Friday, January 18, 2019

The Chicken & The Egg - Roads/sidewalks & Scenery

Now that the scenery base in the Fernwood Street area is (pretty much) done (BION, I may need to add "just a little more" goop to bring the level up ...), I went back to mocking up the scene. . .

Looking north toward Jordan Lane from the Wethersfield station area

Fernwood Street scene, with Wethersfield Lumber in the background

Looking south from Jordan Lane to the Wethersfield station area, and Gra-Rock

As you might have noticed, I've narrowed Fernwood Street from "true scale" width to 3" wide (about 22' in HO scale). I figure I'm still in prototype range:

These lanes are 10'6" wide, for a total of 21'
And I also used some N-scale cork to mockup the sidewalks. As for positioning the houses, Bill & Randy (being more right-brained than I, though that's not too hard) suggested I "move the scene to the left until it starts impinging on the team track scene at the station, and move it north until it starts getting too close to Jordan Lane." With the narrower street - and the extra space that gave me - I ended up positioning the structures where you see them above.

So I'm ready to commit and complete the scene now, right? Not so fast.

Base scenery (ground foam, static grass) or sidewalks/street - which should come first? I can't decide. I've seen it go both ways - either doing the roads first then scenicking up to them, or the roads are added on top of scenery that's already been roughed in.

What do you do? And why?

Fortunately, I have a bit of time to wait for what I hope will be your many responses :^) cuz, as I mentioned above, it looks like I still need to add some more goop . . .

Am I the only guy that uses a bubble level while doing scenery? Did I mention I'm pretty pathologically left-brained? But good thing I got it out - as you can see, the terrain has quite a dip in it. And it should be fairly flat - like the prototype scene:

Heh - but maybe that's just how far the scenery base has dropped under the weight of all that goop.

And it's STILL not dry. Ugh. I think I should've just used a sheet of plywood or foamboard here.

Anyhoo. . . please <ahem> weigh in with your thoughts and comments. And especially let me know which comes first - the roads or the scenery....

Until then, I'll keep repeating the requisite mantra:
Model Railroading is Fun
Model Railroading is Fun
Model Railroading is Fun


  1. Hi Chris, I've pondered this same question myself. I've looked at the 1:1 world and come to see it as a series of layers. Whenever possible, I try to mimic these layers in the scale world. In the 1:1 world, the base would be prepared, the road / sidewalk would be installed, and then the rest of the scenery would be filled in around it. I'd do the same in the 1:87 world. I have a similar approach for structures: base scenery, foundation, and then grass, etc.

    1. Hey Mike - great to hear from you! Your method is certainly sound and I'll be trying that approach in the future. Heh - at least it's an easy method to remember - just do what the real world does! Easy to say, much harder to do though I'm discovering %^) Thanks much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  2. Chris,

    This chicken/egg quandry has come for me. I'm now at the place where benchwork is complete, track is laid, and I'm ready to begin putting in streets...or structures...or both. Since I'm following (loosely) the Cripple Creek series from MR in '91-'92, I defer to the article in the May 1991 issue on pg. 100. By that article (the fifth in the series) a few structures had been built including a station and cement plant on a spur, but neither had road access. This is where I'm at.

    I will be putting in streets, a few sections of sidewalk, a grade crossing or three, and two scenic areas along one section of road; a station and team track. I have no scenery roughed in and the terrain is essentially flat. The subroadbed is the scenery base, a sheet of 1/2 inch 'soundboard' which I will cut into for drainage ditches. Structures will be raised on cork or similar material and streets will likely be cardboard or something like it, with spackle as the surface. I have had good results with this material in the past.

    Hope this helps,


    1. Hey Galen & great to hear from you again! I'll be interested in following your progress and especially like the fact that you're using an old project layout as your construction guide. I'm doing the same thing with Lou Sassi's book on "A Realistic HO Layout for Beginners" Even though I've been in the hobby for going on over 35 years now, I still consider myself a "beginner" especially with regard to scenery. Check today's blog post for my first serious effort. I actually don't hate it(!) One caution I'd have for you is using the cardboard. I used stiff masonite for my road support and it warped pretty bad. Then again, I used a LOT of goop and a LOT of water... YMMV. Thanks again for checking in!