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I am new at this model train hobby. I am wondering what is the best material ie timber board to buy to set up my HO model train set. What is the best or recommended size to start with especially if you want to allow for expansion later down the track.
 

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The best thing to do is pick up one of many magazines at the hobby shop, Modelrailroader has a book called Form set to Scenery, This is a great starter book as it covers everything relativly easy & fast.
Good luck
 

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Layout Board

tworail said:
1/2 plywood seems to be the happy medium, but I would look for the material called 'homasote' (made of recycled egg cartons) which is far superior, although it would probably need some framing work.

http://www.homasote.com/

Advice from a retiring woodworker: be cautious with homosote. It would be fine for gluing down stuff but it doesn't hold fasteners like screws and nails as well as plywood or wood.

Edward
 

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A think a beginner can't go wrong with a standard piece of 4 X 8 3/4 inch plywood with 4 X 8 piece of styrfoam on top. You can cut it smaller if you don't have space to begin with and you can expand it later on if desired. Also, start without grades to contend with; keep all your track mounted flat on the plywood. The first thing to learn is set-up and reliability of running your train, adding scenery, etc
 

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XavierJ123 said:
A think a beginner can't go wrong with a standard piece of 4 X 8 3/4 inch plywood with 4 X 8 piece of styrfoam on top.

Why the styrofoam?

Edward
 

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Yep, and you can plant trees real easy too. Just stick the trunk of the small HO tree into the styrofoam and "walla"! It's sure a lot easier than digging a hole in the wood and you don't even have to water the tree. You glue the styrofoam to the plywood with latex chalk, stack more pieces of it to make mountains with tunnels etc. Remember, the earth is not flat and neither is your back yard.
 

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Particle board???

I don't like particle board because it is too hard to cut/saw and hard to hammer a nail into----but to each is own. It dulls my table saw blade. You could always try it and see if you like it.
 

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In days gone by (I'm just thinking about returning to the hobby), some people used an interior grade door. With luck you could get the right size that has been damaged for a good price. Then glue the styrofoam or homosote or whatever on top to allow you to create some depth in your scenery.

Model Railroader has published some nice layout plans designed to fit on a door. (Note I just bought my first MR in 7 years or more.)

Steve
 

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I got a back issue of Atlas "HO layouts for every space" today. It has a section on turnout switching machines. The section mentions that the total height of the board _and_ roadbed has to be no more than one inch, because otherwise 'under the table' switching machine won't be able to reach the bar on the turnout, and won't be able to switch it.

Is this still true?

Thanks.
 

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I got a back issue of Atlas "HO layouts for every space" today. It has a section on turnout switching machines. The section mentions that the total height of the board _and_ roadbed has to be no more than one inch, because otherwise 'under the table' switching machine won't be able to reach the bar on the turnout, and won't be able to switch it.

Is this still true?

Thanks.
Yeah because the pin attached to the switch machine is only so high (1") so you can't exceed that otherwise it won't connect with the turnout.
 

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Poorly.

It's very heavy and does not absorb and vibration. It's also more difficult to work with, as it crumbles easier when using screws or cutting with a saw. It's also not readily available in anything other that sheets. If you want to set something up temporarily on it, go for it, but otherwise leave it for the IKEA furniture :p

My vote is to use 1/2 inch plywood with a roadbed of homasote or cork. Use a selection of 1x2, 1x4, 1x6 if you are building open girder benchwork.
 

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Orient Express

My current project is built on two closet doors. The hollow doors let me install the stair wells and freight elevators for the station platforms.



My Williamson W.Va. project was built on 1/2 plywood topped by homosote. I drew a 4" grid on the plywood and with a door-knob hole saw, cut circular holes.
This lightened the sections, considerably. After glueing on the homosote, I attached adjustable folding table legs to the underside.
I used a cone shaped router bit to cut the ditches along side all the track. (Be sure to do this outside, as a great deal of homosote dust is created).
 

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I just tore down my second (first major) layout after 6 years of use. I made the mistake of using a combination of Homosote, OSB and various pieces of plywood in a basement that was heated only when I was in the room. On top of that all of the wood in the table was scrap of varying types. In the summer the basement was humid even with a dehumidifyer running. In the winter the forced air dried it out. The end result was a constant fight with warping over time.

Now I am rebuilding the top out of plywood and all of the framing from 2x4s. It is over built but will not warp. Cross members were added also to prevent the sag.
 

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I highly recommend 1/2 inch plywood for the strength with not too much framing and then a layer of 3/4 inch blue or pink insulation board glued on top. I'm on my sixth layout and I find many advantages to NOT nailing. The foamboard is great for using simple, cheap glue like Elmer's to glue track. Nails through track is a difficult job to get done without damage to the track and removal is a nightmare. Using a water soluble glue will let you move track by simply flooding the track with water. When the glue comes loose, remove the track and wash it down. Use T-pins like sewing uses to hold the track in alignment while the glue sets. Works fine even for flex track. At some point in the future you may want to add contours to the surface. You can remove or add to the foam quite easily to form ditches, etc. Not possible without a lot of fight if you use wood as the top layer. It lets you lay the track and try it and then decide where you may want low spots and things like track drainage. Removing foam from under track is not too bad. Very difficult with wood.
 

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The MDF I have used would be terrible for a layout. Even a slight amount of moisture makes it bubble and swell. When adding foam for scenery, I use a lot of "wet-water" and this would be a real problem with my MDF.
 

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Funny, this thread woke up after almost exactly 5 years. :cool:

So let me get this straight:
Homosote CAN be used as a base INSTEAD of say, plywood?
Homosote MAY be used on top of a plywood base INSTEAD of pink or blue foam?
 
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