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Discussion Starter #1
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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Discussion Starter #2
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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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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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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Discussion Starter #5
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.



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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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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Discussion Starter #7
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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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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Discussion Starter #9
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! :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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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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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.




Layout 2019 https://imgur.com/gallery/q6xfBcY
 

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I'm not a professional carpenter, but I've built my share of layouts using plywood laminated to foam. The only support is right at the edges. There is no warping that I can detect. Even my kids LEGO table, which is raw wood with no foam, isn't warped. In all cases, the plywood is only held in place by gravity. No fasteners were used.

I'd make the opposite argument: you can way over-engineer this thing, complicating the installation under the furniture and making it extremely heavy and unmanageable. Besides, your plywood will have support under every square inch: the floor. If you're going to omit something, omit the plywood, not the foam.

In any event, the issue you had last year sounds like a problem related to OSB, and that is that the surface is lumpy, so it's hard to align track joints.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Ok. now you've got me back to the ply with foam board idea. really good points. ok great. thanks for your help!
 

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It depends on your approach to risk. Some people are very risk-intolerant, mapeaning that they are not willing to take a chance that anything could go wrong. Me, I try to find a balance between sensible levels of risk, cost, and convenience.

I can't guarantee that you won't have trouble with warping, but I'd say the odds are highly in your favor, based on my own experience.
 

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OK, so ya want to try the foam board.
Are you going to try to hand carve grades into the foam?
Will your nails hold the track down? Are you going to apply paint to the foam board?
If the plywood base is laying flat on the floor, how will you run any wiring?
As for running part of the layout under the couch, you might consider putting the couch up on blocks to clear the trains.
 

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OK, so ya want to try the foam board.
Are you going to try to hand carve grades into the foam?
Will your nails hold the track down? Are you going to apply paint to the foam board?
If the plywood base is laying flat on the floor, how will you run any wiring?
As for running part of the layout under the couch, you might consider putting the couch up on blocks to clear the trains.
Go back and read last year's thread. He's covered all this already, and he's not trying to reinvent the wheel, just correct some issues that didn't work so well the last time (he used OSB, which most of us would advise against).

Nails aren't the only way to hold track down. But yes, it's fairly commonly known that nails don't work that well with foam (although they probably would hold a temporary layout through the holiday season)

You seem to be very anti-foam, for whatever reason, despite the fact that thousands of modelers successfully use it every day.

Setting up a layout involves some degree of creative problem solving. But there is never only one right way to do things.
 

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OK, so ya want to try the foam board.
Are you going to try to hand carve grades into the foam?
Will your nails hold the track down? Are you going to apply paint to the foam board?
If the plywood base is laying flat on the floor, how will you run any wiring?
As for running part of the layout under the couch, you might consider putting the couch up on blocks to clear the trains.
There will be no grades so nothing to hand carve.
I will not be using nails this year. Learned my lesson.
I will use adhesive to secure the track and roadbed to the foam.
I may paint the foam or use a scenery cover over the top.
I may need to raise the sofa a bit. Last year I didn't have to but with this new approach I may


Go back and read last year's thread. He's covered all this already, and he's not trying to reinvent the wheel, just correct some issues that didn't work so well the last time (he used OSB, which most of us would advise against).

Nails aren't the only way to hold track down. But yes, it's fairly commonly known that nails don't work that well with foam (although they probably would hold a temporary layout through the holiday season)

You seem to be very anti-foam, for whatever reason, despite the fact that thousands of modelers successfully use it every day.

Setting up a layout involves some degree of creative problem solving. But there is never only one right way to do things.
Thank CTValleyRR. That's exactly what I'm trying to do. All part of the fun IMO. The planning is the best part. Well the building is.
 

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I wish I'd have weighed in sooner. I'm thinking the 1/4" idea is best. And you don't need 2X4s to brace it. 1X is plenty to flatten it out, and say 1X2 would keep the height down for the sofa part. And the whole thing is light to haul it in for Christmas, and then back to storage.
 

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Thanks all. Done some more thinking on this. Planning to start building this weekend.

I wish I'd have weighed in sooner. I'm thinking the 1/4" idea is best. And you don't need 2X4s to brace it. 1X is plenty to flatten it out, and say 1X2 would keep the height down for the sofa part. And the whole thing is light to haul it in for Christmas, and then back to storage.
So just frame 1x2s flat on top of the outer edges of the 1/4" plywood to keep it straight?


LOL. I first saw this on my phone and had no idea what you were talking about. ok good advice!


So I went to Home Depot yesterday and scoped out the 1/4" plywood sheets. To be honest they didnt look any better/sturdy/level than my current 1/2" OSB sheets.

So...now I'm thinking will having something under the Foam Board even help? Since this is on a carpet floor would I be better of just going with Foam right on top of the carpet? What will the ply do?
 
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