and portable in case I move, 3.) you can sand it and glue on layers of foam to modify your terrain and then use foam tools to contour your landscape.  4.  You can cut out sections of pink foam and build scenes on your work bench, 5. finally adding homasote roadbed seems to add just another layer of sound deadening.

Thanks for the wonderful scientific analysis -- you've saved us train nuts a lot of time!

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I think some other sound variables come into play such as are the train room walls closed in as in covered with sheet rock, is there a ceiling or just open rafters, height of the ceiling, bare floor or carpet, etc.

My last layout was 6 X 15 located in a finished 14 X 18 1/2 room with sheet rock ceiling (8 foot) and walls as well as indoor/outdoor type carpeting on the floor.  I used Mianne benchwork with 3/4" plywood sheets covered by 1/2" Homasote.  My Ross track was embedded in Ross Roadbed, attached to the Homasote using the Gargraves # 4 screws, then ballasted.  When the trains were running, there was train noise such as wheel clicking over the track joints and the MTH locomotive sounds effects, but no "rolling thunder" which I've read the most complaints about over the years in terms of layout noise.

Here's a video I shot on the layout using my cell phone sitting on top of a PRR-style signal bridge.  The sound in the video is what it was that night in the train room.  I think the Homasote in combination with the foam Ross Roadbed helped to prevent the "rolling thunder" sound.  I'm sure other brands of foam or even rubber roadbed would help in the same way if used with Homasote.

Incidentally, if I had the MTH locomotive sounds turned on, you had to raise your voice a little to speak to someone four feet away.  Don't laugh, but I like to have the locomotive sounds on when running the trains.

Jeff thank you for sharing your research and thank you to everyone else for sharing your insights. While still in the paper planning stage for an approximately 16’ x 12’ layout, my intention is to use 3/4” plywood with homasote. Also I’m considering using 1-2” of foam board for scenic purposes. Pardon the pun but; am I on the right track with this plan?

Thank you

Jay

I used homasote on my 40x50 layout, works well. It is much more dense than ceiling tiles (I use that a lot for scenery purposes) it also is much better for sound abatement than foam.

Foam is A hard smooth surface, and while good for scenery, not so good to absorb sound.  Soft uneven foam - like the shape of egg containers, is good for sound, but that is much different than foam insulation.

while homasote is not cheap, it works well.

Is homasote worth it? Well considering the price plywood has jumped to, you could put homasote ( sound board) on top of 1" pink / blue foamboard for the same price or cheaper than one sheet of plywood (cheaper than plywood where I live that is). A 4x8 1/2 inch sheet of sound board goes for about $11 here. A 4x8  1 inch sheet of foam goes for $14, and if you want to go big, HD sells a high density foam board kit designed to go under concrete consisting of 5 2-3/8 inch 2x8 sheets of foam for $57, or a little under $11 a sheet, or $22 for 4x8 area

A 4x8 sheet of 3/4 inch plywood is $38, compared to $25 or $33 for the foam & soundboard combination

So between the noise reduction and price, I'd say yes.

Last edited by Quietman

"Just my .02  If you are going to add ballast and scenery, SAVE YOUR MONEY!"--excellent point.

There are a lot of good points here in this topic.  We strive for sound abatement.  But why?  I just used a putty knife to scrape off my old layout's scenic material from my raw plywood that served me well and it broke my heart.  I never thought my old way was especially noisy -- perhaps because of the mass on top of the layout -- as David says.  My new layout has 1/2" plywood, 1/2 foam" and 1/2" homasote road bed.  I wonder if that extra money, labor and material is really worth it. I like the foam base because I can reuse a lot of the scenery if we move again.  I have some foam scenery that I used before and I will reuse now -- like my foam mountains.

When we moved into our new home and I built my new basement train room I used fiberglass insulation in my walls, roxul sound insulation above  acoustic ceiling tiles, and purposely decided to not install heating vents.  I've added rugs on the tiled concrete floors to help reduce sound and protect my trains in case my bridges are up.  Yet when I am running trains I have digital sounds and I have to turn up my air purifier full loud level to keep smoke from leaving the the room to protect my wife's lungs.  I guess the answer lies in what your end goal is and who lives with you.

If I were a bachelor living alone, I would choose no sound abatement.  I would open the train room door, play Van Morrison's Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast at full volume on my sound system, turn up the smoke unit, turn up the roar of my steam engines and diesels, push my whistle and horn and bell buttons relentlessly, cocktail in hand, and let the trains run!

