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Building a 4 Lane Concrete Street in HO scale

August 1, 2008

Ok, first let’s pick a spot to place our street. In my case, I’m using it to depict the “main drag” in town, a heavily used street that features four lanes. It crosses four tracks, one mainline, one siding, and a pair of industrial spurs. This road is built from 0.60″ styrene sheet with a cork base to elevate it to the level of the rails. The Styrene looks most like concrete streets, and the pavement is scored using a utility knife and a ruler into 20 foot squares for expansion and contraction (*in the actual street)

Styrene street

First cut the sheet cork about 45 scale feet across in whatever direction you want the road to go. Cork is available at craft and hardware stores in a variety of thicknesses (buy whichever thickness you deem best to match your track’s cork height.) Next using a HOT glue gun, attach the cork to your bench work, use utility knife to cut away extra you might have mis-cut.

Next, locate a plastics store. California has “TAP plastics” and you can get syrene in a variety of thicknesses, down to 0.30 in some stores. (The Santa Rosa Location) 0.60 is available in most plastic stores and comes in large sheets, which you can have cut down to a more manageable size to transport home.

Using your space constraints as a guide (the edge of the rails being a most notable constraint to the size and legnth of the road, you mark the areas in which the track intersects the large piece of styrene, then using your utility knife, score and snap the styrene, laying it into place to see if it fits. Adjust as needed, and move onto the next step.

Painted Road

Next, take your utility knife, flipping the knife upside down for scoring, not cutting. Take your ruler and measure 20 (the middle of the street) in and score a line down the center of the street. Now, perpendicular to your vertical line, score expansion joints every 20 feet.

Once that is done take some cheap gray auto primer and spray your styrene road gray. (Make sure to do this outside.)

Marking the road
Next, Road markings.

I was pretty conservative with my road markings because I couldn’t find my magazine copy of “Realistic Layouts 4” which includes plenty of information on building excellent looking roads.

Using the MDOT (Michigan DOT) diagram for railroad crossings, I marked the road accordingly.
MDOT guidelines are available here: MDOT Railroad Crossing Guidelines
and HERE.

Road diagram HO scale

Using a PRISMACOLORWhite colored pencil, some masking tape, and my trusty scale ruler, I marked the requisite two-foot thick stop line, located 15 feet from the center line of the track, or 8 feet from the descended arms of a crossing gate. (This crossing is protected by pneumatic gates controlled by a crossing tower.

I did a single solid white line down the center of the street as well, in line with the MDOT diagram.

checking for clearance in the industrial siding

Next, I checked for clearance on the industrial spur to see if I needed a “Keep Clear” area in the section of road occupied by the Union ICE truck. It doesn’t look like I need that painted on my roadway.

Then, using a mix of craft acrylics I began to weather the road. Adding the tire marks from the thousand+ daily cars that travel over this road, adding the oil drops in front of each stop line, and then after making all that dark-hued detail, I went in with some bragdon enterprises weathering powder, their gray powder, and toned the color back to a concrete color, which isn’t shown in the above photograph.

Here’s what the un-weathered road looks like. It’s nice, but not realistic.
new road


I hope this gives you an Idea for your next scale thoroughfare.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Robert Shepard permalink
    November 9, 2008 7:54 pm

    Great project and I especially love the photos!

    One question/correction (I think). You stated 0.60″ styrene, but I cannot help but think you actually used 0.006″. 0.60″ is over 1/2 inch thick. Likewise 0.30, another value you referenced, is more than 1/4 inch thick. Is that what really you intended?

    Also, the turnout at a grade crossing is slightly unusual (although I have seen then in the prototype), but assuming the road is clear of the points, why would you not fill in the area between the rails. Not trying to nitpick this, it really is a fantastic job. However, such a grade crossing in the real world would be impassible to motor vehicles.

    In any event, I loved the article!


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