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Woodland Scenics Foam Roadbed vs Cork

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Woodland Scenics Foam Roadbed vs Cork
Posted by Taylor 67 on Thursday, May 30, 2013 4:03 PM

Here I go again, I've been a modeler for 40 years and recently started my dream layout. I have got very good advice from some good people on here so here I am again with another question. I of course have used cork all my modeling life but I have seen Woodland scenics foam roadbed and wondered if any of you have tried this and what do you think about it. My layout is in a basement with some what high humidity in the summer but near constant temps all year. What if any are the draw backs of the foam. I'm very familiar with all aspects of cork (dries out, have to soak to turn radius's, etc) and is the old stand by for us model railroaders. Or is there another material that you care to share. I've heard of most all so I welcome all comments. My layout is 9'-9" x 28'-9" with HO, HOn3 and HO 21/2 so I'm going to be busy for awhile. Thank you all for your input. Bryan

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Posted by gandydancer19 on Thursday, May 30, 2013 5:00 PM

You can't spike into the foam, plus if you use track nails (I don't) you can deform the track easier.

Now having said that, I use the foam roadbed.  I just like it better than cork.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by jrbernier on Thursday, May 30, 2013 5:22 PM

  It is really a matter of personal preference. Foam crushes if you use track nails, and spiking is not possible.  Cork does dry out, but I have never had a problem.  You mention soaking it - are you trying to reuse some old cork roadbed?  My cork was always flexible and easily curves around 18"-22" radius curves.  I have used Homabed for my mainline trackage and cork for the sidings/spurs.

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by Schuylkill and Susquehanna on Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:02 PM

Woodland Scenics Track-Bed is slightly cheaper per linear foot than cork roadbed.

S&S

 

Modeling the Pennsy and loving it!

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, May 31, 2013 5:27 AM

For my ISLs I prefer Woodland Scenics 12" x 24" roadbed sheets.I simply glue these sheets to the board with Elmers white glue.I glue my track with Elmers glue and the ballast glue will also help hold the track-no need for spikes or track nails..No,the track or roadbed doesn't come loose.

One advantage is you can save your track should you decide to rebuild.

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by rogerhensley on Friday, May 31, 2013 6:16 AM

I have used both and I'm not impressed with the Woodland Scenics product, No more to say.

Roger Hensley
= ECI Railroad - http://madisonrails.railfan.net/eci/eci_new.html =
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Posted by rrinker on Friday, May 31, 2013 8:53 AM

 I used the Woodland Scenics on my previous layout, and went back to cork on this one - and I probably should have just stayed with the foam. I like it a lot better. New techniques are really required - I glue everything down with latex caulk, NO NAILS. I had none of these issues of pressing down on the track causing the ballast to flake off because the WS roadbed has some give to it, once the ballast was wetted and saturated with glue, it stayed in place. Definitely quieter than the cork - both layouts use extruded foam as the base, and WS foam on extrdued foam was quieter than the present cork on extruded foam.

 I also like the fact that the WS roadbed comes in long rolls - fewer seams. The sheets are great for yard areas. On my previous layout, I used the WS N scale roadbed for sidings, so they were lower than the main. Some pieces of shirt cardboard were used to make the ramp up between the different heights. It's less extreme a difference than is strictly prototype, but it gives the flavor of the less trackage being less built up while not having such a huge difference that you run into trouble with too sharp a vertical curve.

 It also helped that the layout with WS roadbed has 30" and larger curves - so forming it into curves was not a problem. They slit it so you can cut it into halves like cork, but for wide radius curves that is not needed. If you try to run say 18" radius curves without splitting it - I can see there being problems with it bunching and wrinkling on the inside of the curve.

