What are people using as underlay these days? back in the 70's I used a foam product, which was ok. Just wondering if the greatest innovators of the world (model makers) have discovered a readily available, convincing and cheaper modern alternative
Hi Steve Many people use compounded cork underlay, either commercially slit with chamferred edges, such as from Atlas, or sheets of gasket material cut into strips. In Melbourne try ACL Comcork in Huntingdale for sheets; tell them you want it for model trains and they will know what grade you want. About
3 mm thick is OK. I haven't been there for a while so ring them to check before driving down from Kilmore. There is a commercially available product called Trackright (or similar) which is a moulded grey cross-linked polyethylene that looks OK and should be durable. Do not buy the Peco polyurethane foam underlay unless you only want to use it short-term, as it degrades and turns to powder in several years. That is probably the product you remember in the 70s. Alan Mac :o)
That's the POWDERED CRAP I remember form the 70's!
I will look into the cork product from Huntingdale I think ..... I imagine it is cheaper than modelling alternatives.
Also, I have seen various products in my travels, like 4mm thick white plastic/foam sheets used in Graphic Design and Architectural Model making work. no idea what this stuff's performance is like long-term but imagine it would be excellent....... and being available in LARGE sheets, one piece curves would be possible ..... though, thinking about it - probably unnecessary.
I also though some of the new vinyl flooring products and underlays for floating timber floors might be worth considering......
If you are talking about foam board, watch out. I thought it would be a good underlay and used it on a 7mm layout, and its sound deadening properties were nil - possibly even negative since it seemed to act as a sounding board :-)
On the foam sheet front, you might want to look at the C&L foam if you can find a C&L distributor down under.
Brian Lewis of C&L hunted high and low for a suitable plastic foam and found this product. I've just got some to use in a 7mm layout (a rebuild of the one mentioned above) and is seems to be an excellent product with good sound deadening qualities. The problem you may have in smaller scales is that it is 5mm thick and might raise the track a bit too far off the track base for your liking.
I used 6mm thick compounded cork sheet that I bought from a cork flooring supplier. It was sold in 2m wide cut lengths as pin board material.
I bought a 1200mm length which I completely covered the table I put my last 'N' gauge layout on over 300mm thich MDF. I laid about 70 metres of track on this board in a very complex series of three interlacing loops with a major fiddle/goods yard at the front edge. I ran this layout for years with various small children grabbing at the the 'pretties' on the table and clutching firmly to the edges as they learned to walk. It survived this well although one of the kids cut his teeth [literally] on it and caused some damage.
I never got around to doing the scenery because the first of my four kids came along soon after I got it running and spelled the death knell of my direct involvement for nearly twenty years. Now I am getting back into things again; I find my eyes can no longer cope with the small scale of N and I don't have room for HO/OO so I gone upsize to 5" scale in live steam.
This way I only have one model at a time which I build in a workshop not much bigger than my old N gauge layout and I don't have to have much track at home [just enough to make test runs], PLUS I get to do a lot of travel to various train type activities!
As a follow up, I just found this description of the C&L product by Brian Lewis from the Yahoo UK 7mm group. I don't think Brian would object to it being posting here
The best method of use in 7mm scale seems to be sticking every third sleeper to the top of the foam with a contact adheshive - we would probably use something like Evostik. The foam is stuck to the baseboard with either PVA or (preferred) latex glue used for sticking down carpets. The latex glue retains its flexibility and preserves the sound deadening qualities of the foam. For smaller scales, you might have to experiment with what spacing is required for the bonding of sleepers to foam top - my gut feel is that an inch space might be OK
For ballasting, a flexible medium is also used, such as the latex carpet glue, or Copydex adhesive, or Acrylic Matt Medium from an art supplier. The method of applying is the tried and true method of laying the ballast dry, dampening it with a fine water + liquid soap mix, then applying dilute adhesive with an eye dropper or syringe. When set, the ballast should retain flexibility and preserve the sound deadening properties. PVA glue will go rock hard and become a sounding board.
Woodland scenics are pushing their foam system, check it out at
(check out all the woodland scenics pages as scenery has come a long way in the last 30 years)
For trackwork there's really two issues to consider - the roadbed as a place the track sits on (nice level track, sound deadening, etc), and the ballast, etc that sits above the roadbed and makes the scene look realistic That old peco foam tried to be both, as did a pre-moulded systems from Fleishman (well I think it was them...) but neither were very 'realistic' looking. The right foam, cork or other underlay will take care of the smooth running, then 'chucks ballast' will have the other missing ingredient for you - every type of ballast, dirt and other grotty thing you're likely to find on, in, or under the track
Another feature of the foam underlay, which might be more important, is that it provides a resilient base for the track, in the same way that the ballast bed on the real thing does. This means that you can get much better running with rigid framed rolling stock than if the track was fixed to a less resilient base.