How to build a multi-level train table

Written by sean kotz
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How to build a multi-level train table
Adding elevation to your layout may include a combination of bridges, tunnels and landscape features. (Getty Creative)

If you have graduated from ovals and basic turnouts on your model railway, the next step is to create some elevated tracks and terrain. This can be a combination of bridges, ramped trackways, and exposed or hidden inclines. You must consider the point of view of the observer and train operators when adding height to a layout, as well as the available space. Since each layout space is different, it is important to get a sense of the principles involved so you can modify as necessary.

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Permanent marker
  • Model railroad landscaping foam or extruded insulation foam
  • Foam knife or hobby knife with long blades
  • Drywall screws of various lengths
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • White glue
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Cork rail-bed strips
  • Model railroad track
  • Rail nails
  • Plaster wraps

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  1. 1

    Measure the available area before you begin.

  2. 2

    Calculate the distance of track needed based on the slope grade and height of the elevation. Slope grades should not exceed 4 per cent and are calculated by dividing the height by the length. 2.5 metres (100 inches) of track per 1 per cent grade per 2.5 cm (1 inch) of height is generally needed. Thus, a 10-cm (4-inch) peak from a 1 per cent grade would require 10 metres (400 inches) of track and at 2 per cent would require 5 metres (200 inches) of track.

  3. 3

    Mark the areas of elevation on your layout board with a marker, including space for surrounding landscaping. For example, if you are building hills or mountains, account for the outer edges on your board as well as the track line and any bridge structures.

  4. 4

    Mark and cut the bottom layer of elevated foam first, then proceed to subsequent layers in stages as it suits the track grade.

  5. 5

    Screw the foam together to hold it in place to test the position of the parts.

  6. 6

    Cut the slope out of the foam layers with a foam knife or hobby knife to create transitions from piece to piece.

  7. 7

    Glue and screw down the base foam to the layout board once you are satisfied with the position.

  8. 8

    Apply layers of crumpled newspaper to areas between the foam layers to add natural landscape shapes and tape down with masking tape.

  9. 9

    Lay cork rail bed in place along the track line temporarily with masking tape, followed by the track line with a few rail nails.

  10. 10

    Apply power leads to the track and test the grade to make sure your locomotives can pull up the hill, making adjustments if necessary.

  11. 11

    Glue down the cork and fully secure the track when satisfied with the track line.

  12. 12

    Apply plaster wrap to the landscape to smooth out the surfaces.

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