 If you are just planning to nail your track down - WS roadbed is probbaly not for you. Because it does give under pressure, maintaining smooth level trackwork is going to be much harder than with cork. However, I banished nails a long time ago. Cheap tubes of latex caulk allow for much faster yet totally solid trackwork. Having something between the track and the roadbed and base that does NOT dry solid and hard like typical glue helps a lot with the noise levels. If you have all the pieces you need, laying track with caulk can go at an incredible rate - spread a THIN (and that's the key, VERY THIN) layer of caulk, press the track into place, line it all up, stick in a few push pins to hold things until the caulk drives, and on tot he next piece. There is plenty of working time to make sure everything is properly lined up, but within a few hours you can remove the pins and the track will stay in place. Fairly easy to tear up a section if you make changes, without destroying the track. I pulled 4 turnouts plus a couple of sidings from my previous layout when I changed my mind about the design after i had them down. The turnouts got reused, they are far too expensive to just toss, as did the long pieces of flex track. The only thing I didn't really reuse where very short cut to fit filler pieces

                           --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by rgengineoiler on Friday, May 31, 2013 9:03 AM

I always use Midwest cork for mainline track or sheet cork for my yards from many suppliers.  In all my years I have never heard of soaking cork to turn a radius.  Cork is for a least 25 years in my experience and totally substantial during that time.  I have looked at the Woodland Scenics product  and it may be ok for some uses but the cork is solid but workable, very easy to glue down, quite running and quite reasonable if you have a lot of track to lay.  Some products just can't be replaced and to me Cork is one of them.  Doug

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Friday, May 31, 2013 9:26 AM

I was going to reply, but Randy said everything I would have.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

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Posted by wp8thsub on Friday, May 31, 2013 10:08 AM

I don't like the WS foam roadbed at all.  It can deflect as you're working on the track, so is more difficult to use in creating perfect track alignment that will stay that way.  I've seen many  a layout/module/display that used the WS roadbed only to have ballast crack away from the track over time, since the roadbed will squish but the ballast typically doesn't.  If you accidentally push too hard on the rail while cleaning it, or doing anything else, you can easily ruin the ballast.

Another issue is varying track heights for industry spurs or passing sidings.  Firmer roadbed material like cork or Homasote can be sanded into ramps for transitioning elevations.  The process doesn't work so well with WS foam.

I install track with acrylic/latex caulk over cork or Homasote roadbed.  It goes together solid and remains so.  It's also pretty quiet.  I've never encountered cork that required soaking before bending into any curve in HO, but the only brand I've used is Midwest, so maybe others do or used to.  I live in a semi-arid climate with low humidity, and have no problems with Midwest brand cork drying out.

Rob Spangler

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Posted by matthewd5 on Saturday, June 1, 2013 10:01 AM

I'm totally new to this, I bought two boxes of the foam stuff and just like the cork better...

matthew

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Posted by pirate on Saturday, June 1, 2013 11:36 AM

For my new layout, I plan to use the foam roadbed.  I like the idea of much quieter operation and no nails.  A recent thread on this subject made a lot of sense to me.  Something about isolating the track from the rest of the layout, so it isn't constructed like a drum.  Since, drums are loud.

Another point that was made,  was to glue the ballast with matte medium instead of white glue, so that it stays flexible, allowing the track to have more give, and so a hard shell doesn't also create a drum effect. 

 

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Posted by Adelie on Saturday, June 1, 2013 7:24 PM

I've used both and have no problems with either.  In fact, the lower staging level (and helix) of my current project is cork, and the visible level is WS foam.  I used Elmer's white glue to affix the cork and caulk on the foam.  In both cases I used caulk to secure the track.

I guess my preference is foam simply because it comes in 24-foot rolls.  I also found a pretty easy way to make turnout pieces for it, using of all things a paper cutter in my office.

On the mainline, I use 18-inch minimum curves on the main, 21" minimum in the helix (N-scale). I had no problem getting the foam to take the curve without binding, and I did not have to split it.  I also did not have to soak the cork (nor have I ever had to do that).  Some of this cork was 7 years old. It was a little stiff, but not nearly enough to get me to consider doing anything to "loosen" it up.

I sanded the top of the cork to ensure it is smooth. I've had no problem with the foam (since it can't be sanded).

The foam is a bit quieter, but it should be since "all other things are not equal." I think the dried white glue would transmit vibrations and noise more than the caulk, so the fact glue was used under the cork would probably make a difference.

Left to my own devices, I'll continue to use foam. But, if somebody offered to drop off enough cork for me to finish the project, I wouldn't send them away, either.

- Mark

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Posted by mobilman44 on Sunday, June 2, 2013 6:35 AM

Ahhhh, another "Versus" thread!  Just what we need to liven up the Forum on a muggy Sunday........

I've always used cork (since 1973) and find it perfect for my needs.   I have never used foam or other roadbed myself.  BUT, I have heard from a few that do use it and frankly wonder why they do.

