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Gavino200s new layout


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I'll be moving this summer, so I'll need to rebuild. It'll be an opportunity to change a few things that I'm not quite happy with. We'll be shopping for houses in April, so I don't know what dimensions the train room will have yet. But I'm going to start with general things.



Room and Furniture

The train room will also be a reading and music room, so I want it to look good and be comfortable. One thing I don't like about my current layout is the visible bare wooden legs it stands on. I also don't like pleated cloth skirting. I'd like to have a cabinet maker make a custom table. My inspirations for this are  VJM (see page one of the thread below) and JR500 (see page 22 of the thread below. I'm thinking more of the look that VJM has, but what I like about both these layouts is that they're both good looking finished pieces of furniture.




Edited by gavino200
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Tabletop material


My current layout surface is MDF covered by one inch foamboard. It has worked well. However, I remember, when this layout was new I was shocked by how loud it was. I've since gotten used to it and don't notice the sound at all. But I'd like to research this again and consider what materials to use. 



1. Strong but simple to drill through.

2. Sound properties optimized


I may consider using track underlay. 


I discussed this before in a separate thread, I need to go through it again and harvest the ideas.



Edited by gavino200
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Layout Terrain


My current layout is flat, with a about half the loop set up on an incline. I love how the incline looks, but it's sometimes a mechanical challange for trains.


Instead I'd like to keep the tracks level, and vary the "ground level. Perhaps I could have half the layout at a higher level with tracks at ground level. As the layout ground level falls, The tracks could be elevated to stay level.


Another track could be at ground level over low ground and underground at high ground level.


Also, I'd like to contour the landscaping, rather than having a "flatland" layout.

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Layout Electronics - currently leaning toward no change


Currently my setup is all Digitrax. Super Chief controler, PM42 short protection, and a PR3 USB interface. 

Pro's: it works fine



1 . I don''t like the Digitrax throttles/cabs much, although I have to say I've gotten quite used to them. I may buy a Daisy II, which would be cheaper than a new system. And I may try the wifi throttles again. 


2. I thing JMRI sucks. I know that's controversial and that lot's of people like it. I find it to be less reliable than direct programming. And I find direct programming a real headache. Just a personal dislike of the system. If others like it, I'm happy for them. I don't know of any alternative anyway.


So far I'm leaning toward keeping the system as it is and trying a new handset. 


Block detection


As far as I can tell there are only a few uses for block detection. I think the technology is cool. And learning how it worked was sort of geeky fun for me. Inobu explained it to me. But I'm not convinced it would be something I'd enjoy playing with.


1. Automation

2. Signalling

3. Train location display


I actually enjoy running my trains manually. And when I'm doing something else in the room, I'm happy to just leave the trains circling their loops. I don't really display my trains except to friends of mine and the boy, and people generally are more interested in "having a go" than watching. Automation would be great for a museum piece, but I'm not convinced it would be fun for me.


Also, having signals change "correctly" as trains come and go is a nice detail. But it's a lot of work for a detail. I'd have to get a whole lot better at modelling for inauthentic signals to be the weakest link on the board. I'm thinking this isn't necessary for me. Perhaps a few prominently placed signals with infra red sensors would be enough for me. 


A touch screen display is something I geeked out about earlier, but the more I think about it the more superfluous it seems. I'm finding, that with time I'm finding modelling more interesting than fancy electronics. Besides, technical complexity generates a lot of headaches. As  long a my yards are designed in a logical way, turnout control with simple switches is very simple.


I'll keep mulling this over for a while, but I'm thinking that a simple technically system that's bulletproof reliable is what I need.


Modular Wiring 

This from cteno 

"wiring is easy to break at each section joint and put into a connector, they have up to I think 24 In a single coupler with each connector taking like 2-5A. Smart to do as eventually layouts get taken down. I chopped two layouts over the years owners wanted to try to move and it was really messy cutting it apart along with all the wiring which was a mess and not much slack to later recombine easily without extenders. Labeling was time consuming. Using connectors also makes you think thru and neaten how your wires run on the sections."

Edited by gavino200
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Work room/ Hobby room


The workroom is probably as important as the layout room.  My current work room is nice and big with a great work table that was build by the previous house owner. I'll probably try to replicate it in our next house.


Work room goals:

1. Sturdy work table, Large enough for two people to work side by side.

2. Separate area for painting booth.

3. Lots of plug sockets, especially at the work bench.

4. Perforated board on wall over the work bench for hanging tools.

5. Lost of shelf space.

6. Good light and heating. 

7. Air extraction fan.

Edited by gavino200
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Track plan


I won't be able to make a track plan until I know the room dimensions and have decided how much of the room, the Layout will take. Currently I have a double loop with a yard and a tram line. I'd like to have more trains running, but I want to have room for modelling. 


