Spline Roadbed Construction

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Duration: 5:30

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Howard Zane, modeler of the Piermont Division of the Western Maryland model railroad, has always used spline for his roadbeds. It offers ease and simple construction. A layout his size would have required 20-25 sheets of plywood at $400-$500. Using spline, his whole layout was finished with three 1x8x12 spline boards at around $8.50/piece.

To create his spline roadbed, he starts with a standard riser and attaches a spacer block of pine with a single nail. This way the block can still swivel to adjust the curve. On the sections off of the risers he glues more blocks with hot glue for the center spline. He continues until the ideal roadbed width is achieved.

Zane uses standard half-inch homasote from most lumber yards and makes random cuts from an inch to a half inch on one side of the board. This is to enable flexibility along the curve. The underside is then coated with white glue and placed on top of the subroadbed. He clamps it down to the splines while they dry.

The operation on Zane’s Western Maryland layout is a coal haul to the town of Piermont. Operations on the layout are fairly new, the previous nine years of work having been on the actual build. Zane has been able to build the railroad as fast as he did because he did not run it. He waited until the end of completion before he began to operate.

With guests he runs the trains around the Christmas tree, loop to loop. It is point to point for main operation with several schedules running at a time. He has been able to create such a realistic model by careful observation of scenery near the trains he follows.