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How do you mock up your track before committing to permanent structures like risers and sub-roadbed? Elevations are a concern because I'd like to have a switch-back over itself (look up Gumstump and Snowshoe).

The current bare platform is 1 inch rigid foam over 1/4 inch ply over 1x4 framework. I am considering using foam board cut into curves and straights to simulate roadbed for flats and elevations.

There is a track plan drawn to scale and it looks like it fits, even the elevations. In theory. Of course the first bit of actual switching track had to be modified slightly which can throw off everything else.

Three and four percent grades are not a problem for short distances like 36 inches. Two percent in most places. A long consist would be 6x40 ft cars + engine and caboose. Or two long coaches. Once in a rare while I would run a 6 unit passenger train with long coaches. if it slips, then I have fun doubling the hill.


I'm the one
Staff member
I'm not 100% certain of what you mean by 'mocking up the track'; however, I think you will find that the majority of people know where their elevations will be before they lay their track, even loose laying it, as that would have been done in the planning and designing stage. If you haven't planned for anything as yet, it would be possible to loose lay the track then slip risers beneath it in various places until you found the right place/s for you.

Your sub road bed would be your 1" foam that you have down now, or plan to put down. So I'm not sure what you mean by 'planning your sub road bed' unless you mean risers for elevated track.

If you are using your 1" foam as a base for your scenery, then positioning the risers and gradients to those risers could be done as said above. Loose lay your track, trace around it so when you remove it for the risers etc you know where to put everything back and where to lay your roadbed as well.

I don't know if I have answered your question, as I am not all that positive of what is you are asking, but hope this helps anyway.


I'm the one
Staff member
Are you using the cookie cutter method to build your layout? Or, do you have a flat surface on which to lay your track, scenery etc?


If it's any help, I read how-tos and watched YouTube videos on creating grades and hills out of foam board, then spent like three MONTHS with an electric carving knife and a rasp, making a hellacious mess of purple foam snow in my basement, trying to achieve smooth inclines. Then, I gave up and scrapped the whole thing, and got a Woodland Senics 3% incline set, a couple of 4% incline starters, and some 1 1/2" and 3/4" rigid foam insulation. The Woodland Scenics pieces were a little pricey, but they were SO worth it. The 4% starters match up very nicely with the foam, and using plain old quilting pins, I was able to mock up and test run my track in about an hour, rather than fighting with it all winter.
I am running HO scale 1/2" plywood with 1 1/2" foam over the top as the base, then further grading as described. My scene is a river bed with bluffs and farmland. So far, my engine has no problem with the 4% grade bits, but I only run about 4 pieces of rolling stock at a time, since... Well, since that's how many pieces I have.
I hope that helps!
tl:dr Woodland Scenics incline sets: SO worth it. Risers... Not so much.

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