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SWhat wood would do?

Hi, this is my first time to the boards so apologies if this has been answered previously.

I'm looking to build a layout on a 6 x 4 baseboard with a raised section that trains can climb up to. In terms of what I build the scetion out of, what would you recommend and what thickness? Don't know whether I should go with a thick balsa or a thin ply.

Or should I be using wood at all?

Any advice gratefuly received.



7467 posts

 Have you built the baseboard yet?


Because if you haven't there are ways to build it so that the gradient is incorporated into basic structure but it will require a fairly highly developed skill in carpentry


Assuming you have already got a flat 6 x 4 board then you could construct the gradient from thin plywood supported on a series of wooden supporting risers. Supports should be about 12 inches apart to prevent the ply flexing.


Gradients come with problems and my personal preference is to avoid them. You will not have a lot of room to climb to a height which will clear the track below as you pass over it.   Ideally you need to climb at least 2 inches to get enough headroom so if your gradient is 1 in 30 your gradient will be at least 60 inches long almost the length of your board.  Gradients steeper than 1 in 30 are possibleof course  but as it gets steeper it will severely  limit the number of wagons your locomotive will be able to pull.  I recommend you create a test hill first to try it out.

Green trains are best!


4113 posts

Balsa is no good for a baseboard! It is WAY too soft. (I use a lot in my aeromodelling!)

5mm ply is a minimum, but people often go for 7 or thicker. Or you can use MDF. Both of these will need a substantial framework underneath to stop it from sagging or warping.

The problem becomes not one of strength, but of weight. You will be horrified just how heavy a board is, once it is 'decorated' with track, ballast, scenery, etc. (Especially if you need to move it about a lot!)

You also need to bear in mind that you cannot reach over a 4 foot wide board! You either need access all the way around, or a hole in the middle! To give you an idea of the problem, set up a plank at the height you intend to put the layout at, line up an assortment of unbreakable objects along the edge, and see just how far over you can reach without knocking things over or squashing them. You will find that 24" is comfortable, 30" is just about possible with a strain.


As has been said, gradients are bad news, unless you have a very shallow one. Putting a curve in has the effect of steepening the gradient. Don't forget to leave room for the underlying structure of the grade when you measure your clearances from the loco passing below!

Tunnels are not a good idea either, unless you can get inside them, because you can guarantee that is where something will get stuck or derail - right where you cannot get to it! (You also need access for track cleaning!)

if it works first time, you did something wrong!


3260 posts

Community Moderator

Welcome to the Forum Mike.

You can do a search on the Forum by clicking 'Search Forums' on the right hand side of the page and then just putting the single word gradient in the box.  There has been a lot of discussion about gradients and there is some very good advice in the posts above.

00 Gauge. DCC. Elite (v1.43) with Select (v1.0) as Walkabout. RailMaster Pro running on a Windows 10 Laptop. 17 Loco's. 2nd copy of RailMaster (Not Pro) running on Windows 10 Desktop and Networked to the Laptop. Handheld RM running on Android Phone. 3rd copy of RailMaster, still unopened!

Yup, baseboard is all built.

I have zero skills in carpentry so I was looking to build the raised section all along the rear and on the left edge of the board, to the same height as a standard bridge. I want to either use the bridge stansions (intervalled sensibly), or build a ply ramp, to take locos up there.

The diagram below shows the raised section (including the gradients to get to it) in pink. I've tested it with wooden blocks to take it to roughly the right height (slightly higher, actually), and it works.

I haven't done anything like this since I was a kid about 40 years ago so am expecting to make loads of mistakes as I go. Hopefully, this forum can help me minimise the really bad ones!


7467 posts

 Have you considered using the R909 elevated track support set for your incline?  These are specifically designed to raise Hornby track and does away with need for much carpentry. You will need to find away of fitting a hill over the tunnel but at least the risers will be done for you.

Green trains are best!


Yes, the elevated track supports are already doing a decent job for me. I may end up hiding them in some landscaping, mind.

Thanks everyone for your help. Not sure I'm any the wiser about what to build the elevated section out of but will experiment with ply. 

I'll keep you posted, as they say...


82 posts

A very easy way to build an incline that you know has a constant gradient and one that your trains will be able to climb is to use the Bachmann Woodland Scenics Sub Terrain incline system  http://www.bachmann.co.uk/prod1.php?prod_selected=scenics&prod=30


2752 posts

 Remember to cut a hole in your lower baseboard or create some means of access to the green track. Wagons always derail and come right off the track at the most in accessible point on your railway no matter how well things ran before you built the tunnel!

Modelling the GWR in the Welsh Borders, and the Glyn Valley Tramway with quite a few bits from elsewhere!


 Remember to cut a hole in your lower baseboard or create some means of access to the green track. Wagons always derail and come right off the track at the most in accessible point on your railway no matter how well things ran before you built the tunnel!

Thanks for this. I was going to put a backboard along the rear of the layout but leave the left side open for access to the tunnel. 

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