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What type of foam should be placed over plywood ? can foam be painted ? ,can foam hold track nails ? 1/2" or 3/4" what is better thickness for foam?

I am planning a 12 x 8 ft HO layout using Atlas tru track how many lock ons ? ,how many re railers
 

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What type of foam should be placed over plywood ? can foam be painted ? ,can foam hold track nails ? 1/2" or 3/4" what is better thickness for foam?

I am planning a 12 x 8 ft HO layout using Atlas tru track how many lock ons ? ,how many re railers
The forum members have many very valid opinions regarding the foam
topping for your bench work. I'm sure some will explain their thoughts here.
Your choice would depend on how you plan to operate your layout.

One good selection is the 1 or 2 inch thick foam. It lets you 'dig' into it
to create a river or or a pond. But it means you'll need longer throw
bars for your turnout motors.

Another choice is the very inexpensive paper covered foam poster
board from the craft section of Walmart or Michaels. It's only about 1/4" thick and
comes in black, white and other colors. Easily painted and takes landscaping well.

Many of us avoid using nails on a layout. We prefer gluing the foam
or cork roadbed and then glue the track to that. And be very sparing
with the glue, you will be making changes later. Just a dab here and
there will provide all the stability you'll need.

Don
 

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I used the extruded foam board from Lowes. Nice because its green to start with, so any scrapes or gouges later won't show so bad till patched. Google foam landscaping for ideas.

Stack layers for mountains, cut into it for ponds, rivers, etc. This the solid type foam not the beadboard type. screws or nails hold well in foam by putting alittle elmers glue on when fastening.

foam.jpg
 

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If you intend to use foam, it has to be the 'insulation foam board', or extruded foam...it looks sort of like sponge toffee, except blue, green, or pink maybe. Stay away from the beaded Styrofoam UNLESS it is for filler, such as below window screen or cardboard lattice to make a mountain. Carving and shaping the beaded stuff just sucks.....hugely. If there's simply nothing else, then do what you can, but you want the extruded stuff, not the cheap beach day cooler stuff that's almost always white...and beaded.

You can use a carpet cutter or utility knife to score the lengths you want, and then literally snap them off over the edge of a bench or countertop. Do place the score very close to the corner edge, though.

People's methods vary, but I got to using LePage's PL-300 adhesive. It is foam-friendly, and although it usually takes some time to dry, typically several days, it does an excellent job. Tough to take up, though, if you make a mistake, so only apply it and stack layers once you have it truly figured out.

Extruded foam takes paint well. It should be close to flat, though, or level, so that the paint won't run. It's essentially a water-proof surface, or has very poor permeability, so the paint has to dry over time, and you don't want it pooling or running before it does dry where you need it to be.

I don't know what a 'lock on' is, but re-railers are, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. I might consider one in a length of hidden tracks where it would be a pain to have to retrieve a derailed (and also uncoupled) item, but you can usually drag derailed cars out of the hidden tracks. Usually....tunnel portals will snag them at times.

Out in the open, you don't need re-railers. It wouldn't hurt to have one, but...dunno...not my cuppa to have one in view.
 

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In my opinion, the only reason to use foam is if you intend to "dig down" into it or to use it to build up grades, hills, or mountains. In flat areas of your layout, there's no need to use foam. Plywood will work just as well, if not better. I prefer to use foam for structural support, so I've used it to build up mountains as well as form canyon walls and river banks. I like to put a layer of dry wall compound over the top of the foam to smooth it out or add detail. I like using castings to make rocks, rather than expose the foam directly, but some people have had success making the raw foam surface look like rocks. For good ideas, look though a number of the threads under "My Layout" to see what others have done on their layouts.
 

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What type of foam should be placed over plywood ? can foam be painted ? ,can foam hold track nails ? 1/2" or 3/4" what is better thickness for foam?

I am planning a 12 x 8 ft HO layout using Atlas tru track how many lock ons ? ,how many re railers
In order: extruded foam insulation panels.
Yes, it can be painted, and despite mesenteria's warning, I paint it with interior latex ain't, and it's no different than other things you would paint with that kind of paint. No leveling or other special techniques required.
Foam doesn't hold track nails especially well. I'd use latex caulk. But if you're using TruTrack, you don't even need that. Just put little dab of hot melt glue every 2-3 feet and in the V of each turnout's roadbed, and it will hold just fine. Lift the roadbed slightly, squeeze a small blob under the edge, and put it back down. This will hold the roadbed securely. The roadbed holds the track in place.
Thickness of foam is whatever you need it to be. There is no "one best thickness". If you don't plan on any terrain relief below track level, then just leave it off and go with the plywood base. Otherwise, select a thickness that allows you to cut down far enough to make your desired terrain. More than about 2-1/2" will make it tricky to use under-table mounted switch machines (but not impossible, so ask if that's where you're going with it).
 

