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So after my previous post on Tubular VS FasTrack I believe I am going to go the O27 route for budget & space wise. Now I have nevery built a layout and I was wondering what I should start with as far as maybe a green mating to lay over the 4x8 piece of wood and I have heard of 3R plastic ties but I tried a google search and could not find them. I am just trying to get an idea how to start a basic layout that I can build onto with using the base mating.

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For matting, most train stores have some type of green matting available to put on top of the plywood. I believe Woodland Scenics makes a 50" X 100" green mat which fits perfectly over a 4' X 8' sheet of plywood.

Personally, I used a 3/4" thick 4' X 8' rigid insulation foam board from Lowes - it's blue/green in color - on top of the plywood. I also bought a quart of inexpensive earth tone brown latex paint at Lowes and some green and yellow fine turf (also by Woodland Scenics) from the train store. I believe Home Depot also makes a similar foam board, but different color.

Glue the foam board to the plywood with construction adhesive. I then started painting the foam board a few sections at a time and lightly sprinkled the green and yellow turf on the wet paint on each section before it dried (let some of the brown show through, too) and repeated until the board was finished. After everything dries, you can start laying track and ballast.

IMHO, it gives a nice looking, quick, easy-to-do, realistic and quiet base and not overly expensive. You could also use some coarse turf and/or clump foliage mixed in with the fine turf if you wanted to spend a few more dollars, but you'd have to be careful about not puttying it where the track was going to lie.    


Thanks Richie. I was actually thinking about doing a foam board on top of the plywood. I was going to do that for the sole purpose of trying to quiet the trains down while operating. So I would paint the whole board brown in sections and sprinkle the turf all over the board while still allowing some brown to show through? This sounds like it would make the layout look much more realistic even before I laid any track.

Yes - exactly. You want to paint in sections so the paint doesn't dry before sprinkling the fine turf on. The wet paint holds the fine turf like glue, but eliminates the need for that extra step. I think I did the whole board in 4-6 sections - maybe 20-30 minutes. The construction adhesive usually sets up fairly quickly so you can start painting after about an hour and not move the board out of place on the plywood. After everything dried, I went over it with a small dustbuster to vacuum any loose turf that didn't stick - just don't get too aggressive with it.

If you're going to have roads and know where they're going to be, you can tape them off with painters tape first, so no brown paint or turf gets on them. Once everything dries, just lift off the tape. A little more work up-front, but makes it easier than having to go back and scrape off the turf afterwards to put your roads in.  Paint the roads black or silver-gray and add some center striping with a yellow or white paint pen.

The extra benefit of using foam board is that it makes it so much easier to install telephone poles, trees, road signs, lights, etc., because they just stick into the foam board with a little glue and stay where you put them.  Can't do that very easily with straight plywood, even with matting, and who ever saw a telephone pole or tree with a "base" ?

I also glued and nailed 1" X 4" trim all around the whole perimeter about a 1/2 " higher than the foam board to cover the edges of the foam board and plywood. That way you can be a little "messy" with the paint job and it gives a nice finished look.   

I would suggest buying MTH realtrax or Lionel Fastrack and setting-up your layout so that it can be easily changed/moved etc.

An 8' by 4' board does take up room and is inconvenient to move.  If you are just doing a loop or circle of track, make it easy on your self and just sit it on the floor.  The temporary track with built in roadbed is a great product.

Buy a small piece of indoor outdoor carpet and place the track there. 

IraqvetUSMC posted:

So after my previous post on Tubular VS FasTrack I believe I am going to go the O27 route for budget & space wise. Now I have nevery built a layout and I was wondering what I should start with as far as maybe a green mating to lay over the 4x8 piece of wood and I have heard of 3R plastic ties but I tried a google search and could not find them. I am just trying to get an idea how to start a basic layout that I can build onto with using the base mating.


Richie. Your route sounds exactly like the route that I want to go and what would look best for a permanent layout.  I am trying to recreate a small version of the railroads in my area on a very small scale. Obviously O is bigger than HO and HO would probably be more suited for what I want my layout to portray but I don't really care for trains that small.

John. Thanks for the ideas. FasTrack is decent but leaves to much of a foot print on a layout. FasTrack is the same width as the G gauge track in my LGB train set. I do agree the FasTrack is nice for setting up on the floor though and FasTrack is really expensive.

Paul. Thanks for the link.

