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Making Kato Viaduct Platforms


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Thought i would post this method for making your own viaduct platforms that are the same thickness as kato viaduct plates.


on our first JRM layout we wanted to create a viaduct station with passing tracks that would hold full 16 car shinkansens. this works out to a station 3m long and a lot of kato viaduct platforms and supports to create it! i already had a couple of the kato viaduct station sets (i got them second hand cheap from a guy who had sold a lot of kato gear at the chicago gift show and had a large demo layout set up there) and was able to almost make one with an extra extension set and a couple of spare plates from another member, but it was a pain to set up and quite an expensive proposition of the club ever want to buy one.


so i set off on trying to find a suitable substrate to create the station platform. it needed to be the same thickness as the kato platforms and also be very flat and preferably lightweight. the idea would be to use the platform walls we had for the sides, so we had to have an easy way to make holes in the edge that the side walls could fit into. Plywood would not work well as it would too easily warp and it would be hard to drill the holes for the walls along the sides. i looked at gaterboard, but the thicknesses did not match well. i actually built a smaller custom width station we also needed by making a three ply surface of 1/8" masonite, then thin strips of about 3/16" strips of wood that i glued onto it in a waffle pattern with slots along the sides for the wall holes. then topped this with a thin matte board. the resulting station (about 50" x 6") was pretty stiff and flat and worked well for a while, but then after some time and humidity changes it started to warp a bit.


so it was off to figure out a better solution for this and the large station. then i hit upon the solution. i started with the 1/8" masonite for the base then laminated a layer of good quality black foam core on top of this, then on the very top i laminated formica. i was able to find a formica that had a gray granite pattern that looked very similar to gray kato road bed. the formica gave a thin, but very stiff and waterproof top surface. the resulting 3 ply material was the same thickness as the kato plates and the side wall pins could poke into the foamcore perfectly where needed. I just glued up a large section of the material with contact cement and then just ripped up the big sheet into the final sizes we needed on the table saw. we created the large station in 3 sections of 1m in length. under these we glued 1 7/8" H x 3/4" thick walls where needed to support the structure, but with openings where station buildings needed to fit under the platforms and tracks crossed under the station. These platforms were free standing and just pulled off the layout for transport and storage. in the end these lasted through 5 years of abuse and are still going strong on the new sectional jrm layout for now.


for the smaller station we could not put any supporting walls under the platform as there were numerous tracks and station platforms that ran under the viaduct platform. it could only have a few viaduct supports at strategic locations. so this platform needed to stay especially flat so to keep it from warping we used 1" x 1/16" aluminum L stock glued along each side of the platform. these created platform walls about the height of the low kato platform walls. this has kept this station flat and square for the last 5 years!


of course if you dont have a station kit or extension set you wont have any station walls to work with, but these can easily be made out of styrene or chipboard and just glued to the sides of the platform. on the new jrm layout we will be eventually making custom walls for the new station so we can give back the members' walls we have been borrowing.


some picts of the station platforms are up on the jrm site




the formica could be replaced with 040 styrene that can be bought at a plastics shop for like $12 for a 4x8 sheet





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Jeff - If you didn't tell me what you did, after looking at the photos I would have never guess that you make the Station Viaduct. Great work! So the length of the entire station is 50"? When you mentioned the "black foam core board" is that the same as the foam poster boards you find at craft stores like "Michael's" and what was the thickness? (Oh, no....Jeff I'm now getting a headache thinking about revisions to what I've already have done.)

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the small station is 50" x 6" wide (it just has two thru tracks with one sided platforms on either side). the shinkansen station is 3m long x 20cm wide.


yes its the standard black elmers 3/16" foamcore you can find at craft stores and art supply stores. it tends to be a stiffer styrene foam than what is usually in the white stuff and i finds it keeps its shape better and is stiffer and tougher than the white stuff (even elmers).


btw pearls art closed most of its stores at the beginning of the year and i was able to grab like 50 sheets of the stuff for about 25 cents a sheet!


cool thing about making your own platform like this is you can make any sized shape you want to! I have had dreams of 8 track shinkansen stations when noodling on my eventual home layout! hard to do as you need about 11 feet for the station!


the trick here is the 3 ply approach makes a very stable but light platform that easy to manipulate.









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That 3-layer idea is really good.  The Kato station sets are very versatile, but awkward to use for a large station. Not to mention expensive.


I'd already bought mine, but I have a couple of places on the station I'm building that I can't easily support, and have been trying to work out a solution. I might end up using a section built this way to span the gap. Thanks for the idea.

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Ill look at a hunk i have leftover in the garage to see, but i think that the S joiner should poke into foamcore layer pretty well to attach them together! had not thought about hybridizing platforms together like that!


they do get tough when you get to a larger station area to set up. they are pretty flat, but only as flat as the surface all the piers are resting on!


sorry i didnt post this method earlier, meant to a long time back and i guess never got to it. ill try and take some photos and clean it up more and get it on the jrm list.





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Thank You for posting your idea. I am in the planing stages of modeling the Osaka Loop Line and this sounds like what I need to be able to use all of the track I already own. Instead of buying kato viaduct track.



