A Word on Baseboards – Measure Twice, Cut Once

One of the golden rules of building a model railway is “Have a decent baseboard from the start”. Unfortunately due to my make do and mend attitude I didn’t follow this rule. My base board is made of a thin sheet of hardboard, one of the most awkward materials I have ever worked with. Hardboard warps easily, is very difficult to nail track pins into and any holes drilled through it will not be tidy. For these reasons I have taken up the existing baseboard and replaced it with a sheet of 9mm plywood. Much better. I’ve gone with 9mm ply because it appears to be the material of choice for experienced modellers; if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

One downside to replacing the baseboard is that the layer of cork I had on the hardboard could not be transferred over so I have laid the rails directly onto the Ply. This may make running louder but because of the nature of the layout operational noise was not a big issue in the first place. However, if possible I would recommend a cork underlay as it can be trimmed to add a bit of a “shoulder” to ballast and slightly raise the track above the rest of the scenery. As I’m going for a shunting yard with a slightly industrial feel I’ve gone without cork on this occasion.

One other challenge I faced was that the frame the baseboard was to mounted on wasn’t straight. I knew the edges of the ply were straight because they had been cut at the timber merchant using their precision tools. My eventual solution was to partially dismantle the frame and fix it to the baseboard piece by piece. This revealed that one of the edges of the frame was longer than the other three causing the whole thing to be crooked and preventing the two halves of the baseboard from lining up flush.

To sum up:

  • Don’t use hardboard as a baseboard. 9mm ply is what the experts advise.
  • Try to put a layer of cork on your baseboard, it can enhance the scenic aspect of the line and it is a good noise absorbent.
  • Make sure the frame you put your baseboard on is square. Measure twice, cut once as they say.
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