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Ready to lay cork -- need hive wisdom

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Ready to lay cork -- need hive wisdom
Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 12:23 AM

Hi All,

The subroadbed for my main loop and the yard is done. I still need to add the branch and spurs but I'm excited to be laying track soon so that I can at least run some trains in a circle. Thing is, I'm new to cork roadbed.

I have purchased the kind that comes in three-foot square-edged lengths that have an angled slice down the center, which you split and invert so that it takes a ballast shape.

Is there any advantage to staggering the halves as you proceed down the line so that the seams do not line up? Or, do you just start laying cork evenly at the beginning of some convenient straight section of track and let the seams fall where they may (they'll quickly get uneven going around curves)? Any gotchas to watch out for? Any tricks that will make the job easier?

Hmmm. What else can I tell you that you'll otherwise have to ask about. Oh... I'm planning to use Elmers to glue the cork to the plywood subroadbed.

Also, do you cork the yard and if so, what with? I'll have three or four tracks plus the mainline all parallel to each other, and was hoping to find a wide cork product that could underlay all three of the yard tracks, or even the yard and mainline all.

Any help appreciated. Thanks.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 3:28 AM

Some feel there is an advantage to staggered butt joints just as many accept that staggered joints in flex track along curves strengthens the tracks and makes the curve conform more easily, and securely, to the intended path.  I can't argue with them.

Do have that reference point, the centerline.  Lay one vertical edge along it, with some thinly spread acrylic caulk in place at the centerline and outward, both sides of the centerline.  If you have it spread thinly enough, you'll be able to see the centerline through the coat.  Lay one piece, use pushpins or something to keep it in place along the centerline, and repeat for the opposite length of cork.  Then, place things like soda tins or similar items to help pin it down and to keep it pressed into the caulk below the cork.  I often use lengths of scrapwood along the cork and place a soda tin on that.  You get more pressure over a longer distance that way.

You 'can' cork the yard, but sticklers would ask you to use a thinner cork.  The mains are always at a higher elevation, while sidings and yard tracks are ideally somewhat lower, maybe 7-12" in scale.  Keeps thing from rolling over turnouts and onto the main.  You may have to look for a suitable non-cork product, or source a cork sheet that is thinner, even maybe N-Scale roadbed.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 6:26 AM

Hello Matt,

You'll get a healthy debate between those who line up the edges of the cork and those that stagger it.  I personally stagger out the cork.  I read about that from proponents of that approach.  

I like that you're using white glue for cork.  That is a lot easier to lift up than chaulk.  One thing to use is either thumb tacks or long pins (the type used on  wall maps) to glue the cork.

On my 1st layout I didn't have cork in the yard but do on my present one using the same HO scale cork.  

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 6:34 AM

I lay cork without worrying if it is staggered or not.  I may start even but with curves etc, one piece will get off from the other, then the pieces will end up staggered.

But you see it matters not as it will be covered with ballast later anyway.  There is no point to even argue about it.  So it's moot.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:16 AM

crossthedog
Is there any advantage to staggering the halves as you proceed down the line so that the seams do not line up?

I have never worried about it. The cork supplies no structural support for the layout, and I use so much glue that it is never moving.

crossthedog
Do you just start laying cork evenly at the beginning of some convenient straight section of track and let the seams fall where they may

I always started at a turnout location and worked out from there. No special reason why.

crossthedog
Any gotchas to watch out for?

Not really.

crossthedog
Any tricks that will make the job easier?

Again, not really. Installing cork roadbed is pretty easy. I do sand the surface when I am done with 60 grit paper in a hand sanding block to make sure the surface does not have any humps.

crossthedog
I'm planning to use Elmers to glue the cork to the plywood subroadbed.

That is what I use.

crossthedog
Also, do you cork the yard and if so, what with?

Yes, as normal, and I usually fill in the "ditches" between the cork with Amaco Sculptamold.

The really is nothing special to cork installation... have fun!

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:43 AM

riogrande5761

I lay cork without worrying if it is staggerred or not.  I may start even but with curves etc, one piece will get off from the other, then the pieces will end up staggered.