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I’ve used all foams, including the white beaded type. I have no difficulties cutting the white styrofoam, as I used the woodlands scenics hot wire knife. I finish my scenery to its desired shape, and using only caulking at the edges. I don’t need to use plaster. The pink board is better, but more expensive. I use tan coloured latex paint, and works good.
E0D7FA26-050E-4031-AF58-AC07D9E5A70D.jpeg
7C532BB7-B4F7-430A-9D8C-7A6196E59E28.jpeg
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If you intend to use foam, it has to be the 'insulation foam board', or extruded foam...it looks sort of like sponge toffee, except blue, green, or pink maybe. Stay away from the beaded Styrofoam UNLESS it is for filler, such as below window screen or cardboard lattice to make a mountain. Carving and shaping the beaded stuff just sucks.....hugely. If there's simply nothing else, then do what you can, but you want the extruded stuff, not the cheap beach day cooler stuff that's almost always white...and beaded.

You can use a carpet cutter or utility knife to score the lengths you want, and then literally snap them off over the edge of a bench or countertop. Do place the score very close to the corner edge, though.

People's methods vary, but I got to using LePage's PL-300 adhesive. It is foam-friendly, and although it usually takes some time to dry, typically several days, it does an excellent job. Tough to take up, though, if you make a mistake, so only apply it and stack layers once you have it truly figured out.

Extruded foam takes paint well. It should be close to flat, though, or level, so that the paint won't run. It's essentially a water-proof surface, or has very poor permeability, so the paint has to dry over time, and you don't want it pooling or running before it does dry where you need it to be.

I don't know what a 'lock on' is, but re-railers are, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. I might consider one in a length of hidden tracks where it would be a pain to have to retrieve a derailed (and also uncoupled) item, but you can usually drag derailed cars out of the hidden tracks. Usually....tunnel portals will snag them at times.

Out in the open, you don't need re-railers. It wouldn't hurt to have one, but...dunno...not my cuppa to have one in view.
how many terminal tracks do I need for a 12 x 8 layout, will be running one engine at a time
 

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The general recommendation for track power is a 'drop' (terminal) every 6 feet
0r so. That 'rule' applies regardless of the overall size of your layout. That will
provide a smooth electrical flow.

Don
 

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I have used the rule of every section between switches or each siding has a power lead. The reason for this is that I solder each joint except if switches reducing power drop over distance. And on my 5x9 the sections between switches is not that great. All leads are placed near the middle of each section. Siding have their leads where they can best be hidden.
 

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In order: extruded foam insulation panels.
Yes, it can be painted, and despite mesenteria's warning, I paint it with interior latex ain't, and it's no different than other things you would paint with that kind of paint. No leveling or other special techniques required.
Foam doesn't hold track nails especially well. I'd use latex caulk. But if you're using TruTrack, you don't even need that. Just put little dab of hot melt glue every 2-3 feet and in the V of each turnout's roadbed, and it will hold just fine. Lift the roadbed slightly, squeeze a small blob under the edge, and put it back down. This will hold the roadbed securely. The roadbed holds the track in place.
Thickness of foam is whatever you need it to be. There is no "one best thickness". If you don't plan on any terrain relief below track level, then just leave it off and go with the plywood base. Otherwise, select a thickness that allows you to cut down far enough to make your desired terrain. More than about 2-1/2" will make it tricky to use under-table mounted switch machines (but not impossible, so ask if that's where you're going with it).
I got two sheets of 1" extruded foam panels, Johns Manville. My table is now 4' x 16'. They have a foil sheet side. I want to paint that but wonder if it will accept the paint. The plain sides have minor indentations on the surface so didn't think that would be good. I have Duramax exterior green paint that I'd like to use. It's not oil-based so shouldn't affect the foam. Go or no go on this?
 

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Latex paint will just lay on the foil with minimal adhesion. If it's not going to be moved I'd say it's a 'go'.
 

