Monday, November 19, 2012

How to Lay Cork Roadbed on a Model Train Layout

Once you have decided your track plan and have built your model layout's structure (sub roadbed) it's time to lay some roadbed.  Do not lay your track right down on the wood. This is a big no no. I know you want to run some trains but this hobby requires some patients.  It doesn't matter what scale you are modeling in you need roadbed below your rails.

Roadbed simulates ballast that every real railroad track has in the real world. It elevates the track just a bit from the surrounding area just like in real life. It also provides a bit of sound proofing during operation. This soundproofing can go a long way especially if you are modeling in O scale or your typical Lionel set up.

There are a few different items out there for roadbed these days. Some come on a roll and are self adhesive, others are made of vinyl and come in strips. I find the traditional cork roadbed made by Midwest Products to be the best.

The cork is easily shaped & cut and conforms to your model train layout's curves perfectly. Each 3' strip comes with a perforation down the middle. You need to split each piece apart and flip the sections over so that the bevel side is to the outside of the rails like this /--\ . If you do not do this then it will be harder to lay your roadbed around curves and it will leave a square edge to each side of your rails which will not look realistic at all. You can leave the roadbed square if you are laying it in a yard or siding where you want to butt a few pieces together, otherwise lay the bevel edges to the outside.

You need to draw the center line for your rail lines in the area where you are laying your roadbed. This center line will act as your guide for where to place your cork sections. Use your favorite carpenters wood glue and run a small bead about a 1/4" to each side of your center line. Do this in 3' sections at a time.  Take 1 piece of the roadbed and lay it down one side of the center line along the furthest side from you.  Make sure the bevel end is furthest from you or to the outside of the rails and that the square end is right along the center line mark. If you are conforming this to a curve you will have to pin your cork down as you go or use some small track nails or tacks along the way to keep the curve true to your center line.  If your center line is straight you will notice you need very little pinning or tacking.

Once you have the furthest half of the road bed in place do the same with the closest side. You will notice that as the carpenters glue is still wet you can slide the roadbed around a bit (unless you tack it). this is good and bad. It helps you line everything up but also allows you to in inadvertently lean on the roadbed and shift it out of place...take care not to lean on wet roadbed!

Repeat for the rest of your layout.  It is a little time consuming but the finished product looks so much better with roadbed then without. You will really be happy with the results. After you lay 2 or 3 pieces you will figure out a few tricks to laying it straight and get a handle on how much glue to use and where you need to tack it in place till it dries.