This is an addition to the above (had to shut down due to excessive lightning)..........

There are other excellent roadbeds (i.e. homosote, spline, etc.) but foam just doesn't fall into those elite categories (in my opinion of course). 

Hey, others may feel differently, and that's cool!

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by quizshow904 on Sunday, June 2, 2013 6:53 AM

I am using cork on my O guage layout. I bought sheet from 

http://www.mantoncork.com/cork-sheets/roll_specs.htm

and it was very reasonable. You can get any widths and thickness that train layouts would need. It is very pliable.

Just thought I would throw this in.Smile

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Posted by Taylor 67 on Monday, June 3, 2013 12:43 PM

Thanks Randy. This will be my first time in 40 years of using something other than cork. I have 18" and 20" radius on my layout using Micro Engineering code 70 flex and was wondering how foam might make it more difficult to lay an already stubborn track. So caulk is the way to fasten down both track and roadbed at the given radius's? 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:24 PM

I rarely reply to forum posts, normally I'm only a reader.  I would like to state that this topic has been very informative!  I've been an HO Model Railroader for over 62 years and I have used cork on every layout since 1951 and never been disappointed with the results.  I visited this topic because I finally have an offspring interested in trains after after all these years.  After raising 4 boys and 3 girls that produced 16 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren I have finally one interested in trains.  He is only 6 but loves to come to grandpas house to run trains.

I'm going to help him build what I hope is his first layout and I was thinking of using foam roadbed, to help deaden the sound.  After reading all the comments on this post I'm going to stick with cork for several reasons.  First and foremost because it has never let me down in 62 years and I know how to install it from years of experience, secondly because I'd rather it be very durable for a super active 6 year old boy.

I did learn one very important thing from reading the responses to the original question and that is to use latex calk instead of Elmer's White Glue!  Never thought about that, thank you very much.

I would like to thank all of you for your comments, very rewarding read!

Mel Perry, PMFE  (Professor of Miniature Ferroequinology Engineering)

1.  ferroequinology  Literally "the study of the iron horse." (ferros = iron, equine = horse, -ology = study of)

2. The study of the history of railroads and railroad trains, especially for the purpose of model railroading.

3. What a railfan practices.

My Model Railroad  . . . .   http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:46 PM

I use Woodland Scenics Foam Track Bed extensively and exclusively on my layout.

I started using it 10 years ago when I got into HO scale and my LHS guys recommended it to me.

I nail the foam roadbed onto plywood surfaces.  In my experience, it does not pull the rails out of gauge.  The plastic ties break well before the track will be pulled out of gauge.

The real problem with WS foam track bed is that it is soft - - - too soft.  The track can develop humps and valleys.  Cork is firmer than foam and will support the track better, keeping it level.

I do not plan to use the foam roadbed on my next layout.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:53 PM

The real problem with foam is it is hard to fix mistakes, if you get it even slightly wrong, you put in another piece. If you are an expert or you don't want perfect trackwork, then you can use the foam, otherwize.....  I just finished building a large layout and even though I was real careful, a few repairs had to be made. One was on a straight area that a piece of crud slipped under (sanding fixed that), another I remember was at the crest of a hill with a switch that had the frog end pointed down and the other leg pointed up, had to be perfect, a lot of sanding got it there, don't even want to think of foam there. I love a lot of WS products and their customer service is top notch but there are a few of there products I question and this is one of them. Now don't get me wrong, it is easier to use but near impossible to get perfect and who wants bad trackwork!!!!!!!!

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Posted by Colorado5 on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 11:25 PM

I want to Ditto Mel's comments. Great discussion on both products extremely informative!  My kids got out my model train stuff and loved it, so we are now building a layout together.  I had initially gotten foam, but like other folks have said, while it is nice I found cutting into strips for the curves I couldn't get the cuts straight and couldn't get it back together tight. Plus it is really soft. Like with anything, pros/cons of each. I think I will take it back and get cork instead.  Also, great techniques discussed here on gluing/calking.  And this new DCC technology, wow where was this when we were kids...:)

Thanks all!

 

Eric

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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 4:47 AM

Colorado5

I had initially gotten foam, but like other folks have said, while it is nice I found cutting into strips for the curves I couldn't get the cuts straight and couldn't get it back together tight. Plus it is really soft. 

