Model Train Layout Roadbed

Roadbed according to the free on-line dictionary is the foundation upon which the ties, rails, and ballast of a railroad are laid.  It isn’t unusual for many model railroaders who are new to the hobby to lay their track directly on a piece of plywood or whatever type of hard surface they’ve chose for their layout, rather than laying down roadbed.  This would never occur with a prototype railroad because there are genuine concerns with a real-life railroad about drainage, frost due to winter weather, or the weight of a heavy train pushing down and through the ballast.  

Why then should modelers install roadbed when they lay their track?  The primary goal of a model train enthusiast when building their railroad is to create the most realistic representation of a location, railroad, or era that they possibly can.  This also includes all of the details of their scenery as well.  To further this effort to achieve a realistic railroad attention must be given to how track is laid.  For example, with prototype railroads the tracks are always noticeably higher than the surrounding ground, and this should be duplicated for a model railroad as well.  

You can add this touch of realism to your railroad by laying roadbed before laying down your track.  Additionally, when you observe a real railroad you clearly see a ballast profile, which is something else you can incorporate into your layout.  Smooth and reliable operations is an important goal in building a model train layout, and if you place roadbed before you lay your track it will insure that you have smooth and level surface to run your trains on.

Cork is typically the first choice by modelers for road bed because it is relatively inexpensive, readily available, easy to work with, and works efficiently.  It is always a good idea before laying your track to test fit it first to make sure everything fits according to the plan you’ve created.  If this is your first effort at building a layout, you’ll discover that track often takes up more room on your layout than it did when you drew your plan.  Having said this, by pre-checking your track you’ll provide yourself with an opportunity to make what ever adjustments are necessary before actually laying your track.

You can hold your track in place temporarily by using push pins, which will then allow you to use the track as a guide for marking the centerline.  

Placing or Laying Cork Roadbed  

Cork roadbed is made available to purchase in three foot lengths.  The individual pieces have a perforated line that runs down the middle of each piece, which will allow you to pull the pieces apart.  Each piece has a side which is beveled and should be placed on the outside of the tracks.  Experienced model railroaders will tell you that the most effective way to secure cork roadbed is by using some type of white glue or adhesive.  It is advisable to further secure the cork roadbed with stick pin until the glue has fully dried.  Another alternative for securing this type of roadbed is by using nails.  If you decide on this method, just make sure that the nails are below the top surface of the cork.

As a secondary choice you may want to try out a product which is made by Woodland Scenics, and is something called Track-Bed.  The material itself is lighter and spongier than cork, and is made of black rubber.

There is an easier approach to roadbed that many hobbyist choose to use rather than cork roadbed, and it is called integrated roadbed track.  This is perfect for children and those who are new to model railroading as the track has integrated roadbed.  The majority of ready-to-run model train kits include integrated roadbed track, and it is made available by a number of manufacturers.  However, you have to keep in mind that the integrated track road offered by one manufacturer is not compatible to that made by another company.


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