Sound abatement is my compromise to enjoy my trains without keeping my wife and daughter from going mad and allowing them to sleep at night while I enjoy my trains.  Perhaps dampening the noise from the trains in the room help when you want to run your trains in quiet mode for you, too.

Mike

@Quietman posted:

Is homasote worth it? Well considering the price plywood has jumped to, you could put homasote ( sound board) on top of 1" pink / blue foamboard for the same price or cheaper than one sheet of plywood (cheaper than plywood where I live that is). A 4x8 1/2 inch sheet of sound board goes for about $11 here. A 4x8  1 inch sheet of foam goes for $14, and if you want to go big, HD sells a high density foam board kit designed to go under concrete consisting of 5 2-3/8 inch 2x8 sheets of foam for $57, or a little under $11 a sheet, or $22 for 4x8 area

A 4x8 sheet of 3/4 inch plywood is $38, compared to $25 or $33 for the foam & soundboard combination

So between the noise reduction and price, I'd say yes.

My 2 cents (I used homasote on the current layout, and have built with foam board as well)...

I'd suggest going with 2" foam rather than 1" foam plus homasote.  I don't think homasote is appropriate for adding strength.  If you need more strength than foam provides, put a sheet of 1/4" ply or thin OSB under it.

Opinions differ on using homasote for sound deadening on plywood, but using foam should take care of that.

Benchwork is a one-time expenditure - a little extra money spent now to do it right will pay for itself for a long time.  The extra hundred dollars or so will soon be forgotten. 

And Dave Minarik knows just a little bit about building layouts - I'd follow his advice in his earlier post.

Foam is the worst thing you can put under your track.  

Hold a piece in one hand and twap it with your finger.  It is EXTREMELY resonant!

Lay that piece on a table (glued to it or not) and tap it. NOT THE SAME. Hold homasote to ear and tap. Lay on table and tap NOT THE SAME. I use 1" foam on top of 1/2 inch plywood and BALLAST the rack. NOT SOUND PROBLEMS! I also have a table with Homasote on it with unballasted track. Sound is LOUDER! With foam if I want a tree here stick it in if not pull out and move. NOT SO with homasote. Everybody is different and a huge amount that comes into play is how you are fastening the track and what you are doing on top of the foam. Don't forget how you placed whatever on top of the framing. Personally I like foam. I have no problems with sound or screws being screwed into the foam. JUST don't overtighten which is what everyone including me tends to do. I would challenge anyone to listen in my train room for track noise vs talking or train sound noise (non Track). As I said I have both so I can compare in real life not with meters or personal preference.

Curtis

I was in the Homasote camp until recently.  Now I am not so sure.  I used Homasote on this layout because I had 48 square feet of the stuff left over from earlier days.  When I was modeling in HO and N scales another great advantage was that it holds track nails and spikes extremely well.  As John pointed out it will hold screws better than foam as long as you are careful with the power screwdriver or drill.  I have one span where I had to mount the track directly on the plywood at an underpass because I didn't allow enough clearance for my highest cars.  Because of this topic, I have paid close attention to the sound.  I can't tell the difference running MTH sound at about 30% between there and on the Homasote and I haven't ballasted yet.  Of course I do have a tin ear.    In the future, I think I will probably follow Dave's advice and not search the world over for Homasote.  This I had on hand is 30 years old at least.  I have about 3 square feet left over now.

I run my MTH equipment at 50% Sound level and I used Homosote and notice a little difference but when I  run my Post War is when I hear a big difference. I have always used in in all my layouts and did on this one. About 15 sheets more or less some left over from  my old layout some new yes it was pricy but I think it was worth it. With two trains running and several folks we have been able to have a conversation and normal voice levels. It makes dust but easy to cut when you want to do things like stream beds etc.

@CurtisH posted:

Lay that piece on a table (glued to it or not) and tap it. NOT THE SAME. Hold homasote to ear and tap. Lay on table and tap NOT THE SAME. I use 1" foam on top of 1/2 inch plywood and BALLAST the rack. NOT SOUND PROBLEMS! I also have a table with Homasote on it with unballasted track. Sound is LOUDER! With foam if I want a tree here stick it in if not pull out and move. NOT SO with homasote. Everybody is different and a huge amount that comes into play is how you are fastening the track and what you are doing on top of the foam. Don't forget how you placed whatever on top of the framing. Personally I like foam. I have no problems with sound or screws being screwed into the foam. JUST don't overtighten which is what everyone including me tends to do. I would challenge anyone to listen in my train room for track noise vs talking or train sound noise (non Track). As I said I have both so I can compare in real life not with meters or personal preference.

