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Modeling Gaffe 2 Road Access

February 10, 2009

These “modeling cliche” articles are intended to engage you, my readers in a debate, not a scathing or arrogant “I’m a better modeler than you”  contest. These are real problems that all too often occur for no good reason on model railroads around the world, and by recognizing it as a problem more people will begin to realize how important these fixes can be towards making your model railroad not only attractive looking, but realistic too.

no road access

This is a huge problem on a majority of club layouts around the country, and it’s also present in more home layouts than I really want to know.

Lack of road access.

Roads predated any modern form of transportation and haven’t been replaced by anything since, so why is there a total lack of adequate roads on a model railroad? It doesn’t make sense. Why completely destroy your illusion of a miniature world by omitting roads? Do you think you don’t have enough space? Do you think that the railroad should serve every single building on your model railroad?

Also, with thousands of scale vehicles available in almost every major railroad modeling scale (with the annoying exception of American O gauge 1:48) there is a great incentive to embrace the roads that frequently parallel or cross our scale railroad lines. As woodland scenics successfully proves with their “Auto Scenics” there is a lot of narrative quality based around road vehicles that add a lot of character to a scene on a model railroad. It’s also another fun facet of the hobby, with the 1:87 vehicle club being a stand-alone force in the modeling world with some modelers just building HO scale autos and trucks and ignoring the trains partially or even completely.

The road itself is an incredibly interesting thing to model. From a rutted, muddy logging road, to a shaded gravel lane to a residential street to old concrete highway or even a modern freeway (which have yet to see modeled at all despite them paralleling railroads from the beginning of the Interstate highway system in the 1950’s.)

Check out these models of:
A dirt parking lot with chain link fence
A paved county road pitted and old from many harsh winters in CNW territory.
An Automotive repair and rail-served scrapyard.
-A concrete two-lane road ans coal dealer
-A classic 1970’s era Dairy Queen with an accruately modeled drivethrough curb structure
A 1970’s era interstate highway bridge over a busy FRISCO mainline
Accurately modeled concrete street trackage
-An old dead-end street with plenty of essential details added, like the K-rail barriers and red diamond “stop” markers
-Old meets new as a brick-street transitions into modern, wide concrete avenue. Also note the awesome telephone company work yard with fleet of telephone co. Vans.
-Beautiful 4 lane avenue with grade crossing turn-off
An absolutely amazing older interstate highway with 6 lanes and an amazing FRISCO grade-separated bridge that’s a standalone masterpiece.
-Another view of the interstate highway

Most of these astoundingly real scenes work BECAUSE the roads are so realistic. They don’t “waste” space because they’re interesting models in their own right. (Mike Budde Modeled most of these awesome scenes. For more of his work, look for back issues of “Mainline Modeler” a defunct model magazine from the 1990’s)

There should be no excuse why you can’t model adequately wide, detailed and attractive looking roads. The average US street is 30-35 feet across, roughly 12 feet per lane plus space to park on at least one side.

I hope these photos inspired you to go out there and start grading for your future roads.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniel Levy permalink
    February 10, 2009 7:57 am

    GREAT POST! So interesting.

  2. February 10, 2009 9:14 pm

    I agree 100%. The battle between roads and rails is all around us and illustrating that brings even more realism to a layout.

  3. February 23, 2009 4:08 pm

    Mike Budde’s Frisco modeling looks great!

  4. April 15, 2014 9:53 am

    Wow those are some great photos linked. I really like the one that has an old rail in the asphalt relic kinda thing going on. Super realistic.

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