Track vs noise...again

I had a longer post leading up to this question, so just posting the question.   Can MTH track be effectively silenced on plywood installed over 1X4 grid work attached to  the walls?  Yes, I read quite a few posts, but most brag about how quiet you can make Atlas and Gargraves track.  Out of the question for me.

Original Post

I have found Homasote to work best. Lay that over the plywood. Does not matter what track. Noice will be cut down considerably.


Railway and Locomotive Historical Society

New York Central System Historical Society

NNY (No Name Yet) Railroad - Owner and Operator


Plastic roadbed track (any brand) is designed for soft surfaces like pile carpet, not traditional plywood or rigid foam underlayment.  Attaching the track with screws or other securement will exacerbate the issue.  I would pop over to your local carpet retailer and pick up some plush carpet remnants and cut them to the rough shape of the track, and nestle it into the hollow voids.  If that is not to your liking, I've also used 1/4"-1/2" EPDM sheet cut to be a roadbed.  It will not conduct noise due to the closed cell nature of the product.  You can find it at a HVAC distributor.  Finally, speed is a factor with this type of track. If you run scale speeds, you will be fine.  It increases in rail noise if running 125 smph like some postwar guys do.  

TCA# 15-70824

CALNNC posted:

I had a longer post leading up to this question, so just posting the question.   Can MTH track be effectively silenced on plywood installed over 1X4 grid work attached to  the walls?  Yes, I read quite a few posts, but most brag about how quiet you can make Atlas and Gargraves track.  Out of the question for me.

Get something rubber to put under the track. Then, don't run any lighted cars with pick-up rollers, mimimize the number of boxcars or other hollow freight cars or cabeeses.

I think you'll find the sound acceptable at that point, unless, you run the trains at ludicrous speed.


Arctic Railroad

Slight thread drift.

Just a note about padding under your track and surrounding areas.  I have found that Lionel post-war accessories seem to work best on a hard surface.  I'm speaking of the ones that use vibrator motors.  They also like to be fastened to the platform with screws.  So carpeting, used as a base for your layout may be an issue with these accessories.

Dan Padova


"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill


You also added an element I think many are overlooking as a sound source. A source that can effectively transmit vibration throughout a house worse than usual too; you are connecting to a wall. 

If it is on legs near the wall, you could sandwich foam or sound board bewtween layout & wall, & go to nylon screws with rubber backing to the wall since legs are supporting it up structurally you only need to keep it from shifting as you lean. There are also rubber expansion insert nuts ("well inserts") with metal threads that are excellent for isolation especially if used with a nylon machine screw,(and hold very well)

  Brick is no biggie, plaster somewhat better, but drywall can turn into a big percussion instrument if not isolated. Ask someone with a shelf layout

Felt, cork, rubber, homasote, caulk, carpet, etc under just your track helps with direct noise and transmitted noise & the "echo" off the bottom.

The  surface covering helps absorb sounds reflecting up.


"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Although my 5x8 layout has FasTrack just sitting on the surface, I learned the hard way about track noise with my first off-the-floor Christmas layout. I had screwed Gargraves track to the Luan board surface. What I got was rumbling thunder. Replacing the screws with plastic tie-downs solved the noise problem. 

Well, sounds like I have the perfect storm of noise generation.  The benchwork is attached to a wall that is paneling over studs, but at least there is both insulation board and fiberglass behind it.   I have tried plain styro insulation board under the MTH, then cork on top of the insul. board under the MTH, and none of it is as quiet as plain old Lionel 3 rail over cork on the plywood.  I also don't notice enough improvement with cork on the styrofoam with the tubular to custom cut a layout full of it.  The rubber back carpet idea is worth a try, have some scrap around here somewhere.   Of course I have only run a vintage loco back and forth over a 10 foot straight stretch for the testing. 


   The way I deaden my RealTrax and FasTrack sound completely when I want to, is to use Acoustic Ceiling Tile over the 3/4 plywood, then cover it with inside outside carpet.  This building technique deadens the sound so well that my wife ask me to remove some of it, so we could hear the Christmas Trains run again.  My wife likes to hear the trains a little at Christmas time. Got to admit I agree with her and the 2nd and 3rd level ovals, where the Lionel Hallmark Toy Maker Santa Train and the Conventional K-Line Coca Cola Santa Train are set up, eventually had the Tile and Carpet completely removed.  As was noted by another member the original solid rail RealTrax is much less noisy than the later hollow made RealTrax.  The Lionel FasTrack is noisy no matter what generation of FasTrack. However I may not use any sound suppression on my FasTrack Ceiling Christmas layout at all, it all depends on the actual sound level while the Trains are running.