But you see it matters not as it will be covered with ballast later anyway.  There is no point to even argue about it.  So it's moot.

 
That pretty much sums up my approach -- ah, the wisdom of the hive Blindfold-- but I will say that for extremely tight curves it is easier to bend the middle of a piece of cork than the extreme end, so in those special situations a bit of strategic placement of the cork can help. 
 
Perhaps you do not need this particular bit of (cough cough) "wisdom," but getting a sanding foam block or sponge (I was able to get one about 9" long) and running it along the cork roadbed before laying track can pay considerable dividends.  There is some irregularity to the top surface of cork roadbed, and the joins between cork pieces can create more small irregularities on the surface.  It is surprising how directly these little irregularities get transmitted to the track.  A brief time with the sanding sponge helps greatly. You'll "feel" when the surface has been smoothed enough even as you do the work.
 
Dave Nelson  
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:53 AM

dknelson
I will say that for extremely tight curves it is easier to bend the middle of a piece of cork than the extreme end, so in those special situations a bit of strategic placement of the cork can help. 

I have also found it easier (for me) to install the inner piece of cork first, then install the outer piece.

I'll bet a lot of the "hive" prefer to do it the other way.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by BATMAN on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 11:20 AM

At one time I tacked cork down with nails, then once upon a time used glue. I use caulk now because it works really well as a leveler if you have gouges or Knotholes that may create a speed bump for the roadbed.

Latex paint really holds track and cork down even if you put the track and cork down on it years after it had been painted. Don't ask how I know.Laugh

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by hornblower on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 12:16 PM

Its a good idea to sand the top of your cork roadbed before you lay track.  However, don't use sanding sponges or sand using your hand as these methods will leave undulations in the cork that isn't easily visible (I know this from my auto bodywork days).  If you want dead flat cork, you'll need a long, rigid and flat sanding block.  Such a block can be made by cutting a strip of plywood or mdf about 12" long by 2" wide.  Apply spray adhesive to one side of the block and press the adhesive into the back side of a a full sheet of 80 or 40 grit sandpaper.  Once the spray adhesive has cured, use a sharp knife to trim the sandpaper close to the edges of the block.  You are now ready to sand your cork.  The coarse sandpaper will allow the work to progress rapidly with only light effort, and the rigid sanding block will ensure that your cork roadbed is dead flat.

Like I did, you might also find that such a sanding block is great for sanding clean straight edges on pieces of sheet styrene.  The coarse sandpaper will quickly straighten a wavy styrene edge and a couple of strokes with a mill file will smooth the edge.

Hornblower

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 12:32 PM

dknelson

riogrande5761 I lay cork without worrying if it is staggerred or not.  I may start even but with curves etc, one piece will get off from the other, then the pieces will end up staggered. But you see it matters not as it will be covered with ballast later anyway.  There is no point to even argue about it.  So it's moot.  

 

That pretty much sums up my approach -- ah, the wisdom of the hive --

We are borg.

 

Perhaps you do not need this particular bit of (cough cough) "wisdom," but getting a sanding foam block or sponge (I was able to get one about 9" long) and running it along the cork roadbed before laying track can pay considerable dividends.  There is some irregularity to the top surface of cork roadbed, and the joins between cork pieces can create more small irregularities on the surface.  It is surprising how directly these little irregularities get transmitted to the track.  A brief time with the sanding sponge helps greatly. You'll "feel" when the surface has been smoothed enough even as you do the work.
 
Dave Nelson 

 

Sanding block is a good idea before laying track; I have found this to be true also.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 6:33 PM

Hey all, thanks again for all this good feedback. I especially wouldn't have thought about sanding the cork.

Interestingly, I was alerted just after I posted this (by my LHS guy here in Seattle area) that the yard should "probably" -- he said this apologetically, as if not wanting to appear to be a prototype nag -- "probably be a little lower than the main" that runs right next to it. I was asking him about buying a wide sheet-o'-cork that I could use for all those tracks next to each other. He suggested something that Home Depot sells as a flooring underlayment -- it's about 1/8 inch thick, which I discovered is a massive, expensive roll from which the Home Despot will not deign to sell me a small acreage. But nevermind! I see selector has suggested I could use N gauge cork for that, so I'm going to look into that. 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:40 PM

All of my "yards" are staging tracks, so all are directly atop the plywood surface in those areas, and there is no ballast used there, either, as those areas are considered to be "elsewhere"...