Curtis

Foam is great for scenery.   Not for roadbed for many reasons.  If you like it, have at it.  

One of my HO friends just ripped out a huge section of his layout that was on a foam base because of noise and fastening issues over time.  

I agree that suspending something and laying something down will produce different sound results but it still does not change the fact that foam is very resonant.  

Again, do whatever makes you happy.  I’m just trying to share my experience here.  

David

Yep you are correct as to each his or her own. My layout on foam is now 6 years old and I have replaced a small section. No problems with foam in any way. Did not deteriorate or move. Some was glued down most was not. Easy to remove Ballast and trackwork from when moving sidings. No screw problems as I had mentioned. But that is why they make GMC and Ford. Each his own. I am simply stating my PERSONAL experiences as I have used both over my 66 Plus years from O to HO and back to O. Some people do not like the fact that when you kneel on foam it leaves dimples. That is true but I know even my own yard is not flat, even after building my house and leveling and landscaping the yard ourselves. Opinions differ as much as material used does. Some like 2X6 framework some like Mianne and some prefer 1X3. Been in all camps there too. But hey I like camping. LOL I just enjoy the end product which is running my trains in ways I want and having a real Blast doing it. That joy and the GREAT JOY of sharing are what are real important to me. Happiness is hard to find in these times we live in now.

Move the throttle to notch 8 and letum rip!

Curtis

@CurtisH posted:

David

Yep you are correct as to each his or her own. My layout on foam is now 6 years old and I have replaced a small section. No problems with foam in any way. Did not deteriorate or move. Some was glued down most was not. Easy to remove Ballast and trackwork from when moving sidings. No screw problems as I had mentioned. But that is why they make GMC and Ford. Each his own. I am simply stating my PERSONAL experiences as I have used both over my 66 Plus years from O to HO and back to O. Some people do not like the fact that when you kneel on foam it leaves dimples. That is true but I know even my own yard is not flat, even after building my house and leveling and landscaping the yard ourselves. Opinions differ as much as material used does. Some like 2X6 framework some like Mianne and some prefer 1X3. Been in all camps there too. But hey I like camping. LOL I just enjoy the end product which is running my trains in ways I want and having a real Blast doing it. That joy and the GREAT JOY of sharing are what are real important to me. Happiness is hard to find in these times we live in now.

Move the throttle to notch 8 and letum rip!

Curtis

Agreed!  

Gentlemen, thank you for your insights; which are much appreciated. I’m fortunate that my room will be located behind the garage. Growing up my brother had built a 16’ x 6’ lay for our PW fleet. I recall the decibels being high.

My plan is to be able to have a conversation without getting hoarse. I’m anticipating that almost half of the layout will be open grid. I will use 3/4 plywood on the rest. I have access to two 4x8 sheets of homasote. Perhaps I will concentrate it under the track area.
With regards to the use of foam I wanted to use that to carve out trenches, etc. in the track areas and yards.

Here from "Handy Physics Answer Book":

"Different materials will absorb certain frequencies of sound better than other frequencies, but some of the best absorbers of sound are soft objects. Materials such as felt, carpeting, drapes, foam, and cork are good at matching the impedance of a sound wave and reflecting back very little sound. Materials such as concrete, brick, ceramic tile, and metals, on the other hand, are effective reflecting materials of sound. That is why gymnasiums (with hardwood floors, concrete walls, and metal ceilings) have relatively long reverberation times, while concert halls furnished with upholstered seats, carpeted floors, and long drapes have relatively short reverberation times. People are also effective sound absorbers, so a full concert hall has different acoustic properties than an empty one."

Foam absorbs sound and plywood reflects it.  Plywood does a good job of preventing sound from passing through it because it is dense.  Homasote, it seems to me, is the best of both worlds:  it is dense, which reduces sound transmission and it also absorbs sound.  The real question remains:  How much do these materials reduce the sounds we hear and is it worth it?  Clearly everything in our train rooms matter regarding sound.  Skirting under our tables might play a larger role than just covering up the boxes we store (which probably help reduce sound, too!).  I never realized the felt I use for skirting might be better than curtains because it absorbs more sound.  And the rugs over my tile, help, too.

Stuff to keep in mind, Jay, as you move forward.

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