In the photo you can see the Carpet over the Tile on the 1st level and the bare 3/4 Ply on the 2nd and 3rd levels.  Using this method you can create your own sound level as the trains run.


Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.


Photos (1)

While this method is probably too late for you since you have already laid the track here goes...

I covered the entire surface of my 14' X 14' layout with 2' X 2' square carpet tiles. They have a 1/4" thick rubber backing and require no adhesive. When laid out the seams are invisible. I chose a charcoal color tile. Any areas not covered by track, buildings and other scenic material seem to resemble either asphalt or gravel.

Hollytex Modular Upshot 24

My track is all Fastrack both S and O gauge. All the track is secured to the carpet tiles only. The proper length screw will penetrate the carpet surface and become secured in the rubber backing. There is no sound transmission to the table surface. All that is heard is the train wheels making the "clickedy-clack" sound on track joints just like the real trains.

It works for me. Perhaps you could set up a temporary loop of track on a table topped with the rubber backed carpet and see if it's acceptable to you.


I believe a once long time member here did some tests, and the most noise isn't from the track but from the layout top vibrating like a drum.  He found hanging heavy curtains on the edge of the layout not only hid everything under the layout, but also went a great ways to reducing the noise.

My layout is Atlas track on Midwest cork wood glued to felt 3M spray adhesived to Home Depot Quiet Brace liquid nailed to 1/2 plywood screwed to an overly build framework.  I use Atlas track screws to hold the track down, they do not go into the plywood.  The layout is attached to the wall on one of the short ends.  Is it as quiet as I want, nope.  But it is as quiet as I'm going to get it.  I've done what I can and I'm going to move forward and enjoy it as I build and run.  The return on investment to make it quieter is not worth it, so I won't worry about it anymore.  Good luck and have fun!

Foam is simple and easy, but I didn't get the result I expected. Nice?, Sure. And for more than just flat terrain, a godsend. I don't find the plastic roadbed tracks any quieter than tubular, the sounds are just at a different frequency (and I'm not fond of roadbed noise's higher pitch)

I never thought moving to a layout from carpet would be quite so loud. I had been around plenty of basement layouts before, but doing in a normal room the noise becomes more apparent. Sometimes perception is a bear.

The flat out quietest I ever heard was felt, carpet, homasote, caulk, and cork alone. In that order and finding big felt isn't easy anymore.. Added layers when soundproofing help a lot too. (hard/soft/hard/soft, etc.  hard blocks & air gaps absorbs)

Also, unless you plan on moving it, it is better to pin track from shifting than hold it down tight; Nylon hardware helps stop vibration trasfer too.

   For a cheap underside material, if you were inclined, old egg cartons stapled to the underside. I've used them for soundproofing low budget band studios a number of times; sometimes layered near a foot thick

When they get in the way of a rewire, etc. rip a few off, and go make an omelette after the fix


"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Joe Hohmann posted:

I had screwed Gargraves track to the Luan board surface. What I got was rumbling thunder. Replacing the screws with plastic tie-downs solved the noise problem. 

I failed to mention that the Gargraves track was on a cork roadbed. The sound was caused by the screws contact with the wood base, with the cork doing little or no good.

Mark's (BanjoFlyer) comments are bang on. Whatever you use for insulating material between the track and plywood, make sure the track fasteners only go into the insulating material. The insulating material has to have separate fastening to the layout top. Any fastener fixing the track right through the insulator to the layout top will bypass the soft stuff and transmit sound. All you have to do is find the best insulator and Mark seems to have done it. 



"Nice try, Lao Che!"


  If you decide to use the block rubber backed Carpet Tile, using the Acoustic Ceiling Tile under it will completely deaden the sound, make sure however you use the right size screws that attach the FasTrack or RealTrax just to the Block Ceiling Tile and Acoustical Tile and not the plywood base, if you want a real dead silent layout.  Myself I have done it both ways and because I like to hear my trains run, I used the longer screws that screw everything down on to the plywood.  Got to admit however, the silent layout with just the Clickety Clack from the Train Engine and rolling stock is way cool also.

Dave Z,

   Good point about the reject block floor tile being different thicknesses, I never thought of that aspect when trying to use it.  Great advise!


Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.

