Model Layout Subroadbed: 4 Material Options

Model Layout Subroadbed: 4 Material Options

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While making your model farm or truck layout directly on the plywood surface of your bench or table is certainly possible, and many model enthusiasts do it, for optimal flexibility and creativity it is highly recommended that you place another type of material atop your bench or table surface. This layer is known as the “subroadbed” and there are four popular options to choose from – plywood, cork, Homasote, and foam board.


There are two ways of utilizing subroadbed of any type – as sheets covering the entire surface of the wooden bench/table or as strips cut to the shape desired. Squares and rectangles are the most common shapes. Whichever method you choose to use is entirely up to you. Each has its own merits and each has its own drawbacks. We will discuss those merits and drawbacks in another article later.

Why Subroadbed?

Why use a subroadbed at all? Good question, and there are some modelers that don’t use it at all. But, a subroadbed layer does several things – It raises the roadbed above fields, parking lots, side streets, and yards. In farming situations, “modules” of fields can be created to show the progression from tillage, planting, growing season and harvest allowing the cycle of farm work to be shown. This is great to show seasons too. 


Plywood is one option used by many farm and truck layouts. There are some who glue an entire sheet of plywood of the same dimensions of the top of their plywood bench or table. Usually, 3/4” plywood is used on the tables and for plywood subroadbed. Using plywood subroadbed as a full sheet works best on smaller layouts.


Not a popular material in the diecast farming and trucking hobby but an option. Cork subroadbed is the same material used as stoppers for wine bottles. You can get in strips, sheets, or custom cut strips that match the shape of roads etc. How you use it is partially up to your own ideas and comfort level and partially up to what you want to achieve. If you want to make subroadbed for a large area of your layout of the entirety of a small layout you can use a thin sheet of cork glued to the plywood surface of the table. The video below, by EverardJunction, is a great example of using an entire sheet of thin cork. 


Another less used option but an option nonetheless. Homasote is a brand name for a cellulose-based fiber wall board that is similar in manufacture to papier-mâché. Some modelers love it but there are some who believe the fact it is made of paper fiber means it will warp easily. Just like with any of the other materials, Homasote can be used as a sheet or in strips. 

Foam board

Foam Board is also known as extruded foam insulation and foam core (and sometimes spelled as “foam board”). It is easily available at home improvement stores in 1”, 1 ½”, or 2” thicknesses (sometimes thicker in colder regions). Foam board is glued atop the wooden bench or table, and if desired, another layer is glued atop the first for those seeking contours such as hills. Foam board is possibly the most popular type of material to use for subroadbed because it is inexpensive, easy to acquire, and easy to work with. Once in place, foam board can be cut and carved to make streambeds for rivers and creeks, canyons or gullies, or lake beds, again making it very versatile. 


Whichever type of material you choose to work with, your subroadbed is an important part of a model layout. Depending on the type of material you use, it can also be used as a basis for different types of scenery. You can mix and match the different materials to suit your own needs and desires. Cork subroadbed with plywood roadbed, foam board subroadbed with cork roadbed, and so on.

Now is not the time for cold feet. If a budget is a concern, check out this great article 7 Ways to Build Your Dream Model Farm or Truck Layout at a Fraction of the Usual Price(opens in a new tab)