Paul, as a bona fide 027 guy, I've built a number of hollow core door layouts over the years. Now, you'd think a hollow core door would be pretty noisy, right? Hobby Lobby sells brown sheets of foam, and since I'm good with a razor blade and a straight edge, I cut my own ties out of the foam. The thickness is just right to be snug between the rail and the train board and they do a great job of noise reduction.

Another suggestion is to use the self-adhesive insulation foam strips, cutting a short piece to fit beneath every metal tie of the 027 track. This will help reduce the noise transfer from the screws holding the track into the train board.

I've done the foam insulation board route also. A nice plus is being able cut into it, making a stream or creek very easily. The drawback is the softer surface is not as forgiving of handling as is a plywood or homasote board surface. Track screws don't take to it very well either. What I did, was designed the track plan, then made wood slats cut to fit snugly beneath the 027 metal ties. I glued those using wood glue to the foam board, and then screwed the track into these. I didn't do every single tie, but just enough to hold the track down in place. On that layout, I did the high rail approach and made wood ties out of bass wood and then ballasted all the track. For simplicity, I like the method I mention below.

If you're not sure of a track plan, or anticipate making gradual changes - and since it sounds like you might be going for a "traditional" appearance, I've painted the layout surface grey. Once I figure out how the track will actually be laid out, then over time I paint the scenery or ground surface using green and brown acrylic paint. I leave a grey edge around all the track to "represent" the ballasted roadbed.

Also, if you decide to change buildings or add a road or something, it's a lot easier to paint over "suggested" scenery than to scrap up glued down - though more realistic - scenery. But that's the great thing about the hobby... there's many approaches depending on your tastes and budget.

For me, the draw back of 027 track is the switches, that unlike the Lionel 0 gauge switch, operate solely from track power, unless you decide to open them open and rewire them for auxiliary power. For this reason (and also cost) I use the manual switches. For the back of the layout or hard to reach places, using the post MPC era to date Lionel switch, I drill a small hole in the handle, and use nylon fish line to operate the switches.

I've also chopped down these switches, eliminating the large base - but that's another post, and also kind of a pain to do. The postwar all sheet metal Lionel manual 1024 lends itself to having the handle part cut off using a Dremel. I insert a piece of cardboard or foam between the swivel rail and the center rail... operating the switch with my finger. The drawback of operating the switch this way is made up for by the extra layout space you gain, or being able to put, say a yard light, closer to the track. Not always possible with the large 027 switch footprint.

For lots of 027 ideas and tips, take a look at this site and study it over....

Scroll down and you'll see links for layout ideas and all sorts of other information. This is one of the most helpful sites out there.


Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy

Brian. Thank you for the information. I've never heard of the hollow door layout, interesting. You brought up a good idea as far as not really being able to fasten the track down to the foam with just screws as that would not hold very long unless you did your idea or maybe run long enough screws to go through the foam down into the plywood sheet. Also the fact that the foam might not give as much as far as train derailments if that's what I understand you are meaning by that. Richie did make a good point that about the foam as it's easier to attach figurines and other track side accessories. These are all great ideas and I will check out thortrains for further ideas. 

My Hollow Core Door Layout

O27 Track with modern O27 42-path switches.  I would recommend using other switches.  The Lionel O27 switches are a pain in my opinion and need to be modified to work on accessory power.  They also have a problem with shorting out due to the design of the center rail being too wide and contacting trucks as they pass through the switch.  

I like old K-Line O-27 switches as they are wired for auxiliary power and do not short out on various trucks like the Lionel.  I would even consider Ross switches.  

Last edited by Miken

While my layout is not really "toy train" like, I used a tight weave indoor/outdoor carpet and screwed the tack to the plywood underneath.

My mistake was using MTH RealTrax track and switches. The track is poorly made, the switches all had to be "fixed" to get trains through them without bumping about. Because the track section do not join with locating pins, track vertical and horizontal alignments are poor to the extent they throw the trains around on the track. I am told Lionel FasTrack is much better (has alignment pins) if it is sectional track you need. I had a couple particularly weird back and forth track sections that made trains look like a sidewinder snake. I pulled the RealTrack out of those sections and replace it with long sections of Atlas Flex track. That track is smooth operationally. You can make any radius turn you wnat as long as it is not less than the engines and cars will stand. You can mount it to cork roadbed or just flat onto the layout top. But if you mix it with sectional track you will need adaption track sections and a base material to raise the Atlas track up to the sectional track height. If I had to do it again I would not use sectional track at all and better track like Gargraves. As I found out the hard way, cutting corners on the track is not the thing to do. Spend the maximum time on the layout platform and use the better track systems and get that all perfect before moving on to scenery and buildings. Planning is super important.



