Painting Cork Roadbed

Painted Cork 1800

Roadbed is what holds up the track, and one of the most common materials for this is cork. Another is a soft foam material, such as Woodland Scenics Track-Bed. I’m using both, and for more about the latter, see the Roadbed and Ballast page.

But mostly I’m using cork, and I’m not planning to add ballast initially, but just rest the track atop the cork. This means I need to do something about the color, as light brown cork doesn’t look like gravel. Since flexibility is one of the reasons to have roadbed in the first place--to absorb sound--painting the cork with a paint that would dry to a hard shell, like my usual latex primer, seemed like a bad idea. After reading that acrylic artist’s paint remained flexible after drying, I decided to try it out.

This worked out really well. The color, as can be seen above, is a close match for the molded-on ballast of the Kato Unitrack. And while it’s very subjective, there does seem to be a significant sound-deadening effect if I rap the painted cork with my knuckles. It may not be quite as good as unpainted cork, but it’s definitely better than the polystyrene foam subroadbed would be on its own.

I probably won’t get the full effect unless I attach the Unitrack to the cork (i.e., glue it), which I may do once I get the scenery all settled. For now I’m leaving the track loose, to allow removal while I’m playing with glue, water, and scenic materials that could gunk-up the Unijoiners between track segments.

One caveat: the paint takes days to fully dry. Putting down the track after a couple of days, when everything felt dry to the touch, caused it to stick to the cork. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but to be safe I gave it a couple of weeks to dry while I worked on other things. That seems to have eliminated the stickiness.

Other changes:
  • I added the Roadbed page mentioned above to contain more detail. It will also be updated over time as I learn more about the materials I’m using.

  • I added a picture of the finished fascia and plexiglass to the Construction “phase 2d” page. This worked out as well as I’d hoped it would. That photo has also been added to the Construction photo album in case you want an enlarged view (the photo above is also in that album, but somewhere in the middle as I actually added it weeks ago).