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I used 1” extruded polystyrene foam board for my layout. I went with the 1” to keep cost down but it has substantially quieted down my locomotives and rolling stock. I use big steam on my layout so I pull heavy 50+ car trains so they can get loud and it helps cut down the “drumming” effect. I’m also using all manual turnouts so I don’t have to worry about throw bars on switch machines. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it but if you plan on ever moving the layout I would build it as light as possible.
 

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Well, the stuff you really want to use does not have any coverings on either side. Your best bet is to return it and see if you can find the other stuff. If not, see if you can peel the covering off. Don't bother trying to paint it; it will be a disaster.

The small indentations, as well as the joints between panels, are easily concealed by a thin layer of Sculptamold or drywall mud. Those products also disguise the dead-flat look of the foam boards?
 

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Well, the stuff you really want to use does not have any coverings on either side. Your best bet is to return it and see if you can find the other stuff. If not, see if you can peel the covering off. Don't bother trying to paint it; it will be a disaster.

The small indentations, as well as the joints between panels, are easily concealed by a thin layer of Sculptamold or drywall mud. Those products also disguise the dead-flat look of the foam boards?
I tried peeling the foil off and it doesn't like that. I stopped. So, not taking them back for a refund.

What I did wonder, though, why wouldn't/couldn't I glue down grass or turf mats? Would give a nice green grass cover and possibly deaden running sound.
 

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It’s going to be tough to glue to it. What I would do is go get acrylic spray paint and use that. I used it to spray my rails and ties and it didn’t hurt my foam. I would imagine that it wouldn’t hurt aluminum coated foam. And if it doesn’t hurt it maybe use it to spray a coat over the aluminum and get an earth tone somewhat close to the color of the ground in the area you’re modeling. Once you do that then you may get lucky and be good to go. The big thing is ventilation. If you can’t open windows or doors without stinking out the whole house I wouldn’t do it. You could also get an interior house paint and maybe roll it on or brush it on thick?
 

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It’s going to be tough to glue to it. What I would do is go get acrylic spray paint and use that. I used it to spray my rails and ties and it didn’t hurt my foam. I would imagine that it wouldn’t hurt aluminum coated foam. And if it doesn’t hurt it maybe use it to spray a coat over the aluminum and get an earth tone somewhat close to the color of the ground in the area you’re modeling. Once you do that then you may get lucky and be good to go. The big thing is ventilation. If you can’t open windows or doors without stinking out the whole house I wouldn’t do it. You could also get an interior house paint and maybe roll it on or brush it on thick?
Well, at this point I think I'll save the two sheets for scenery building and buy two Owens Corning Foamular rigid foam boards. Re the mats, Woodland sells mat adhesive for them. Thanks for the info, though.
 

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Mark V (above) is right that you don't have to use foam if you don't care about, say, drainage ditches alongside tracks. Digging them into ply is extremely hard to accomplish..Though I'm not as yet a 'foam-er' myself (hee hee), it sure makes putting tree trunks, line poles, fences, wires, other vertical objects into it, a cinch... With ply you have to drill holes for this stuff...
But, opposite foam, ply does allow nails to hold down track..Spikes work too but many times they bend due to striking a layer of hardened glue within the ply layers..
One thing mentioned less and less today due to foam's popularity is the old method of making hills, mountains, and tunnels using wire screening and/or woven cardboard strips draped/stapled onto vertical wood blocks of varying lengths to cause rock-like formations in the screen..Then, on top of this, paper mache' and/or wet plaster is poured, allowed to dry, then carved, colored, scenic-ed...There does seem to be a consensus that foam makes a greater mess than the old way due to foam flying everywhere when it's being cut/carved... With plaster the only thing you need to do is cover existing track with masking tape when plastering near/over it. Once plaster dust gets in rails it's a nightmare to remove and migrates onto car wheels to boot...
Check out the myriad of how-tos in here, in books, and on YouTube concerning these scenic-ing methods..
Also, If your layout is going to be against a wall consider creating whatever sky color, clouds, distant hills you may picture in your mind and do that first..You'll be glad later that you did...
One final note: If Tru-track is code 100, I'd avoid it and go code 83, Atlas CustomLine..🛤🌄🌵
 

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Well, at this point I think I'll save the two sheets for scenery building and buy two Owens Corning Foamular rigid foam boards. Re the mats, Woodland sells mat adhesive for them. Thanks for the info, though.
That's wise. The benefits of foam include ease of cutting trenches and such and that it takes glue and paint easily. All of those are lost if you have a flimsy metal layer laminated over the top.
 
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