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Foam For Inclines

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  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,147 posts
Foam For Inclines
Posted by cowman on Saturday, August 31, 2019 11:56 AM

In the early planning stages of a layout, with a promise from a son to help get room ready, after farm equipment fixed and haying done.  (Dreamer)

Am thinking of a modest incline probably only to go over a road, not another track, as I can lower ther road in foam easily to get reasonable clearance.  I have looked at the WS incline starter set, but have a question about it.  Saw a post saying that the top the incline (referring to a full set) needed to be sanded for proper transition.  Does the bottom section of a 2% incline need to be sanded also?  If so, suggestions on how much.

Second thought is, has anyone tried the cookie cutter method with 2" extruded foam?   I know  it will snap if bent too sharpely.  Also, by cutting kerfs in the sides of a strip it can be bent to a radius, will that work on a verticle curve and retain enouth strength to support trains?

If I ever get my modified, downsized layout started, I'll get someone to show me how to post pictures.  (I'm not well versed on these computer things.)

Thank you,


  • Member since
    November, 2015
  • 596 posts
Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Saturday, August 31, 2019 2:45 PM

 I can tell you what I did, if it helps.

 I decided on hieght, cut a block of foam. Took  a pieace of 3/4 foam, about 3in wide and as long as I could go, [up again a wall.] Layed that pieace on top block, cut support bloks as needed.  On the bottom  used a wider 3/4 pieace to allow for the curve in track. Cut,rasped,sanded to make both ends nice. All glued down with caulk.

 Have no idea of what degree the grade is, don't care. The transitions are smooth enought to work. No humps or dips to uncoulpe cars.

 Its not hard, and dosen't need to be as ''perfect'' as some tend to think

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 4,772 posts
Posted by rrebell on Saturday, August 31, 2019 2:57 PM

I like the WS inclines. You can stretch the cork on the bottom for the lower transition and for the top a hot wire works great to get the basic shape, then caulk your cork on it and you can sand a bit more at top if needed.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 9,966 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, August 31, 2019 10:25 PM

Hi Richard,

I have just finished the rough construction of a couple of mountains for the club layout. For the most part I used 2" extruded styrofoam (not the beaded stuff) and I found it easy to achieve the basic profiles that I wanted. Once the glue (PL 300) is dry it will be easy to refine the shapes to add more detail.

Here is one example:

I will use a hot wire foam cutter to refine the slopes and the ridges, and I will cut a logging road with a couple of switch backs into the right side.

My point is that you can easily form the slope and grade transitions with the extruded foam sheets using a retractable blade utility knife like this:

Here is a comparison:

Woodland Scenics 2% foam risers - 2 required:

1' x 8' x 2" extruded foam (Canadian pricing, yours will be cheaper):

The price isn't much different, but you will have tons of foam left over for other scenery projects. If you want the roadbed curved that is easy to do simply by cutting a narrow wedge out of the side of the riser every few inches and gluing it all together.

I strongly advise using the proper glue, i.e. PL300 Foam Adhesive. We used some different stuff (don't know what) that looked exactly the same as the PL300 but it didn't hold. Lesson learned.


  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,147 posts
Posted by cowman on Saturday, August 31, 2019 10:47 PM

Thank you for your replies.

I hadn't thought of  using the thinner foam for the sub roadbed.

The idea  of letting the cork be part of the easement is helpful, could be used whatever the incline base is.  Did you fill underneath it with caulk or other shims?

Built my 4x6 out of foam and had good luck using caulk as my adhesive.  I  have a lot of scrap foam in various sizes, so tend to build solid, rather than hollow hills.  I have box cutters, a hot wire tool and a hot knife and a window to support ventilation.  I like to use the foam and don't find the mess too hard to clean up.  I do use an anti static spray to help.

Anyone else have other suggestions?

Thanks again,


  • Member since
    February, 2001
  • From: New Jersey, a founding member of the USSA
  • 2,260 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Sunday, September 01, 2019 7:31 AM

I needed the start of a grade on the foam section of my old layout. I was concerned that if I cut the foam and bent it would wind up snapping at some point in the future (This is the cookie cutter method someone mentioned).

I had never used foam before, so I was kinda stuck on how to do this. A friend of mine who has worked with foam in other hobbies took at piece of 1" pink foam and cut it at a 2% angle (the grade I needed) on his table saw. I would have thought the saw blade would melt the foam and make a mess, but it didn't. I wound up with this:

It's the pink pieces under the cans - two sections. Very smooth taper, right down to a point at the far end!

I glued them onto the base foam. The transition pieces rose to the point on the left end where I could splice on a 1" thick foam section, which carried the grade on up (sorry no photo).

Cork was applied, then flextrack was glued down using caulk. The transition from the flat into the grade was a natural curve made by the flextrack. Worked great!

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,147 posts
Posted by cowman on Monday, September 02, 2019 6:15 PM

I've had good luck cutting foam with my table saw and know it has a little give.  Soounds like it will have enough for the transition to grade.  Think I will cut some 2" into strips and use it.  The narrow strips will be OK, as the trackside sceneery will take care of the edges.  Looks like flextrack over cork should take care of the transition.

After the caulk sets up, looks like you have plenty of beverages for the crew.

Thanks to all of you for the replies  


  • Member since
    February, 2009
  • 1,534 posts
Posted by railandsail on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 11:39 AM

Expanded PVC foam board

I've been constructing a long viaduct (in fact 2 of them) with non-stock grades,...and also several long grades in my logging area. I had been looking at various types of 'foam board' to use as roadbed, but became disatisfied with a lot of them.

Gator board brand was very appealing, but rather costly. I fortuntely had a sign shop neer me that create, and threw out scraps. 3/16" thick was just fine.

But I discovered something even better. Its a PVC product, but its termed expanded foam PVC, or expanded PVC foam. Its relatively stiff, its homogenous, and it cuts real easy with fine wood cutting tools,...jig saws, hand saws with fine tooth blades. I made a little pattern in brown paper of the roadbed width and curves, and cut that out of 1/4" PVC foam. I placed that at the height grades I was looking to achieve, then cut risers out of some of the same material. I chose a one foot spacing for those risers. In a couple of cases I double up the 1/4" thick stuff to make 1/2" thick spacers.

I used hot melt glue to attach those risers to the roadbed, but I'm sure other adhesives would work well,...maybe even PVC glue?

This stuff is grade to deal with. I also got my scraps from the sign shop. There are some manufacturers that might sell 'seconds' and/or 'damages' on the full sheets they make?

BTW I did some water testing of this 'foam board' since I had heard of many cases of paper faced foamboards failing. This stuff set in water for 2 days with NO damage.

Sorry can't post photos

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 18,425 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 12:09 PM

Early on, I built a couple of cookie cutter grades out of pink foam.  I made long ramps.  I don't have a table saw, so I cut them with a hot wore cutter.  This was difficult to control and get a straight line.  I ended up with the cut side on the bottom because it was so uneven, but the top where the track went was fine.

The pink foam is strong and stiff enough to support the grade over 2 to 3 feet, so with this material you don't really need a triagular ramp, just a long, flat piece with a few increasing supports as you go up.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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