LD- As far as track goes, the Lionel FastTrack & MTH Realtrax still do not look that real in my opinion.  From my research the only track that Lionel ever made that actually looked like track was the Super O which I am still contemplating on using for my layout since I can find it on Ebay. Are you saying that it may be worth looking into the Atlas or Gargraves track due to quality and spend the money on good track vs using the cheap O27? If I stick with the O27 I am going to use the Realistic ties they sell on amazon, they look pretty decent in my opinion. Now when it comes to the track do most guys use a cork road bed or they make this road bed that has a tacky side that you lay the track on and can lay ballast down without all the glue and it supposedly sticks. Or is the road bed over rated?

The more I am looking at 4X8 layouts I am beginning to see that a 4x8 layout really isn't that big and you cant really do a whole lot, good thing I have a 1,700sq ft basement to work with lol. But I figure I would start with a 4x8 and add and build larger off of that.






Lots of good points made by everyone. I've had good success screwing into the foam board using CA glue for things like crossing gates, etc. as long as you're not putting too much pressure on them. I used Fastrack so I had no issues with track movement.

I also like the foam because you can countersink structures with platforms (like the Lionel playground and MTH guard shanty) into the foam and then patch around and over it to make it look more realistic. 

You're right about expansion. The first pic is my original 4' X 7' basic layout for the grandkids about a year ago with a simple RTR Lionchief Pennsylvania steamer. The second pic is after two expansions to a 7' X 7' Legacy based layout with a bridge over to a small three rail staging yard.

Next step will have to be through a wall !!




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IraqvetUSMC posted:

The more I am looking at 4X8 layouts I am beginning to see that a 4x8 layout really isn't that big and you cant really do a whole lot, good thing I have a 1,700sq ft basement to work with lol. But I figure I would start with a 4x8 and add and build larger off of that.


Seeing that you're still in the process of designing a layout, have you considered an around-the-walls setup? Much easier to reach everything and a great deal of running room without the degree of intrusion into room space that an island-type train table would impose.


Hello My friends, I  sure liked the video on building 4x8 layout that was cool and gives you a lot of ideas how to build your own for your trains. I love small layouts like that and build fast too very good my friend. Another thing I like about this layout it comes all apart for storage if need be to me that is great for a small layout. Thanks longbow57ca.

My layout is 7 x 9 and it is too small but houses in California do not have basement (in72 years in California I have never seen a California house with a basement!). So I am limited. The problem is the tight O-31 curves you need to use for O-gauge. While there are lots of cars and engines that run on O-31, there are still as many more that will only run on O-42, O-54, and some O-72. Then there is the problem that sometimes ones that are suppose to be O-31 compatible are not, for various reason. I just got a RailKing Camelback whose wheels were 1/16 inch too widely spaced. In every O-31 section the engine would try and walk up the flanges and then drop back making it bobble terribly. Some car's ends will clash while in those tight turns. And parallel tracks if too close will have train to train interferences. Big layouts are better! I can not imagine how limiting a 4 x 8 layout would be.

But here is a plan. Design a much bigger layout to fill your spaces and breakout a 4 x 8 section to build first with expansion in the plan. If you do it right you can add to it a section at a time. It can be simple at first and as you add to it it can be more complicated and more fun to use.

The other problem with small layouts is they get finished and then you have nothing to do but run trains. Building the layout is the fun for me so after the layout was done I started populating it with kit buildings and a little scenery. When I ran out of unused area I started building running stock kits. Even that is limited. A layout that is never finished gives long life to the hobby.


Rail- yes I have actually thought of using the walls to take up less room. My only issue is that the layout I want to make will be in an L shape to model it after my region so to say so I need to figure where I'm gonna set my layout in the basement. 

LD- Thats to bad there isn't much for basements in CA, they sure do give lots of extra space for man caves and train layouts. Basements are very common in the Midwest. I have decided to use O27 but I know just running the old 2029 Lionel I can see where pulling a long train around the curves it will derail sometimes  on my but right now I'm just messing around with the old train in my spare bedroom with carpet flooring. Hopefully I don't set the carpet on fire when it archs lol. I plan on making a 4x8 table to start and adding on to in time. 

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