Can someone recommend some good adhesives for putting flex track down on non-nailable surfaces (like styrofoam)? Also what's your preference when the roadbed is something like plywood or particle board? Glue or nails? I use the micro engineering spike and they're difficult to drive into plywood (and even more difficult to drive into particle board) without using pilot holes. Which do you find more convenient - drilling/nailing or gluing?
Do not use plywood as the ballast strip (roadbed). Do not fasten track directly to the surface of the train table - for one thing, real track is built on a layer of ballast about 12" to 18" deep, and the roadbed has ditches on each side. For another,, you will likely get an unpleasant amplification of unrailroady noises such as motor whine or gear grind. Use cork (many brands) or foam-rubber (Woodland scenics).
The best method is a sandwich of subroadbed + roadbed (ballast strip) + track. The integrity of the track depends on the subroadbed, so make sure it's firm, smooth at all joints, level crosswise, without dips or twists, and with no sudden transitions from levels to grade and back again. It really pays off to take care with this - and don't ask how I know. :-)
Subroadbed: 1/2" ply or nominal 1" lumber. You can go with 3/8" and even
1/4' ply _if_ you use more supports. Roadbed (ballast strip): cork, foam-rubber, wood-fibre or pressed=paper board (Homasote (tm)), foam board (av. at art supply stores), wood-fibre ceiling tile (_not_ the mineral fibre type) Track: flex, sectional track, hand-laid.
Several manufacturers offer sectional track with a plastic roadbed or base; you may want a strip of foam under it to reduce that hollow sound.
In tight clearance situations, where one track crosses over another, you may have to go with 1/4" ply subroadbed for a short distance, or use a through bridge.
Drive track nails (in the centre of the track) so that they are just loose enough to allow the track to float a bit. Their purpose is to prevent the rack from shifting out of alignment. You can drill holes for them wherever you want. If they are long enough to reach into the subroadbed, a pilot hole will usually be necessary. Use spikes (at the base of the rail) to hold rail in alignment near plastic rail joiners etc.
BTW, Model Railroader has just released a special issue called Model Trains. It covers all the basics clearly, completely, and with enough pictures so that you know what they mean. Comes with a how-to DVD, too. It answers questions you don't yet know you need to ask - always a good thing for a basics book. :-)
Actually, I do use cork for roadbed on the mains (where I use plywood --
3/4", particle board, or splines for the subroadbed). The "direct to plywood" arrangement I'm talking about was for a large classification yard which is below the raised roadbed (by the height of the cork).
From your response I take it you prefer drilling/nailing to gluing. That was my gut feeling as well but I wanted to hear other perspectives. I'm surprised to hear you mentioned drilling the center of the track. I would have expected the most interest in driving close to the rails to be less conspicuous (although it hardly matters as my eyes get older :-) That's what I did with previous layouts where I used homasote as the sub and it was very easy to push in spikes. (This time around, I started out by handlaying and using epoxy to affix the rails to the ties...so, up until now, I haven't had to worry about the spikability of the roadbed. But, I'm getting tired of that and think I'm about to switch to flex track again).
Wolf Kirchmeir wrote in news:lktpd.66349$ email@example.com:
I use something called BondCrete - similar to Elmers white glue, but has a few extra bits in it. It is not intended for this use, but it holds it in any situation I am likely to encounter, plus - and this is a biggie - if I need to change it, it just rips up if I apply sufficient force so the track/foam can be used again. Using the above principle - it doesn't have to be a permanent unbreakable bond, just hold everything together for our needs - perhaps Elmers may be the go?
I have used Tacky Glue found at most craft stores with good results. It's similar to Elmers except that it remains flexible after drying. I've used it to hold the flex track on our display layout that is over eight years old now. It's has traveled across the country numerous times, sat in autos in sub-zero and near one hundred degree weather, with no discernable problems.
Tacky Glue is inexpensive, easy to work with and easy to find. It also cleans up with water before drying. You just need to hold your track down with weights or push pins until the glue is dry.
Well, IMO you'll find that putting a classification yard directly on the plywood is not a good idea. Best practice is to use cork sheet or foam-core art board. People have also experimented with a layor of insuklating foam plastic as rodabed, and another, narrower, shaped one for the ballast strip. They generally report good results, but I've not tried it. Insulating foam is surprisingly tough, not soft and squishy as you might expect, so I tend to believe their reports.
Re: where to put the track nails: the nails are designed for the centre of the track. I don't mind them, but I prefer spikes. Spikes are L-shaped, just like the real thing, and are designed to hold the rail in place. Main use is for hand-laid track, but they are also useful for aligning rail ends and such. Some brands of flex have holes next to the rail in some ties, to fasten that down you use spikes. When I use spikes to hold rail, I do drill pilot holes through the ties if necessary - it's kinda hard to drive a spike through that stuff. :-) I try to avoid having the spikes go into the subroadbed - I like to have the track isolated from the sound-amplifying substructure as much as possible.
I use "Phenoseal". It's a caulking and weatherstripping material sold in home improvment places such as home depot, or your local lumber yard. Comes in tubes for use in a caulking gun. It sticks to the rather slippery plastic ties of the flex track. It will stick to stuff like plywood, homosote, cork, no sweat. It dries clear (transparent) so minor glue sloppages aren't too noticeble. I used it to stick down flex track to a long styrene Micro Engineering viaduct which had nothing to drive a track nail into. It takes some time to dry, so for the viaduct job I weighted the track down with piles of books to clamp the joint while the Phenoseal dried. For securing flex track to ordinary cork road bed a few track nails should suffice for clamping it. My track work "system" is to glue cork roadbed down on a plywood or homosote sub roadbed. The cork simulates the raised ballast bed of the prototype, deadens sound, and takes nails. Just about any kind of glue works for sticking cork down. Liquid Nails dries fast and is widely available, but white glue works too. Then I secure the flex track to the cork roadbed with track nails, small blackened brads with round heads. I do not use track spikes cause the offset head can slip thru the holes in the flex track ties. I do not find it necessary to glue down the flex track, the track nails will hold in the cork and are sufficient to keep the track in place. I leave a bit of "give" in my trackwork so that seasonal swelling and shrinking of the wooden benchwork can occur without pulling the track out of shape. I do not solder my rail joiners and I leave a tiny bit of clearance between flex track sections. I feel that track nails set in cork allow a bit most give than a firm glued joint between ties and cork. BTW, the "foam" used for MR layouts is a construction urethane foam, which is much denser and stronger than styrofoam. I've used it once or twice for scenery (not roadbed) and if memory serves I used the phenoseal to stick it down.