Making Styrene Highways for an N-Scale Model Railroad

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In the mid-20th century, most roads and highways in the United States were built from large concrete squares and ascribed with expansion joints to prevent cracking. These roads often abutted and ran across railroads, so it makes sense that they ought to be included in N scale model railroad layouts, or any other scale for that matter. There are a few different methods you can use to construct these concrete squares into your scene, and the choice is yours depending on which makes the most sense for your layout. In this lesson, we teach you how to build an N scale model railroad highway by utilizing sheets of flexible styrene.

Constructing an N scale model railroad highway

To help quickly and effectively create roads for your scene, modeler Jim Kelly teaches you how to build an N scale model railroad highway for any shape or size of railroad layout. He demonstrates this process on a sample railroad crossing that includes weathered and cracked concrete and irregularly shaped patches in between the rails.

You’ll get started by laying down corkboard underneath your tracks. The method Jim recommends to construct your road across the tracks and make it appear as realistic as possible involves gluing styrene sheets to the underlying corkboard. The styrene you’ll use for your N scale model railroad highway is 1/30th of an inch thick, making it thin enough to cut and manipulate and pliable enough to be used on hillsides.

After cutting out the main portions of your N scale model railroad highway, Jim shows you how to use transparent paper to lay out the irregular patches of your road and transfer them to a styrene sheet. In order to make the shapes fit properly into the tracks and leave room for the train’s flanges, Jim spends time trimming the lines and fiddling with the shape until he’s cut it perfectly. Finally, once he’s nailed his shapes and adhered the styrene to the corkboard, Jim walks you through the process of using a dull X-Acto blade and airbrushing to crack and weather your N scale model railroad highway to give it a few additional touches of realism. And voila, in no time you have a lifelike road!