Building without foam

oa5599 Mar 1, 2021

  1. oa5599

    oa5599 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi all!
    Started working on a new layout recently and at a stage where most benchwork is done. I've worked with a layer of foam in the past but debating using it. I'm not worried about sound or cushioning. This is a question for those who have chosen to start building right on the wood. Obviously building up with terrain is no issue, however has anyone handled gorges/water features etc without foam? I assume the easiest answer for this would be graded rails. Are there any disadvantages in not using foam if I plan on having no water features?
    Thanks!

    Sent from my SM-N976V using Tapatalk
     
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  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    We did plenty of excellent scenic work in the days before foam. With or without water features, you won't have any troubles.
     
  3. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    THERR is built right on 1/2" plywood. No foam. I dont have any 'water features'. I am very pleased with the results. (y)
     
  4. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The advantage to foam is the ability to stack it and carve terrain plus light weight. Makes planting trees easier plus anchoring other items. Lot lighter than paper mache or plaster cloth and plaster. And plain old Elmers white glue will hold the foam. And with the many types of hot knives out there very easy to carve without any foam beads and dust. And even a desert is not flat.
     
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  5. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I have built with foam, and without. I prefer the foam for everything except nailing down the track. That being said... water features or other sub terrain, without foam need to be planned in advance as you will be needing to cut into the wood to get the desired depression to form your feature. This can be done with a router (for shallow depressions) or a jig saw for larger features. If you go the jig saw route then you can use the wood you cut out as the base, just making it lower. All and all pretty simple, and it's been done for far longer than the foam landscapes have.
     
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  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I suppose a lot of it depends on how you think of making a complex three dimensional shape. Are you an additive person, e.g. sculpting in clay, or are you a subtractive person, like carving wood?

    When you think of terrain, do you think how you would build it up, or how you would carve it down? Or a combination of both?

    I like to think of natural terrain by considering how water, propelled by gravity, would have eroded it, which is a subtractive process. But volcanoes and other geologic actions (e.g. up-thrusts), are additive. Most of what we see in nature is eroded, even if after it was thrusted up. In other words: added and then subtracted!

    However, most all of the natural terrain representable in the scale space of a layout is eroded. Geologic forces work on much larger scales, which are beyond the reach of most layouts.

    Man made terrain (roads, grades, etc.) is merely a means of economically modifying existing, largely eroded terrain to meet man's needs. All railroads would be flat, straight lines (on a large scale) from point to point if not for terrain. So we should consider why a curve runs that way, and what terrain would have been there to force man's hand away from that straight, flat line. We may need that curve because of limitations of our space (the edge of our modelled world), but that doesn't mean we can't think about and provide the natural terrain that would have dictated that curve even had there not been an artificial limitation of our modelling space.
     
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  7. oa5599

    oa5599 TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. As I've done multiple layouts with foam, and I don't plan on any water features (at least at this stage) I'll try going with just wood for now. Something different, and I feel I'll do a lot more adding rather than subtracting. If anything it'll be maybe one small arroyo which probably wouldn't even have any water in it anyways. I can always add up with smaller cut foam for mountains. When it comes to the world not being flat I've always just added some plaster mounds here and there.
     
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  8. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    My first layout (Treble-O-Lectric from Montgomery Ward) was bead board styrofoam and I have used Homasote and plywood, too. One thing about plywood, once the track is nailed down, it ain't never gonna move and you won't see me gluing track down. Ballast yes but not track itself.

    My current layout is track right on plywood. No "roadbed".

    Doug.
     
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  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I had one of those molded styrofoam layout bases. A good starter for beginners.
     
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  10. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    I've built without foam before...a LONG time ago. Adding anything below the tracks was difficult. I added a creek and a road underpass and while it just took a bunch of gouging (for the creek) and cutting (for the underpass) it was doable. Bigger question is why build without foam? The rigidity of the foam I now use as part of the structure (using thinner and less wood and gluing the foam to that for greater strength and lighter weight) and for sound deadening (trains on a plywood box seems to amplify the noise of the trains IMHO). Sure, you can do it, but it's not any harder to use it (in fact, easier IMHO) and if things change in the future, it's already there.

    I could also build a large layout using DC instead of DCC (all I would need is a ton of extra wire, switches, relays and time), but why would I?
     
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  11. oa5599

    oa5599 TrainBoard Member

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    Well I broke down and just got back with some pink foam... Thanks everyone, I guess I'll stick to tried and true (for me).
     
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  12. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Pink Panther Strikes Again!
     
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  13. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    da-dunt, da-dunt, da-dunt-da-dunt-da-dunt-da-dunt-da-daaaaaaaaaaaaa

    ok enough of my trying to sing the Pink Panther song...
     
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  14. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    <tip toeing> Ohhh Kato. Where are you Kato?????

    See, they even refer to MRR in the movie. :ROFLMAO:
     
  15. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I've been doing this model railroad thing for a while now. Actually its been fifty years with over twenty of those years in Ntrak. So I have seen a thing or two in that time. So let's get to it. I am not a fan of Kato Unitrack or any of the other such products other than on a temporary layout. In my opinion they are just fancy sectional track with all the limitations of such. I prefer Peco C55 flex track with Peco C55 switches mounted on cork roadbed with 1/4 inch plywood for a sub roadbed. The sub roadbed is supported by one inch wide splines of 1/8 inch thick hardboard (Masonite). The effect of the splines is to form a girder bridge the entire length of the module providing support every inch of the way. I prefer modular construction that can be assembled and taken apart similar to Ntrak rather than the 'permanent' style of layout. Because no layout is ever truly permanent. Module frames are premium wood (no knots) with an optimal size of 2'X6'. I don't prefer putting track on foam no matter if it is supported by plywood. Foam is fine for scenic areas but acts as a sounding board when used as a roadbed for track. Foam is also more susceptible to damage especially if a module is to be moved form one location to another and foam if not supported, will sag because gravity is forever relentless. Just my opinion and yours might differ.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
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  16. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I think differing opinions are part of what make this hobby interesting. We can learn more from others when they do it differently than we have.

    There's a lot to be said for the craftsmanship that goes into spline construction, plywood sub-roadbed and cork road bed, and I can appreciate that. And I can see how it likely would not mix well with foam board.

    And building a larger layout in modules, whether subscribed to a modular standard or not, is smart. As a real estate agent once told me: "Think exit when entering."

    But count me in the "Unitrack over foam board on a HCD" camp.

    And I guess a foam board becoming a "sound board" must be relative, when compared to a HCD. ;)
     
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