Some Urban Detailing

No completed projects, but have been continuing to flesh out the urban scenery.


There are a myriad of ways to represent roads on a model railroad. The method chosen usually is dictated by the road type and location. My roads are all in a city, and photos from the place and time show well-maintained asphalt. My biggest concern was getting a reasonable color match to aged blacktop. After reviewing the collective wisdom of the internet, I decided to try styrene and paper.

Many methods involve plaster or some similar material. I didn’t want to build roads so much as represent them. I used medium-grey cardstock glued with CA to 0.015 styrene substrate. The styrene allowed the cardstock to lay flat. A hobby knife and triangle made short work of trimming the pieces. Roads were attached to the foam table top with CA.

Roads 2

Roads 1

I laid the roads at an angle to the track for visual interest. The original plan was to have a grade crossing where the road abuts the tracks, but two attempts later it was apparent my skills weren’t equal to the task, so I went with Plan B, and dead-ended the pavement. I couldn’t see any pavement markings on period Tacoma streets, so my roads are unmarked.

Building Foundations

The original plan was to place the buildings on the pavement and put sidewalks in front. I quickly discovered that the architectural details of the building wouldn’t allow that, as the building columns had to rest on the sidewalk. I used 0.040 styrene cut to the building footprint, painted it grey, and glued the sidewalks (also 0.040 thick) to the sides to make a sort of template ready to be installed.

The larger building foundation in place.

Building foundation 1

Building foundation 2

Much better.

Street Details

Every grade crossing needs protection, so I picked up a couple of Blair Line sign kits.

Road sign kit

The signs are printed on a thin plastic sheet, and a selection of stripwood posts are included. I painted a few of the posts Camouflage Brown, and after carefully cutting out the cross bucks, created the signs.

City overview 1

The dilapidated fence in the middle is a Clever Models product. I printed the download onto #100 card, then cut it out and folded. You have to cut out the missing boards; a bit of tricky proposition in N-scale, but the finished product looks good.

I needed a barrier for the dead-end street, so used handrails left over from the car pier:

Handrail at end of road

Roads 3

To the left of the parked cars are parking meters, so city fathers can fund the street improvements. The manhole covers and drain grates are reduced photographs of prototypes, printed on paper, then cut out and glued down. I expect they’ll blend in better once the streets are weathered.

I’m awaiting delivery of mailboxes, telephone booths, and fire hydrants. Finding appropriate light poles is more difficult than expected, to the point I’m considering learning a 3-D printing program and having custom ones made.


I’d complained that N-scale vehicles seemed to fall into two categories: really nice, expensive, pewter models, and inexpensive but labor-intensive kits. I found an estate sale on eBay selling assembled, painted, period-appropriate car kits for the same price as the kit alone. I bought some, so now the citizenry can drive rather than walk.


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