It's tough to have more than two loops without realism suffering a bit. I like how double viaduct looks, but there's no reason to keep the track double all the way round the layout. The tracks could be double in one area and then go their separate ways in another area.


A possibility could be an E-shaped layout where one limb is double track. Each track, after the double track splits could go to one of the other to limbs of the E.


For the end of the double loop, I think I'll build in the tunnel that I made for my current layout. I spent quite a bit of time on it and am happy with the result. I may use the same method again to make a visible subway tunnel and station. 


I'll have at least on major station with at least four platforms. 


One large yard. Alternatives would be:

1. Below table storage with an incline track or helix.

2. Off table storage with a line feeding onto the layout. 

Edited by gavino200
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Layout Theme


Most likely generic "ModernJapan". Urban, suburuban, with a little bit of rural. If I have enough space, I may play with the idea of separating it into different zones. 


However. even thought the layout will be contemperary Japan, there'll be occasional old and international trains running on it from time to time. 


An idea that I'm half considering is dividing up the layout into sectors of continually progressive time epochs. The landscape would be continuous while the time would progress in zones. For example a road or street would progress Epoch I, II, III, IV, V, VI as it progresses through the layout. 



Layout Modeling


I'm going to try to use a modular technique, so that basically every piece of modelling will be an lift-out segment. That way I'll be able to work on modelling on a workbench and place each segment onto the layout in sections.

Edited by gavino200
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Probably I'll stick with Kato Unitrack, with Tomix Finetrack for the tramline. However, I may look into Tomix for double Viaduct as I'm not at all impressed with the variety of Kato double viaduct.

Edited by gavino200
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I am liking just using blue foam insulation sheets for my table.  There is nothing underneath it to support except a cross piece of the frame and I am at 8'x4' (2 pieces of 8'x2' foam).  Smaller modular tables would work just as well.  1" thick foam.   You can do anything including easily pierce for wiring, make ditches or trenches for wiring, whatever.  When I do my "permanent" layout once we move end of 2020 I will do kind of like you are describing but still use the blue foam as the flat top.  I don't see the need for MDF or ply or anything.


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It’s extruded polystyrene Wall insulation. The Dow chemical brand name is FormulaR, but there are other brands as well. You can get it most places in the us at home despot or lowers or many builder supply shops. Comes in 0.5”, 1”, 1.5”, and 2” thicknesses, usually 2’x8’ in size (sometimes in 4’x8’ or 2’x2’). In warmer climes it may not be sold as not used as much, but some refrigeration companies that make walk in coolers may have some to sell.


It stays very stiff and easy to carve up with serrated knives and shapes well with 60 grit sandpaper. It is messy and be ready with the vacuum to keep at all the statically charged bits! You can also hot knife/wire cut it as well, but this can leave a hard melted surface that can be harder to shape out and will let off noxious fumes when cutting. It’s a base a lot of folks use to carve down into or build up with.





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Yeah.  The stuff used for insulation.   I got mine at Lowes (DIY home center type store).   I got the 1 inch thick stuff  (about 2.5cm).   


I have another piece of thicker stuff that has been hanging around my parents' house for 20 years that my brother bought for various projects (forms for an RC boat etc).  I inherited it when my parents were cleaning house.  I will use it for scenery.  Very useful.


They also make a pink version.   I think the difference is density.  I know the RC glider guys use both but tend to use pink for their wings.


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Color can vary with manufacturers it turns out. I think the glider guys use the pink is it’s usually the Dow formulaR that seems to be better quality. I’ve gotten some cheaper quality and density pink extruded polystyrene from builders supply (not big box) stores in the past.



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I just finished taking apart my current layout. I've had a good chance to get reacquainted with it's structure. Really, I've gotten used to the noise level of the layout to the point were I don't hear it much. But I found it to be very lout at first. Also it can be heard upstairs through the floor. I don't know where in our new house (haven't bought yet) the train room will be. So for multiple reasons I'd like to made the new layout as quite as possible.


The current board is MDF on a wooden frame. 1 inch foamboard was glued onto the MDF. On top of that I put Kato unitrack with no underlay. 


When I glued the foam on placed the glue in a sort of multiple "sine wave" pattern. Taking it apart I noticed that this didn't completely "squash down". Rather it stayed closed to its "sine wave" configuration leaving a cavity between the foam and the MDF. I wonder if this acted as a resonating chamber. Perhaps plastering the glue smooth would be a better method.






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Summarizing the thread from 2017 linked above


Jeffs comments


I've had very good luck in the past with cork road bead.

