If you've followed our suggestions that a permanent table-top layout is the best way to build a model railroad, you're at least considering a "better" way to hold your track in place. With some twenty-year's experience, on over a dozen layouts, we figured the members of the Elmhurst (Ill.) Model Railroad Club ought to know what they were doing. They feel their system, used on both their giant HO and their N scale layouts, is the best there is.
The Elmhurst 'system' follows the practice proven on literally hundreds of modern model railroads. The track's sub-base is a minimum 1/2"-thick straight wood or plywood supported on an "open grid" type of benchwork and risers. The actual track base is 1/2"-thick Homosote - a cardboard most like material that can be ordered in 4x8-foot sheets from large lumber yards. Homosote has the unique advantages of holding the track spikes or nails firmly yet is soft enough to deaden the toy-like clatter of the model's wheels. Yard areas are covered by a single sheet of Homosote equal to the outer edges of both tracks and buildings. The "mainline" sections of the railroad are covered by strips of Homosote sawed one-inch wider than the track. Both top edges are then beveled off at a 450 angle to leave the flat top surface the width of the track's ties. The Homosote is glued - not nailed - to the wood sub-base. Nails conduct too much noise, defeating one of the major reasons why the Homosote is used.
Most experienced modelers use the flexible, three-foot long, sections of track rather than shorter snap-together pieces. There're fewer track joints to worry about and the flex-track can be curved into smoother bends. A line, representing the center line of the track, is drawn on the Homosote to serve as a guide in laying the actual track. The track is then spiked in place using HO scale model railroad spikes forced into the Homosote with a pair of needlenose pliers. A tramel is used to check the curves for exact radius sections. Finally, a layer of white glue (or floor tile latex Campbell or B&H through your local hobby shop) as work progresses and a metal straightedge on the straight cement) is brushed in place and scale ballast (available from is sprinkled in place. When the glue is dry, the excess ballast is brushed or vacuumed away.