Ain't that the truth!

Alton Junction

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Posted by matthewd5 on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 6:10 AM

Damn

you had me stuck on Ferroequinology so I stopped mid post to go look it up, and didn't get back to the post until I looked it up in the dictionary app on my iPad 

matthew

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Posted by steamanddiesel on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:15 AM

Hello Randy!

Fantastic ideea  to use a latex based adhesive to help the sound insulation. It will be a must on my new layout. I still have to find a similar product in continental Europe, as I'm sure it exists but not on this commercial name. I still have two questions for you:

1.You do use the latex adhesive both for glueing the roadbed to the base and to glue the track to the roadbed?

2.Speaking about unglueing latex caulk, do you use some specific solvent to do it?

Thanks again for the super ideea!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, January 20, 2020 10:57 AM

A friend bought the WS foam roadbed for his layout, but I didn't enjoy installing it, and personally wouldn't ever consider using it again.  Cork is easy to install and it's easy to install track securely on it, too.

Cork is also sandable, which is useful for creating gradual grades down to where you wish to add secondary track for industries, and roadbed is not required.

Wayne

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, January 20, 2020 11:05 AM

steamanddiesel
1.You do use the latex adhesive both for glueing the roadbed to the base and to glue the track to the roadbed?

I don' like to speak for others, but this is a frequently discussed topic and I am sure that he does, if he still uses foam.  This thread is 7 years old.  We have European member will weighs in on what is available, but it is sold as caulk, not adhesive.  I'd actually be a little surprised if there were no US brands, like DAP available wherever you are.

steamanddiesel
2.Speaking about unglueing latex caulk, do you use some specific solvent to do it?

No, there is none as far as I know, that is why he empasizes thin, so if you remove track, it can be pried up easily with a putty knife.  If the caulk gushes over the ties, it's not coming up

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by Andrey on Monday, January 20, 2020 1:09 PM

Very interesting thread! I was thinking, what roadbed is better, and now I decided to use cork. I used WS foam roadbed for practice in ballasting, and I can confirm, that if you press too hard on ballast, it will crack.

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Posted by rrinker on Monday, January 20, 2020 1:13 PM

 I actually was able to sand down the WS foam - just needs a different method than with cork. I put all my sidings on that layout on the N scale WS roadbed so they sat lower than the main line. It was a combination of shimming up the N scale roadbed and sanding down the HO to get a smooth transition.

Anyway - yes, I used the caulk for roadbed to the table, and track to the roadbed.

And nothing special to remove it. If used sparingly, gently sliding a putty knife under the track lifts it off undamaged. That's before adding and gluing down ballast - once ballasted in place, good luck, though if white glue is used as the primary adhesive for the ballast, you can probably soak it loose with enough water. If the objective is to recover the track and you don't care about the bade, or the base is a water resistant material, soak away. The foam roadbed, when caulked down, did not cleanly come off the extruded foam base of that layout, it adhered too good. Where I had to remove some, it was not reusable. Cork, caulked to plywood - that might be recoverable, with the same careful use of a putty knife to gently slide between the cork and plywood.

 I did not attempt to recover anything from my last layout, because I wasn't going to use the same brand track. I had the whole thing carted off by a junk man. If he tookt he time to recover the track to resell, more power to him. There's not much value in used flex track, and even used turnouts are pennies on the dollar, so I didn't bother.

                                  --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Onewolf on Monday, January 20, 2020 4:56 PM

I used WS foam roadbed (about 400 ft) for the mainline track of my current layout.  The good:  It is really easy/fast to install using adhesive caulk. The bad: it is much softer than cork and as others have mentioned I suspect that the easy deflection may cause ballast issues.  I used cork roadbed where I need to transition from mainline track down to service/spur track.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

- Photo album of layout construction -

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Posted by joe323 on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 6:33 AM

I never worried about track noise since it's a railroad and I don't expect it to be quiet, I used cork painted grey to try to not show any bare spots in case my ballet flaked off.  My wife nailed the down into the Homosote. Then I used caulk for the track.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by Andrey on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 1:28 PM

I just thought, that we can use Woodland scenics Foam Putty to make smooth transition between 5mm and 3mm roadbed.

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