Homosote can be a very messy material to work with but is sworn by many as well.

The ws foam roadbed could also help under unitrak.


Going directly to foam can cause some resonance,

so having something between that and the track will help deaden the noise.

I thin the small hollow space under unitrak can also create a little resonance chamber so something deading under the unitrak will help deaden it.


If you have not attached the track much I would suggest experimenting with some thin cork or the ws foam roadbed (thin foam with stickum on both sides) and see how it works for you.




Sounds like your attachment of foam to the ply is firm.

Next is do you have large unsupported areas of ply as like a 2'x2' or greater area could resonate some.

Some extra cross battens glued in may help if it's an issue.




Good carpenters glue should do fine to put in some 1x2 in there.

Could tack it in with air nailer or some small finishing nails toenailed in.


Fixing the viaduct down will help.

On the JRM layout we have half of the viaduct fixed down firmly on half and the other half floats soemwhat and it definitely is louder on the floating area.

Try some cheapo Home Depot very low carpet material and experiment under the piers to see if they are causing noise vibrating against the table top.


The viaducts will be bad as when they are floating there in space on the piers alot of the vibration going into the viaduct itself will be transmitted back into the air under the viaduct.

When the viaduct is fixed down to something harder like thin ply wood,mthosr vibrations can be be dampened and absorbed by the layout base better.

Also the viaduct itself has a little open chamber spaces in it which could resonate some potentially.


Our new club layout we are using 4mm ply under all the double viaduct on each module for something to firmly attach piers to

(we may make our own Y piers out of wood) and the attach the viaduct to that.


In our last layout taking modules apart that joined with double viaduct attached with s joiners to piers and piers glued down did not last long before starting to comemapart, but the sections of viaduct on embankments or in the tunnel was super strong and I think quieter.




Velotrain's comments


did some searching a while back and found comments that it matters how you attach the foam. 

It was suggested that white glue, etc. created a non-flexible bond and increased the sound. 

Flexible agents such as plastic-based caulking agents worked better, as they don't dry so solidly.


Since substantial roadbed is already included with your track,

you might consider a thin 1 or 2 mm layer of flat cork between the foam and track, much as Jeff suggested.





Inobu's comments


The fascia board is acting as a baffle.

Any loose section of foam is going to vibrate.


The quality of plywood is going to add to the problem.

4 layer verses 7 layer and how the sheet was fabricated all adds up.

Good quality board. 7 ply 9.5mm or 3/8 inches thick.


The frame of the layout is going to make a difference as well.

It is hard to tell you what to do with out seeing the construction itself.


I have a feeling the noise is coming from the viaduct and the piers bouncing on the foam.




The OSB may be a problem because of its composition.

The density of the wood dictates the variance in its ability to transmit sound.

The OSB are scrap pieces of wood compressed together and molded by resin.

The uniformity of the wood is chaotic.

I think this is the issue of the track vibration as it is going straight through the foam, OSB and out the bottom.


The skirts with plexi glass may be acting as a drum.

Feel around with your hand looking for the high vibration spots.

Hold the a leg to see if you can feel the train pass by.

If so then the layout frame is too light.  


Also you can take a comforter and place it on the bottom of the layout.

The idea is to muffle the vibration in the skirt area.

This is a simple test to identify or absorb any vibration that turns into noise within that void.


Edited by gavino200
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3 hours ago, chadbag said:

Leave the MDF off.  Just the foam board on the frame.   


What's the rationale Chad?

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Just now, gavino200 said:


What's the rationale Chad?


Besides being easier to work with (holes etc. Easier to push through foam than MDF), there isn't a layer of MDF bouncing sound waves back at you.  I have not tested this so am just guessing.    It is what I am doing now and will be doing when we move and I start the train room 

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Very well might have been that is was not totally affixed to the osb. Might experiment with rolling on white glue to the whole surface to affix it your wood base. Will take a couple of days to cure as the moisture can only go out thru the wood to set the pva. Also need to rough up the foam with like 60 grit sand paper to make sure it adheres well. I would use a smoother ply wood than osb as osb has a very uneven surface due to the chips it’s made up with. If you use mdf, it’s not happy on horizontal surfaces as much and can sag with time if not enough support.


ive had issues using the foam insulation glues in caulking tubes in the past not flattening out much and it does not spread out well with a putty knife either. It’s made to allow a fast sticking of a piece of foamboard over rough surfaces in a wall while framing it in, not be a super clean hold.


sound like this is hard to totally predict. We have had sound issues in exhibits that were totally unsuspected due to the permutation of space, materials and sound locations. Even bringing in audio experts into spaces we knew were going to be a challenge gave us little real info to go on.


experiment some. 



