Questions re roads, curbs and sidewalks using styrene

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by KenPortner, Aug 27, 2009.

  1. KenPortner

    KenPortner TrainBoard Member

    So I'm trying to model the roads and parking lots on my layout using sheet styrene and have some questions.

    1. I read some people modelling roads higher than the surrounding grade. They'll put in a subroadbed I guess to raise the road a bit.

    My uneducated observations tell me that roads aren't always above grade. I've seen plenty that appear to be right at ground level.

    For those that aren't, do you think it's work the extra effort in N scale to try to model that?

    2. For sidewalks I was thinking about using a slightly thicker sheet of styrene (I was going to use .20 or .30 for the road itself) and just apply a strip of the appropriate length to the edge of the road, and then score it to make it look like sidewalk sections.

    Any tips for doing this? What thickness of styrene do you think would look right for the sidewalk?

    3. For curbs (where there is no sidewalk) I saw the idea of using strip styrene glued to the edge of the street. Again, any suggestions on this? Any suggestions as to the size of the strip to use?

    4. Finally, while it makes sense to depict the sidewalk and curb tops higher than the road surface, on the side away from the road it won't look right to have a drop off. I suppose I could fill that in with a little spackle or just plain ground foam/static grass and taper it down away from the sidewalk/curb, but I'm wondering if that will look stupid.

    Note, this part of my layout isn't on foam so I can't easily cut down into the surface.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. NorfolkSouthern9708

    NorfolkSouthern9708 TrainBoard Member

  3. KenPortner

    KenPortner TrainBoard Member

    That's helpful, although I wish he described how he did the entrance to the parking lot with the raised curb/sidwalk on each side. That's what I'm talking about.
  4. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member

    There is a company that makes N scale sidewalks, curbs and yes, narrow and wide parking lot curb cuts. I use these extensively for sidewalks. It costs a bit, but makes it easy!

    Even if a road is in a cut through a hill, it will have a small ditch beside it to drain water. Road builders never let runoff cross pavement.
  5. nolatron

    nolatron TrainBoard Member

    And the name of that company would be..... ?
  6. jlundy46

    jlundy46 TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Bar Mills makes N scale sidewalks. Their web site is I've seen their sidewalks listed at N Scale Supply and Brooklyn Locomotive Works (BLW). Approximately 400 feet is under $10.00.

  7. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member

    Senior moment there....but its EZ Streets, which is odd, since they make mostly sidewalks. It ought to be EZ Walks, shouldn't it? Either way, good stuff.
  8. Rob M.

    Rob M. TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Evergreen makes styrene sheets that are pre-scribed for sidewalks:


    The 1/4" grid is a bit over 3 feet wide in N scale, which is a fair approximation of a single-width or residential sidewalk. And the .040" thickness gives a "curb height" of a little over six inches--a bit tall, but tolerable. That's how I did the landscaping on my Area 53 module:



    The roads and parking lot were printed on the computer, heavily Dullcoted, and glued to thin styrene.
  9. KenPortner

    KenPortner TrainBoard Member


    The company that makes EZ Streets is apparently S&S Hobby products.

    I looked at their stuff but it doesn't appear they make N sidewalks. (they do make N asphalt streets).

    Any idea if you were thinking of another company?
  10. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Easy Streets is made by Fine N Scale.

    Dick Billings, proprietor.

    Feather River Trains has a page of the items. I'm still looking for some photos.

    There is an H0 scale Easy Street, but that is a track system.

    This is the Fine N Scale easy Street system. It has a lot of detail like curb drains, etc.

    Here is another view. Montgomery Ward is modeled after the store in Long Beach, CA which is now gone.
  11. pachyderm217

    pachyderm217 TrainBoard Member

    I'm a civil engineer and land surveyor. I used to manage highway construction projects. Along the way, I've picked up a little knowledge about road design and construction. Perhaps I can help a bit.

    Ken, indeed it is worth the effort to make your roads look like the the real thing. Keep making those observations; that's some of the best education you can get.

    Consider that in some urban areas you often find a turf strip between the curb and the sidewalk. I've seen this vary from 2' wide to 20' wide. Real world sidewalk thickness is typically 4" to 6".

    Most concrete barrier curbs are originally 6" high and 6" thick across the top. Older streets that have been overlaid with asphalt appear to have shorter curbs because the added asphalt conceals the lower few inches of the curb. I have installed 9" high curbs only once in a truck parking lot. 6" curbs are the norm.

    I would use the styrene strip approach as you have suggested.

    Rest assured that the highway industry builds things that look stupid on a regular basis. The more crowded the site, the more stupid things can look. What you consider stupid looking probably already has a prototype somewhere.

    Look around some more, and you'll probably find roads that have curb and gutter on one side and a gravel shoulder or paved shoulder on the other side. Gravel shoulders are often 3' to 5' wide. Paved shoulders can be 3' wide on two lane routes and up to 12' wide on interstate routes. Certainly there are exceptions as well.

    Often, this is true. However, I've resurfaced roads that had cut slopes running right down to the shallow V-gutter at the lane edge. We routinely see runoff crossing pavement there because drainage upgrades don't fit within the available funding.

    On a recent visit to Lubbock, TX, I drove on several 6 lane streets that are designed with shallow waterways crossing them at right angles. During a few downpours, I saw water running nearly a foot deep in many of these waterways.

    As we often say in model railroading, there is probably a prototype somewhere for most anything you can imagine. That also applies to roads, streets and highways.
  12. DeltaBravo

    DeltaBravo New Member

    Rob. M. I have seen your area 51 layout at the Timonium show, great job on the fence and the bridge as well.
  13. Rob M.

    Rob M. TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks! I credit anything I've gotten right to 60 percent dumb luck, and 40 percent beating on it until it fits. :)
  14. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    These clinics show Z scale streets and sidewalks, but the same techniques can be used for N.

    I used similar techniques for a Z scale diorama; the only difference is that I made the streets wider than they needed to be, and then bonded the sidewalk sheets right to the surface of the street, which is faster, easier and more seamless.

    Here are a couple of shots of the finished diorama, using the sheet styrene techniques described in the previous blog post:


  15. Ironman63

    Ironman63 TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I resemble that remark!:teeth:
  16. dave n

    dave n TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    some nice looking roads/sidewalks here! I've used sheet styrene for my roads and sidewalks also. For the sidewalks, I use plain old .040 styrene, and after it's painted I draw the seams on w/ a .5mm mechanical pencil.

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