Track Underlayment and Track Spacing


Since work and travel keep pushing even the start of my Benchwork further and further out, I do want to get all my ducks in line before I start; if ever. So I have a couple of questions to you far more experienced Modelers. First is: What is best to use for Underlayment below my tracks (track bed)? Cork or something like Woodland Scenics’ Foam Track-Bed Strips? Seen pros and cons of both. And now living in Central Florida and having my layout delegated to a portion of the garage; I do worry about the cork absorbing moisture and the expansion of the track. Read where it can even disintegrate over time.
Second would be that I have seen different answers on the spacing of parallel runs of HO
tracks. Since I will have a limited layout, 7′ x 8′ will be using 18 inch radius for the most part. So what would be the optimum spacing between the centers of the parallel tracks if I wanted to use say the longer HO Passenger Cars and Rolling Stock?
Mike Tuttle

Answers ( 5 )


    I have used black insulating tape, comes in a roll about 30 ft, that has an adhesive back and bought in Home Depot. It is much cheaper and so far it has been holding up well since it was created for a different hostile environment. It is the perfect size for HO. It will take a few curves to get the technique down because you have to stretch it and make it turn but after a few tries you’ll be a pro-practice first. Straight runs are a breeze. After a time that adhesive really sticks & removing it is a chore.
    I really have learned to dislike cork and consider Hobby stuff a rip off and not a fan of foam.
    The big question now is how will you secure the track? What track are you using & whose turnouts? Consider the temperature differences in the garage and plan accordingly. You have to secure the turnouts well and how will the rest either float or be secured. Derailments are what got me out of HO and into larger scales. Garages are hostile environments for little things so design it like its Armageddon and this tape is the first step.
    Let us know what you did.
    George in LI NY


    Cork is naturally waterproof. That is why it is used to seal bottles of wine. Check the internet.


    Thank you guys for the help! Went down to South Florida 2 weeks ago to close out a large construction project and to inventory left over materials before shipping them back to the main office warehouse in Massachusetts. Didn’t find any insulating tape but boy I won’t be buying any materials for my benchwork, lumber, plywood, screws; 2″ foam or even the adhesives to attach the foam! Like me the Company never throws anything away.
    Right now I’m planning on using Atlas Code .083 track and Atlas Turnouts; all motorized due to the reach factor to do manually. Going to put a strain on the budget since planning on quite a few turnouts.
    Thanks again!
    Mike Tuttle
    Oh and need to post another question, hopefully my last for a while; on Controllers.


    I think that the cork roadbed has stood the test of time due to its years of use in the hobby. I’m using clear silicone adhesive to hold the track to the roadbed and the roadbed to the table, in your case, the foam. The advantage of silicone sealants is that if you want to make changes during construction, you can pry the track and roadbed up easily with a putty knife. The problem with some other roadbed materials is that you can’t do this easily.

    I worry about your use of 18″ radius curves. They can be used if you plan to use shorter (primarily 40′ freight cars), however, they won’t work for longer more modern freight equipment (TOFC flats, auto racks, hi-cube 89′ boxcars, etc.), or passenger equipment. A minimum of 22″, and preferably 24″ should be the minimum with shorty (a scale length of 60′) passenger cars. If you want to run scale full-length passenger cars you might get by with 28′ curves, but I’d recommend 30.” Supposedly all HO equipment (including locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars) are designed to operate on 24″curves. However, I have my doubts about how well it will operate on curves of this radius. The overhang for full-length cars and large engines would be terrific. You would need to allow at least 2 3/4″ (from track center to parallel track center line) With full-length passenger cars operating on 30″ curves allow at least 21/8″ track centers


    Thank you guys for all your help! All of you are the reason that I’m only on Al’s blog. Was on 3 others but nothing but nitpicking others work and downright nasty people hiding behind their computer screens. Who needs that crap?
    And thank you Robert! Gives me plenty to think about before I’m taking hammer and chisel to expensive track. The 18″ radii looked good when I laid them out using SCARM. Time to go back and redesign using the larger curves especially since I have 2 of them on parallel curves on inclines and declines. At least on SCARM revision #13. Though I am planning on using the shorter rolling stock due to the confines of a 7′ x 8′ HO layout; better safe than very sorry.
    Thanks again!
    Mike Tuttle – Florida

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