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Tips for locating extruded foam for model railroads

Extruded foam (the pink or blue foam board) is a popular material for building model railroad layouts. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find in mild-winter areas (such as most of California* and the Southwest). Still, the manufacturers of the material have provided dealer finders to make this process easier.


When using either of these dealer finder methods, be aware that many dealers they list do not actually stock the material, so you must phone first! In particular, they will list many Home Depot or Lowes stores which do not have the stuff in stock. Phone first, then drive.


Dow (maker of the blue foam) has a phone number for locating large dealers:(866) 583-2583 In my experience, they often will not have a large dealer to whom they sell directly in mild-winter areas, so they refer you to nationwide distributors, who in turn will refer you to a dealer. Call the dealer names they give you first, before driving.

By the way, Dow has a dizzying variety of blue foam products. The standard stuff that most people use for model railroading applications is called "Styrofoam Square Edge". Be sure to ask for that specifically. Owens Corning makes the pink foam, which they call Foamular. Their dealer finder is online here. 

Did I mention to call first, then drive? Again, the dealer-finders will list many big-box home supply stores, but in mild-winter areas, most of these do not have the foam in stock. You know, it might just be a good idea to phone first ...


A number of layouts I've been involved with here in the bay area are built with foam, so it's possible to buy it with a little effort. A number of Pacific Supply locations carry or will order extruded foam, including these:


Pacific Supply
61 Jordan Street
San Rafael, CA 94901-3918
(415) 453-9531

Pacific Supply
1675 Mission Rd
S San Francisco, CA 94080
(415) 285-1010 

Pacific Supply
1735 24th St.
Oakland, CA
(510) 832-5734 

They don't stock the foam in S. SF, but as of September 2008 they will order any amount of the Dow (blue) foam with no minimum.

In the Sacramento area, try:

Service Partners Supply, Inc

(formerly RSA Supply)
8321 Demetre Ave
Sacramento , CA  95828
Phone: 916-388-2631


Pacific Supply
3000 Mather Field Rd
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670 
Phone: (916) 368-3535


In Southern California, friends and clients have found the foam at:

Foam Sales and Marketing
1005 West Isabel Street
Burbank, California 91506

(818) 558-5717

As of September 2011, another Southern California supplier for Dow Foamular is:

628 North Victory Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91502
(800) 943-8362

The above suppliers have stocked foam board in the past. Things change -- call first. I can't guarantee that these are the cheapest and there certainly may be other suppliers to consider -- caveat emptor. (which might be Latin for call first ...)


* By the way, yayhoos on forums will often spout off that the extruded foam is illegal in CA due to cancer concerns (Prop. 65). This is completely untrue – there just are a lot of folks out there who are jealous of California, I guess.


I have been told that the foam board is often used in conjunction with radiant heating in floors … this construction method is uncommon in the milder winter areas of California and may be one reason the foam board is harder to find.

Copyright 2008 by Byron Henderson

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