So, went sound proofing material shopping today from all the great suggestions here, found one thing nobody mentioned, wondered if there were any thoughts on it.  Talking about the multicolored, made up of pieces of foam rubber, under carper cushion.  One thing I noticed was that there was unevenness in any given area as to springiness, meaning there are harder spots in it.  It was true on each side, not wavy or thick and thin, just the amount of give varied.  With cork over it and regular tube rail, or MTH with plastic roadbed, looks like it might work, but does it have too much give and will cause the rail or roadbed to dip under a loco's weight?  Anybody try it?

Carpet foam comes in a wide variety of densities and quality. Something that soft can be covered with 1/4" plywood and still stop the sound from transferring into the base plywood. Without the 1/4" inch, heavy engines will flex the tracks up and down as they travel and stress the joints. 

Dave Z

I'd be a little leery of exposed carpet pad due to possible flammability issues. If you choose to cover the pad with paneling you just upped the $$ factor per square foot.

Check to see if there might be a carpet outlet store in your area that sells the carpet squares.

I used the 2' X 2' size that i found at a "close-out" store. They had lots of choices but not a lot of quantity in any one style. Luckily I found all I needed for my 14' X 14' layout in the color of my choice at around $1.00/sq. ft.

Your results may vary!


Personally, I'd be leery of the carpet foam underlayment as it has too much "give". Seems to me that, like insulation, the more you squish and flatten it out, the less effective it becomes as a sound deadener.

Mark - did you ever try to paint or apply glue and ground cover to the carpet pads ?


Richie C. posted:


Mark - did you ever try to paint or apply glue and ground cover to the carpet pads ?


Nope. But it would work. If I were to try it I would apply liquid hair spray (in a pump bottle) add colored ground foam, small gravel, ballast etc. and then top with additional hair spray.

Another method would be to cover the selected area with posterboard held down by the track roadbed and buildings and then scenic the area as desired. I would avoid liquid glue as a method (like diluted white glue) as it would probably want to spread throughout the carpet strands to areas you might not want it to go.

Spray paint would work well also. Believe me after 30 years as a painter I can attest to paints ability to stick to carpet. (Especially when you didn't want it to get there)!


I wouldn't use carpet padding (at least the stuff I have pulled out from under carpet I pulled up), it is too soft and I suspect it won't work well. I don't know if you are using MTH realtrax with the plastic base or the stuff without it (some seemed to assume the plastic base stuff). 

One thought I had might be the rubber tile you can use in exercise rooms and such, you can often buy individual tiles and it isn't that expensive, you could cut that to go under the roadbed. One of the big things (if you aren't doing this already, great) is that when putting the track down, don't use nails to hold it to the board, glue the sound deadening stuff down, then glue the track to it (if you think you may want to bring it up later, spray tack adhesive might work for the tile, the track you could use something like a rubber cement or the like). By using glue you are helping isolate the track from the board. 

If the board is mounted to the wall as others point out that is a source of noise as well. At this point there may be nothing you can do without taking it apart totally. If the board rests on shelf brackets (kind of like this

------------------------          <------ board>

                    --------|  <Wall>

bracket- - >          |


(not an artist) You could in theory put some kind of sound deadening material between the bracket/support and the board (the white space in the picture above), but a big thing would be not to screw the board to the support arm, but glue the sound deadening material to the support arm then the board glues onto that. This could isolate the board from the wall and help deaden the sound transmission through the wall.  


The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person
bigkid posted:

I don't know if you are using MTH realtrax with the plastic base or the stuff without it (some seemed to assume the plastic base stuff). 

That is a good point, though users don't generally ask questions regarding noise when talking about MTH ScaleTrax. He didn't actually specific MTH RealTrax and might not even know MTH sells 2 types of track.

Yes, it is MTH Realtrax, mainly because I have a lot of it collected over the years, mostly the solid rail.  I also have a pile of original and aftermarket Lionel track.  031 and larger radius turnouts, crossings, etc., and planning on using just about all of it, so that is why I am experimenting on the best way to quiet down the noise.  From the info gleaned here, not much hope, primarily since my benchwork is attached to a paneled wall in addition to vertical supports in the front.  The exercise room floor material was mentioned, I did see that, a nice roll of it for around 30 bucks.  I have not found the rubber backed carpet tiles at any of the bigbox home stores.  My experience with that was it was supplied by real carpet companies that specialized in office space, they had the good stuff with the heavy rubber backing.  Will just pick one and roll the dice, not looking for dead quiet, just a way to lower the din when 2 or more trains are running at the same time on what is apparently an amplified speaker for racket.