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16 hours ago, chadbag said:


Besides being easier to work with (holes etc. Easier to push through foam than MDF), there isn't a layer of MDF bouncing sound waves back at you.  I have not tested this so am just guessing.    It is what I am doing now and will be doing when we move and I start the train room 


What I like about this idea is that it challenges standard dogma. I also like to things down and question everything. That way, even if you don't make changes, you understand everything better. 


My previous layout was a sheet of 2 inch foam over a wooden frame. I don't think it was any better. I think the foam may actually act like a kind of drumskin. Also, I may want to carve into the foam to do some terra-scaping, to lessen the "flatland" appearance that layouts tend to have. So it's probably better there be something under it. 


A related question is whether it might be possible to do away with the foam layer, or to use a different material than foam. Foam does seem to transmit vibration quite efficiently.

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Martijn Meerts

There's always going to be noise really.. Even if you use foam or cork. It'll dampen it somewhat, but if you have a foam or cork roadbed, and you fix the track to the roadbed using nails or screws, the sound will resonate through the screws. Even if you glue the track in place, it'll still have some of that effect. If you add ballast, and glue that down, you get the same thing again. Sound travels pretty easily.


Also, if you have long-ish trains, the noise of the wheels rolling on the track will be quote loud, and there's no way to soften that. That's one of the reasons I don't care about sound in N-scale, or even in H0 scale, unless it's a shunting layout or a layout with short, slow running trains. 


I still do use cork as a roadbed, but that's more to get the track raised up a bit, and ballast sticks well, definitely not to try and dampen the noise.


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15 hours ago, cteno4 said:

Very well might have been that is was not totally affixed to the osb. Might experiment with rolling on white glue to the whole surface to affix it your wood base. Will take a couple of days to cure as the moisture can only go out thru the wood to set the pva.



I like this idea. I think all the space needs to be occupied. Sort of like the white goo in an Oreo cookie.


15 hours ago, cteno4 said:

Also need to rough up the foam with like 60 grit sand paper to make sure it adheres well.


This can't hurt. The foam was actually very well adhered to the MDF. It was very difficult to remove. But there was/were dead space/ cavities. Perhaps the roughening is more important for white glue. 


15 hours ago, cteno4 said:

I would use a smoother ply wood than osb as osb has a very uneven surface due to the chips it’s made up with. If you use mdf, it’s not happy on horizontal surfaces as much and can sag with time if not enough support.


I'm definitely not using MDF again. Is that the same thing as "osb"? I'll use the best quality board available. I think inobu gave details about different types of plywood. Do you think there's anything that would be better than good quality plywood. I'm frugal, but quality comes first. I don't really need to cheap out on this.


15 hours ago, cteno4 said:


ive had issues using the foam insulation glues in caulking tubes in the past not flattening out much and it does not spread out well with a putty knife either. It’s made to allow a fast sticking of a piece of foamboard over rough surfaces in a wall while framing it in, not be a super clean hold.


Again just to reiterate, the foam couldn't have been more tightly adhered. I just don't like the air spaces.


15 hours ago, cteno4 said:


experiment some. 



Likely I'll have a cabinet maker construct the thing. So experimentation will be limited.


What I could do maybe is remove the MDF from the "island sections" of my current layout and try different combinations using a small circle of track. This would be a very imperfect test design, and I'm not planning on doing much woodwork/cutting. At the moment I'm mainly trying to research known experiences rather than breaking new ground. 

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Currently these are the benchwork construction changes that I know I'll be making. 


1. The legs will be more solid. This is partly an aesthetic consideration. I want the layout to look good as a piece of furniture. I don't like the bare pine legs on this recent layout and I don't like the pleated fabric skirting that I see at shows. The model will be something like what JR500 and VJM have.


2. I won't use MDF. I'll either use high quality plywood or something else. 


3. I'll make it somewhat modular. My recent layout had modular benchwork but the foam board didn't match the breaks, so effectively it was one piece. It was a super PITA to move it even just a bit. 


4. Probably I'll glue down viaduct piers. 



Elements still under consideration.


1. Type and method of glueing


2. Foamboard? Alternative to foamboard? Thickness.


3. Inclusion of a thin layer between baseboard and foam? Such as felt.


4. Cork Layer under tracks? Or a whole top layer of cork, or rubber, or something else? I believe this is an active and controversial area of discussion.


5. Any way to modify the tracks themselves. Perhaps filling the airspace in the Kato tracks themselves. Is it a resonating chamber?


6. Fascia material and possible felt buffer between this and the baseboard. inobu felt strongly about this. 


That's all for now. 

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