Building a baseboard

The main structure is built using plained timber around 50mm x 25mm (minimum size) with 75mm x 25mm ideal size edge ways on to give additional strength so the top surface remains flat when weight is added to the top surface.

It's a good idea to use a spirit level to ensure the top is level remembering train run best on a flat level surface.

The maximum space between the cross members should not be more than 30cm assuming the top material will be a minimum thickness of 6mm (12mm is ideal) ply wood or similar material.


The cross members can be screwed together using around 60mm long CSK steel screws making sure all timbers are lined up to ensure a flat surface.


 The top surface is best covered with a sheet of ply wood with a minimum thickness of 6mm (12mm is ideal)which makes a strong flat surface ready to start building a railway.


If at this stage you know you will be having any valleys where the ground level will be below the track level then build the lower level now

For a simple recess in the ground leave a piece of ply wood out on the top surface and attach a piece of ply under instead of on top of the timber frame.

As a rough guide the minimum size of board for '00' gauge is 4 foot by 8 foot and 2 foot by 4 foot for 'N' gauge.     These sizes allow the use of 'setrack' curves but if possible try and make the sizes greater than above and use flexable track.

If the recess is a valley with the train going over a bridge or viaduct them build the base board with a lower section to the depth of the valley. The bridge could be taking the train over another 'dummy' line, a river, or a motorway/road.  

The final thing to do is cover the plywood top with a fibre material as used for notice boards, insulation boarding, or laminate floor underlay. The advantage of using these materials is

  • easy to push track pins in without the need to use a hammer
  • reduces sound when trains are running  

The best material for the top covering is available from builders merchants and some model shops and is known as 'Sundeala'.

An alternative to the above is covering the wooden top surface with cork sheet around 3mm. thick where the tracks is which will reduce the sound of trains running over it and form a ballast preform ready to receive the loose ballast. 


If you need to store or transport your railway in sections you will need to ensure the boards align every time so may we recomend the pattern makers dowels shown on left plus coach bolts with wing nuts to close the gap.




The last thing to do is add legs as and where required which could either fold or detach from the board. The height of the top depend on what level you want to work on and view your layout.

A useful feature is to have a removeable piece of the top surface where you know you will be doing a lot of detailed work on. This will enable you to take that piece of board to a more comfortable place thus reducing back strain.


.              Cut-out in board                              Removable plywood top in place 

I did this by removing a rectangle of 'Sundela' from the timber supports and replacing it with a piece of 6mm plywood which is thinner than the Sundela board.  See above.


I then put csk head wood screws into the top surface of the timber cross members about 20cm. apart and adjusted the height of these screws so when the plywood was put into place sitting on top of the screw head the top surfaces were level. This worked very well.  I added timber strips of timber around 25mm square the full length of the plywood to make it more rigid, and added cutouts in the cross members for clearance. 

I can now work on this section in comfort without having to reach across the whole layout and add buildings, scenics, and even lighting.

If using the 'Sundeala' shown below I would recommend you lay it on a plywood base sheet with a minimum thickness of 6mm.  (12mm ideal) to form a sandwich to ensure the track surface remains flat and level. Although 'Sundeala' is a great surface to lay track on it does need total support. 

One word of warning with 'Sundeala'. It is basically compressed paper and is subject to absorbing moisture so is not suitable if the location of your layout is in a damp shed or attic because it will expand and loose it's flatness and could give problems with the trains running. 





  Many thanks to 'Sundeala' for this very informative leaflet


 For those of you who prefer to buy a baseboard already made here are a few ideas

Acknowledgement to Railway Modeller at Peco for this advertisment