Cork roadbed over homasote and a thick curtain are the best remedies mentioned.  Don't screw the track down, but drill appropriate holes through the ties for brads to hold track to cork and homasote. This provides for temperature and moisture changes and lasts for years.

I used hardwood floor "underlayment" material. Works splendidly. Got it via Amazon but HomeDepot or Lowes would be sure to have it. Not very thick (maybe 1/4 inch?) but it really soaks up the sound. 


Dr. Joseph V Russo 

Re-entering the hobby after a 5 year stint down-under. 

On my last traditional Lionel layout, I used good old fashioned tubular track from Lionel and a green carpet underlayment.  That kept sound at a level that I could just tollerate without my ear muff hearing protection on.  The loud track noise is one reason I moved away from running my Lionel's outside of our layout under the tree each holiday season.  It never bothered me as a child, I was autistic then, but then my layouts were on the floor in my bedroom, which was carpet.  With the track on my carpet table, I used the locking tabs you used to be able to get to keep the track sections from seperating and didn't fasten it down at all.  With only running smaller traditional engines up to a Berkshire and F3's, the track stayed put and didn't creep around the table.  Noise abatement, in any scale(I have HO and G) is very importment for me.   When I run my G on my overhead loop, I put the plastic LGB wheels back in.  But for open houses behind my live steam locomotive, I put the metal ones back in.  That is how sensitive I am to sounds.           Mike the Aspie

Silly NT's...I have Asperger's Syndrome! 

I've gotten way more sensitive to sounds with age Mike, and the hearing isn't improving For me it's ambient or white noise; a constant din. You can bang on pan all day and I can block it out. But not a hissing ambiance, it beckons my attention and a need to stop it. 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


For me, all the background noise is overwhelming and for me is not an age related issue.  I have struggled with this since I was young.  All the sounds that would not bother someone who is neurotypical or NT.  In school, any sound, from the ticking of the clock, pencils on paper writing and such would be so overwhelming that I was unable to concentrate.  I wear a headset style set of ear muffs at work, and while not required for most of the factory where I work, without them I cannot cope with all the sounds I am exposed to for 10 hours a day.   If I leave the metal wheels in my LGB rolling stock and run them on my overhead loop, its like someone dragging fingernails down a chalkboard to my ears. Putting the plastic wheels back in, fixes that.  So Lionel on the carpet is fine, on a plywood table without any carpet or on fastrak is not tollerable for me unless I wear my headset hearing protection.      Mike the Aspie

Silly NT's...I have Asperger's Syndrome! 

Well, after trying several of the ideas submitted here, I finally went with a product call PolyPro EPS insulation board for my wall mounted framing.  It is 1/2 inch thick, has foil on one side and a clear membrane on the other.  The main difference compared to others is that it is not a dense foam, it has give to it, but not so much train weight will be an issue.  It seemed to me the other foam board products were too densely packed, and transmitted noise pretty well. This product is very close to the suggestion about hardwood floor underlayment, looks very similar but 2 to 3 times as thick.  With cork under Lionel 3 rail, it is really quiet, loco noise and metal wheels on metal rail is about all you hear.  The MTH Railking solid rail  track, not as quiet, but quieter than anything else.  With cork under MTH on this board, there is not a significant improvement.  The real benefit to me was it is inexpensive, around 9 bucks a 4X8 sheet.

Excellent solution. I shall borrow it. 

What I liked about the underlyament idea was the ease of installation and price. But your idea appeals more. 

Happy Holidays!



Dr. Joseph V Russo 

Re-entering the hobby after a 5 year stint down-under. 

  Last hearing test I took, I was good up to about 24khtz and detecting some beeps at 26k. That's why FT bothers me more, I hear more highs. Bass is tolerable, but actually confuses me at times. I can't hear deep voices well at all, which angers folks.. what!... what!  We are all different; I used to like noise. 

  Other than the govt testing me for genius for two weeks in third grade (119-124 average on multiple IQ versions... back then, lower now) I never had a clue or heard of Asperger's till a couple young, true genius relatives were diagnosed and family pointed to me too. I know I'm less sensitive than many, but still am...Oh, man those school clocks did suck! I paced myself while counting clicks to cope.

  My aspie charts look like a Mercury capsule tipped over; top to the left with communication running to the limit. Other than that I've always just reveled in being "a little different" my whole life. Love it or hate it, I make few apologies for it.

  Funniest thing (humor is my social search tool ), every adult aspie I know likes toy trains  

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


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