Building Highways and Roads on Your Model Railroad Layout
Highways and roads are usually among the first features a hobbyist will add to his or her model railroad layout. What is a village without a main road? Also, part of the charm of a model railroad layout is the crossing gate and there is only a gate when there is a road it must protect. If you have a mountain with a cabin on top, it has to have an access road which will more than likely be gravel in some parts. Highways and roads are easy to add to your model railroad layout.
Sketch out where the roads will go on the mounting surface of your model railroad layout. If you are a beginning model railroader you probably have set up a 4x8 or 5x9 tabletop model railroad layout. This table size is great for starting out but no doubt it is small. If you want to give an illusion of it being much larger, plan your roads so that they are not parallel with the tracks. Highway crossings should come in at an angle as they typically do in real life.
Don't paint roads black on your model railroad layout. It's true, we call it a "blacktop" but roads are not truly black. They are more of a dark charcoal gray. Roads built in coastal areas are typically a much lighter gray because beach sand and sea shells are mixed into the asphalt. You will also notice that if you live in coastal areas and roads are the light gray color, there will be variations of skid marks and oil stains that can be seen clearly.
Begin building the road on your model railroad layout with thin strips of cardboard. You can use something like poster board or cardstock. Don't use a water-based adhesive such as white glue either. Doing so can cause the roadway to buckle as it dries. You can also cut thin strips to represent sidewalks. Sidewalks will be built with a couple more layers of cardboard to give the impression of a curb just like a real street.
You can also build realistic railroad crossings on your model railroad layout. It requires gradually building a slope on your roadway so that it will clear the top of the rails. This is accomplished by inserting pieces of cardboard underneath the surface so that it will gradually rise. Be careful that it does not go higher than the rails or else you will experience derailments at the crossing. There will also be a roadway section in between and at the same height of the rails. Make sure that it is not too wide causing interference with the inner flanges of the wheels on the rail cars. You could use a re-railer section of track that oftentimes comes with a toy train set and trim it so that it fits under the edges of the cardboard roadway. Then use modeling clay to blend in the edges with the plastic re-railer component.
Add the finishing touch to your model railroad layout roads with stripes and markings. The best way to do this is to cut out your own stencils with the card stock for stripes, on-road warning signs, directional indicators, and crosswalks. Colored tape can be cut into thin strips and used for stripes as well.