 

All on-layout industries also have the track directly on the plywood, but the track is ballasted with some type of suitable material...

 

....and there are a couple of locations where the mainline is also directly on the plywood subroadbed, as seen here...

...and here, too...

Wayne

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Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 11:23 PM

Hi Matt,

Definitely sand the cork with a long straight block as was suggested after the glue has dried.

When the two pieces of cork are separated there tends to be some roughness at the top of the bevelled edge. Don't forget to smooth and round those edges before the track is laid. I have seen several layouts under construction where the rough edges had not been addressed before the track was laid. Sanding them afterwards will be a pita.

Dave 

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 9:47 AM

riogrande5761

We are borg.

Locutus, is that you?  It's me, Hugh.   Right Hug

 

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 9:58 AM

crossthedog
The yard should probably be a little lower than the main"

Yes, it should, but I have never bothered. Vertical transitions can be problematic for me, so I just raise the scenery around the yard and industrial areas to make the track appear lower.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 3:33 PM

While I hate to throw a monkey wrench into the works, it is *generally* the rule that sidings and yard tracks are lower.

BUT it is not everytime.


Case in point - a local shortline in my area (ex CR, nee EL) has a passing siding that sits roughly 8 inches higher than the main line. (Ex 2 Track main, with the now mostly removed second main the former primary track, therefore ballasted higher. Why CR thought to pull it out instead of the lower main is a mystery. Perhaps better rail on the lower side?)

That same line has a main classification yard where almost every single track sits at the same height as the main through track.

As far as tricks - I find it better to slice through the edge to seperate the sides rather than bend/break/tear/rip. It just makes it a bit smoother from the get go, making less sanding of the edge required. (Maybe it saves time, maybe not.)

For yard cork - CorkBoard sheet/roll kits from Walmart, Office supply stores, etc, does sit slightly lower than HO cork roadbed, and is much cheaper than the flooring underlayment, with much less per package. (The floor underlayment is thinner, but as you saw, very pricey.)

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 6:59 PM

doctorwayne
All on-layout industries also have the track directly on the plywood, but the track is ballasted with some type of suitable material...

Darn. Wayne, your stuff looks so good I almost decided to throw the cork idea out the window. Sort of just kidding but wow, your track looks really good.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 7:01 PM

hon30critter
Don't forget to smooth and round those edges before the track is laid.

Dave, thanks for this. I have noticed how the cork halves don't really halve themselves cleanly. Consider me convinced about the sanding.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2021
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Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 7:05 PM

ricktrains4824
For yard cork - CorkBoard sheet/roll kits from Walmart, Office supply stores, etc, does sit slightly lower than HO cork roadbed, and is much cheaper than the flooring underlayment

Rick, thanks for the hot tip here. Sounds like a good option.

And Kevin, I hear ya that dropping the track in a yard just makes another place where I have to worry about transistions. I don't think I'd want to fiddle it for every spur, but I think it would be worth trying for my yard.

-Matt

 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by FRRYKid on Friday, April 30, 2021 2:21 AM

Late to the party, but it looks like I seem to have broken all the conventions with my layout. When it came to my yard I left it the same level as the mainline. However the way I designed mine was I found sheets of 5mm cork and trimmed them in such a a way that I used a piece of standard cord roadbed as the exposed track edge (i.e. the front edge on the mainline and the back edge of the passenger siding) and then the sheet cork fills the rest. I also nail my cork as I tend to "backbed" my single tracks. (Backbed: I lay the track to fit the area in question without securing it then put the bedding underneath to fit.) The nails make it a lot easier to change my mind if I decide to.

But then of course everybody has different ways of doing things that work for them. (Resistance is NOT futile! ST:V "One")

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."

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