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Old 10-21-2019, 03:55 PM   #1
bryher
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Advice on Christmas Tree Layout - Year 2

Hi all,
I'm back! Last year I got back into this hobby for the first time since I was a kid. I found this forum and learned so much and had a ton of fun. For reference, here the thread showing beginning to end progress on my unique Christmas Tree Layout: https://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=173366

So I'm back to take lessons learned from last year into this year's design. And of course need some guidance.

Top lessons learned:

1) I underestimated the importance of keeping things level and straight. Believe me I thought I had it down but in the end I had a ton of uncoupling, both with horn hook trains and those with knuckle couplers.

2) I made it too complex. I didnt need a 2nd line running with all those switches. The way my layout is oriented it could enjoy the 2nd line.

3) While the layout will run on the floor I need to construct it first on a platform. It was a major PIA biulding this on my basement floor first. On the ground it tough on knees and back.

So going into this year my changes are:

1) I need a better substrate, or whatever I'm going to mount the layout on. Last year I used sheets of OSB plywood, to save $$$. they just werent level enough or sturdy enough to keep from uncoupling. This year I'm looking at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Either 1" thick MDF. Heavy but level and sturdy. Or 1" foam board mounted on something thin. This is the area I need the most help with.

2) Layout will be two separate ovals, run with two separate powerbacks. Will keep things simpler and both boys can have their own loop. Trust me I think this will be better.

3) Whatever I decide for my mounting surface I'm going to construct a temporary platform in the basement while I build it all.


Anyway I really need help on what to mount the tracks on initially. MDF, Foamboard, what else?
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Old 10-21-2019, 04:43 PM   #2
bryher
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EDIT: doing some reading and already learning MDF is not ideal. So then it'll be between nice sturdy 3/4" or 1" plywood or foam.
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Old 10-21-2019, 05:48 PM   #3
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If you plan on using foamboard, mainly for quieting, over a substrate, then 3/4" plywood would be strong enough, and cheaper than 1", of which I haven't seen. Why are you going to just build it, for the floor?? Don't you have a possibility of making a standard layout, above the floor? Just curious about the floor layout.
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Old 10-21-2019, 06:35 PM   #4
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I would use 1" foam laminated to 1/4" plywood. Of course, you will probably then need even bigger risers for the train to clear the bottom of your sofa. Or are you doing away with that part?
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:10 AM   #5
bryher
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Originally Posted by CTValleyRR View Post
I would use 1" foam laminated to 1/4" plywood. Of course, you will probably then need even bigger risers for the train to clear the bottom of your sofa. Or are you doing away with that part?
Oh yea def keeping the sofa part :-) more on the below with teledoc. But I like your idea: 1"foam on 1/4 ply? sturdy ply not OSB. You think it would keep it level and sturdy? And lightweight. I may have to make sure I have room.Using numbers from last year I think I'd be looking at:

- plywood base: 0.25"
- Foam bed: 1"
- track height: ~0.25"
- cork roadbed: ~0.5"
- train height: ~2.5" (I run a Superliner set)

= 4.5"

Total clearance between carpet and sofa is 3.5. So would either just put on 1" risers or 0.5" risers and remove the cork bed. I'm thinking the latter. Wife will hate risers of course so the smaller the better.



Quote:
Originally Posted by teledoc View Post
If you plan on using foamboard, mainly for quieting, over a substrate, then 3/4" plywood would be strong enough, and cheaper than 1", of which I haven't seen. Why are you going to just build it, for the floor?? Don't you have a possibility of making a standard layout, above the floor? Just curious about the floor layout.
So yes, long story :-) but this is the layout I'm going with. did it last year and it worked out great! Based on all of the constraints I'm working with, and the vision me and my boys have, this is the perfect layout. Like I said I'm gonna simplify the track design a bit. Less switches and lines. Basically one small oval under the tree by itself, isolated and not connected to the larger one at all. Then a large oval outside of that, under the sofa and back. If I can fit it. Two isloated loops each with their own power sources so each boy can control one without any other switching.

You can see some pictures in last year's thread showing how I laid the modules out on the carpet.

https://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=173366

And then some videos of it all in action on Christmas Day (of course we set this up Thanksgiving weekend so we have plenty of playing time).




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Old 10-22-2019, 06:35 PM   #6
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Sturdy? Definitely. Smooth (yes, I chose that word specifically)? Definitely. If you place the foam with the printed side down, it will be a very smooth surface on which to build. Any high spots are easily sanded off. Level... eh, maybe not. A lot of that will depend on your floor and your carpeting. This construction will be rigid enough that you can shim up any low spots.

Use a good grade of plywood, let it acclimatize to the room for a few days, and paint the side that's not glued to the foam. This will minimize the possibility of moisture warping it.

I'd keep the roadbed. It helps to smooth out minor irregularities in the subroadbed (foam).
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:41 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by CTValleyRR View Post
Sturdy? Definitely. Smooth (yes, I chose that word specifically)? Definitely. If you place the foam with the printed side down, it will be a very smooth surface on which to build. Any high spots are easily sanded off. Level... eh, maybe not. A lot of that will depend on your floor and your carpeting. This construction will be rigid enough that you can shim up any low spots.

Use a good grade of plywood, let it acclimatize to the room for a few days, and paint the side that's not glued to the foam. This will minimize the possibility of moisture warping it.

I'd keep the roadbed. It helps to smooth out minor irregularities in the subroadbed (foam).

Ok good stuff. Ill make that my plan then.

So should've clarified. Lst year my problem was reall uneven height of track sections. The train would simply decouple (knuckles) bc one car would be slightly higher than another either between sections or the same flex track section. It was so minimal but enough to cause it to decouple. That's what I'm trying to fix with a better underlayment.

With that said I believe the other cause of the unevenness was how I secured the track. I nailed the track through the cork roadbed and into the OSB. Wasn't hard but I think it pulled/pushed sections up/down. I did that bc I wanted to be able to easily remove and change the layout.

This year now that I'm confident the idea works I will probably glue the track to the roadbed. I expect that to help with level tracks.

I'm also going to do a better job securing the sections together so the train crosses level between sections.

Ok I'm getting there! 2.0 is gonna be so much better!!!
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Old 10-23-2019, 09:24 AM   #8
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Well there ya go. Another victim of the go cheap engineering.
Gonna do it again with another not so common approach. You'll be back with another list of things that didn't work out.
An unreinforced sheet of plywood will warp EVERY TIME. Doesn't matter if ya cover it with foam board or paint it. Where in the professional construction world do ya ever see a 4x8 sheet of plywood without at least 2x4 support that doesn't warp?
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Old 10-23-2019, 10:30 AM   #9
bryher
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Well there ya go. Another victim of the go cheap engineering.
Gonna do it again with another not so common approach. You'll be back with another list of things that didn't work out.
An unreinforced sheet of plywood will warp EVERY TIME. Doesn't matter if ya cover it with foam board or paint it. Where in the professional construction world do ya ever see a 4x8 sheet of plywood without at least 2x4 support that doesn't warp?
Well, you're right b/c I'm not a professional and why I'm here, asking questions, trying to learn. But hey thanks for the encouragement Ken!
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Old 10-24-2019, 11:32 AM   #10
bryher
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So based on Ken's feedback I'm now thinking I should reinforce the 1/4" plywood with straight and sturdy 2x4s. I have an actual lumber store near me that would probably give me better 2x4s than Lowes and Home Depot. This approach would then eliminate room for a 1" foam board. But sounds like it would give me more "level-ness". Here's a drawing of the 5 pieces that make up my layout and how I would attach under bracing.
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