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I never though about doing a 1 to 1 drawing on the floor and I have just the place to do it - thanks! When creating roadbed for your model railroad track it’s hard to beat plywood topped by foam insulation for track that runs at table level.
Model railroad track that is elevated from the benchwork introduces several new engineering problems we have to deal with. One way around these problems would be to separate the plywood and foam, leaving the plywood at table level and putting the risers between it and the foam roadbed. Luckily, we came up with a solution to both our problems: a foam and thin plywood sandwich bonded with a polyurethane glue that makes a remarkably strong yet flexible model railroad roadbed. But polyurethane adhesives also have some idiosyncrasies that must be taken into account to be used successfully.
First, however, as shown in Figure 1, we peeled off the thin plastic sheet on both sides of the foam. Next, since the 5mm plywood is so flexible, you have to have a very flat base for the gluing operation. Spread a bead of polyurethane glue evenly across the surface of the 5mm plywood, as shown in Figure 3. Lay the foam printed-side down onto the wetted, glue-covered 5mm plywood sheet, as shown in Figure 6. As shown in Figure 8, we used some bags of sand we had laying about for a landscaping project, but you can use anything- tools, lumber, cinder blocks, etc. On our Roadbed: A Solid Foundation for your Model Railroad page of our O Gauge Model Railroad Layout Project, we show how to cut curved and straight pieces of roadbed from the finished 5mm plywood and foam sandwich to create an over-under figure 8 as shown in Figure 9. I started this barge construction (carfloat) at the end of October, 2012 for my previous HO Utopia Northern.
For the barge construction I laid a piece of styrene on a sheet of 1" blue foam construction board and used it to trace the barge outlines.Then I cut the foam with a utility knife to the rectangular shape of the styrene barge deck. I began doing the barge construction by laying out curves for the bow and stern using a French curve (instead of drawing the curve with a compass). I wrapped a fresh piece of 150 grit sandpaper around a block of wood and sanded the edges until they appeared to be smoother and a similar shape. After some final shaping of the edges with a rasp and the sandpaper block it was time to begin the really difficult part of the barge construction project. I had bought a Fast Tracks rail bender when I was building slip switches for Underhill North. The method here was to lay one rail and use track gauges to set the companion rail. I wish I had a some extra hands during the barge construction! I have acquired an assortment of track gauges from code 70 to 100 over the many years I've been in the hobby.
The following day after the foam putty has hardened I used a soft, flexible sanding block to clean up the edges and do the final contouring.
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While viewing any Flickr photos page, click on the bookmarklet to open the same view on Flickriver. But many fine N scale layouts (large and small) have also been built with off-the-shelf components and for a first foray into model railroading, that will certainly be a shorter MTTF (Mean Time to Fun).
Just to save OP Dan some time, the Central Valley system is a fine product, but sadly not available in N scale. If you find something of value here, please "pay it forward" and help us keep the site operating by a secure donation through PayPal (PayPal account is not required), or by shopping with our advertisers. The plywood creates a solid subroadbed that also strengthens the benchwork; the foam creates a sound-deadening layer that is also easily shaped for scenic purposes. But, without the support of the plywood, the foam will sag if not supported by risers every three to four inches. Most other adhesives would either chemically attack the foam, or not hold a bond when subjected to the twisting forces required to keep curved, graded track level from side to side. If you don’t do this, you may find it will separate from the foam later, destroying your sandwich. If there are any depressions on the floor, the strength of the expanding foam can force the plywood into it and away from the foam. Then, using a hard wallpaper roller, spread the glue out on the sheet of 5 mm plywood as shown in Figure 4. To learn how to calculate the grade and risers needed to create the figure 8, see our Calculating Model Railroad Grades page.
As you can see in the photo the height of the barge is a near perfect match for the rails on the apron.The final shape of the barge ends and bottom have not been done nor has the cut edge of the styrene been smoothed. Because I wanted to lay the code 83 rail directly on the styrene deck I could't attach the rails to circuit board ties to keep a correct gauge.I decided to use ACC glue for bonding.
After I had filed the rails and was happy with their position I soldered the frog angle together and checked it with the edge of an NMRA track gauge.I had left the rails at the apron end longer than I needed.
As the barge is not intended to move I used rail joiners at the apron end to make operations easier.
This was to disguise the visible seam between the styrene deck and the blue foam base.The putty won't attack the foam. I was imagineering this barge and not following any prototype.I was more interested in making it look plausible.
I now have a nice harbor scene that adds to the overall operation of the layout and gives us an excuse to "fiddle" cars into the drawer to move them beyond the layout to parts far and wide. Now that I've completed construction of the harbor and carfloat Walthers announces that the waterfront series of kits is being re-released due to popular demand.This includes the harbor apron, carfloat, tugboat, pier and crane and assorted waterfront buildings. Once added to your personalized homepage, just edit widget settings to select your desired view.

And there's nothing wrong with that if you wish to invest the time in learning and practicing -- and the cash up front for the jig(s) -- note that you need more than one if you plan to use different turnout sizes. As you can see on our Calculating Model Railroad Grades page, that’s a lot of additional calculating and cutting of risers. Activated by water, it turns into a foam similar to the expanding foam insulation available in aerosol cans.
Add more glue where needed and roll it out until the 5mm plywood is entirely covered with a very thin coat of glue. I put the assembled frog on the barge deck, placed the barge in position against the apron, and marked where to cut the rails.Again, because I couldn't solder to any circuit board ties I tried to use epoxy to hold the assembly together.
Furthermore, the finished turnouts lack some detail, like tie plates or spikes.It finally depends on your liking - if you want to build your turnouts yourself, they are a good way of doing it. Our trains must climb a steep grade to traverse a large desert mesa before descending and passing beneath the upgrade track to reach vital industries and passengers located in the valley below.
The rest of the track is on a grade – that is, it is either climbing from, or descending to, table level. While 12” of additional track length may not seem like a lot, on a layout the size of our O Gauge Model Railroad Layout Project, it requires more space than we have. These adhesives can expand three to four times their original volume, so a strong bond requires clamping to keep the two parts being joined in contact with each other. I only glued the ruler to the deck once and had to shift a rail end once before the glue set up permanently.
I had to work quickly starting from the apron end where the curves are located.My dual gauge code 70 3-point gauges are worn enough to be used for code 83 so I kept them for the critical compound curves and used the code 100 gauges on the straight stretches. I think they are pewter.I drilled #54 holes to place them because they have small tabs on the bottom. Then I drilled a tiny hole (#64) in the bottom of the pilings, inserted a straight pin, clipped the end off and added a dab of AC glue.I dipped the bottoms of the pilings in white glue and then dipped them in some small sized stones.
This type of plywood is used as an underlayment beneath flooring, so it usually has a rough side and a smooth side. A little sloppiness in the gauge is OK on the straight track.After I had all the track glued down I positioned the barge at the apron and rolled a few freight cars on and off the barge. There are a few experts in here, who build their turnouts without those jigs - just with the help of a NMRA gauge (which you need to have in any case) and maybe a home made jig for the frog.
When the track climbs a grade while on a curve, the roadbed resists the twist required to remain level across the width of the track and won’t lie flat against the risers.
I find this work very tedious and not worth for the little number of turnouts I need.If you want to get your trains up and running quickly, buy ready made turnouts.
It took multiple passes with an X-Acto #11 blade to score the sheet before I could snap it.

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