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you are most welcome and ill see what i can get posted in the next week or so on the jrm site with photos and a better write up.





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Better late then never ! I am looking to do the Viaduct station in a 4 track setup, probably 60" long. I was considering getting more Katp station extension kits, put I could go to the poor house doing that. Can you please tell me where you obtained the Formica, and how thick was it.


Best Regards,


Lou La Salle

Bedminster ,PA

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yes formica is the cheap laminate for counter tops. I just went looking for some at home depot last week and they no longer carry it as just formica sheets, only can get it pre-laminated now to 1" particle board.


the add ons are bloody expensive, much cheaper from japan than modeltrainstuff, but still about $15 per plate shipped...


formica use to be cheap, like $12 for a 2'x4' or $35 for a 4'x8' sheet and they had a granite that was light gray with speckles that looked like kato roadbed!


i fear that using formica wont be practical anymore unless you can find it around town at a cabinet shop or something. folks are going for fancier counter tops now i guess and formica is getting so passe that even the big box are not carrying it, but do check with your local big box and builder supply stores. you might check if you have a reuse story nearby that might be something lurking in a corner at one!


i used the formica as i needed a layer that was stiff for the top.


its looking like the replacement would be 020 or 040 styrene for the top layer. you can get this in 4'x8' sheets at plastics and sign shops, call around your area. last time i got it from one of the local plastic shops it was i think $8 for 020 and $12 for 040 for 4x8 sheets. it rolls up well to put in the back seat.


while the styrene is not as stiff and strong dimensionally as the formica (which is basically thin fiberglass) i think it will work. you will probably need to have a piece of 1x2 running down the middle of the platform pieces to stiffen them though with the styrene as im not sure it will keep the laminate quite as flat.


the other disappointing thing was the 1/8" masonite at home depot was pretty bad. 2x4 sheets were awfully warped. found some ok 4x8 sheets and only 2x the price for the 4x8 sheet so i went with that and cut out the best chunk.


the whole reason for the laminate of the masonite, foamcore and formica was to make something that was 3./8" thick like the kato plates and also have the foamcore in the right layer to allow the kato wall pegs to sink into (its very near the top edge hence the formica being the thing thin enough to make that top cover). also wanted something that was layered/laminated to resist warping.


do you already have a viaduct station for the walls? if you are not going to use the kato walls then you could just use plywood to create your full deck.


woodcraft (theres one in allentown) carries 3/8 baltic birch ply which is 5-7 ply and pretty flat and warp resistant




also finish birch which is more expensive but 7 ply.




these are great plys, ive used them for a lot of wood working projects.


if you were going to use the kato walls and still want to just do the simple plank with plywood you could just snip the pins off the walls and glue them onto the edge of the plywood. looked at trying to drill holes in the edge of a piece of 3/8th wood to put the wall pegs into, but was just too hard to get the wood in just the right place on the drill press to drill the holes so near the edge even with a large fence holding it in place. plus you need to get the holes in just the right place. other thought was sawing a notch into the edge of the wood, then like using the foam core you can put the pegs in anywhere along the board. but the notch like 1/16" or less from the edge of the wood so the top strip of the notch is very prone to breaking off the top bit and also any waver in the board going thru the saw can ruin this thin top strip. this is where the formica make a super good top strip for the pegs.


if you dont care about nipping the pegs off the walls then very simple to just use the 3/8" ply.


one downside to the lamination process is the contact cement. its super smelly stuff (for these materials the organic works best as the water based stuff can warp the foamcore and masonite with the moisture) and it needs to be warm and well ventilated (nice mix of organics that will rot your brain very fast!) to make it work right. also best to put under some weights and let cure for 24 hrs. i just tried some in the garage last week to make one of these and it was too smelly to bring it inside to cure and i had to let it cure in the cold garage and it went bad and curled up. sooo i cant do this hear in the winter! Luckily i was able to scrounge up enough plates to just get a big enough station for the grand central layout we are putting together now.


wish there were an ultra simple universal solution, but they all have their issues, but hopefully one of them will work for you.


yell if you have more questions.





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I'm sure you can still get formica if you contact a plastics dealer, or like jeff said, if you call a cabinet maker up.


The other option is that you might be able to find an online dealer for it that can pre cut it and ship it to you. I say pre cut because you don't wand a 4'x8' sheet of it shipped... that makes for expensive shipping. 

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I took a quick look on line last week and it was like $40 for a 2x4 sheet at the few places that had it. not cheap and did not look at shipping costs. its a shame as the formica was useful for many little things in modeling. great for little scenery pads as its very stiff but thin, no warping that styrene can sometimes do with heat or uv.


i dont think our local large plastics suppler carries formica. problem with the plastics places to get good prices you need to go to one of the bigger ones and then you need to buy in bulk like 4x8 sheets! they also usually wont cut it up for you so you either have to have a way to get it home or try to cut it in the parking lot yourself!


its also a bummer as our local big one would have a big scrap pile for sale at pretty cheap by weight. was wonderful you could get reasonable bits of great stuff cheap. but they got rid of it a couple years back as it was too much work to sort and check out (even though it was usually just by weight) and they also now get a decent rate on recycling it. big bummer!



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