Sunday, March 22, 2020

Concrete Roads from Styrene

The final of the four different ways I've tried to model concrete roads is using styrene (foamcore, real concrete, and joint compound are the other three).

I used .060" thick styrene sheet since that thickness is just under the height of Code 70 rail, so perfect for just gluing to the top of the ties. The first step was to cut sheets 21 scale feet wide in lengths to match my need. After dry fitting (see pic above), I put in the expansion joints: centerline and then cross joints every 33 scale feet. Click here for for how I arrived at these measurements.

After making sure everything fits right and you've scribed in your joints, spray the styrene with your favorite "concrete" color. In this case, I'm using an inexpensive rattle can of gray primer.

Since in this particular case (Church Street) I have a double grade crossing, I glued some scrap stripwood, equal in thickness to the thickness of my ties, in the area between the tracks in order to help support the short piece of styrene road.

I glued the styrene to the scenery base using Elmer's wood glue and glued the ends to the ties using Aleene's Tacky Glue.

And here's the finished product, along with some in-process scenery in the area. Shoulders still need to be added.

After trying these different techniques, I'd rank them as follows for ease-of-construction and authentic look:
  1. Foamcore Board
  2. Styrene*
  3. Joint Compound
  4. Concrete patch
*Just wanted to mention a few bits of info from friends Bill and Dean regarding using styrene:
  • Bill - being a civil engineer - is very hot on adding a crown to the road. This is especially easy to do with styrene if you add a 4-6" (scale) strip underneath the road's center. Keep in mind though - that may make it more difficult to keep the edges of the road glued down (there will be some small amount of tension, unless you precurve or - worse - score the styrene). That leads me to the next point . . .
  • Dean offers a warning: He knows of a number of folks that used styrene extensively for roads +/-10yrs ago and now they are shrinking, pulling free, and curling up. Not sure why that would be, but YMMV. I was sure to use plenty of glue to glue down my styrene and the ground goop I use (right up to the road edge) has glue in it as well.
So that does it - for now - on concrete roads. If you have a different technique - or have some additional tips for how I could do these techniques better - I hope you'll share them in the comments.

But now, since I mentioned "ground goop," stay tuned and I'll show you what it is and how I mix mine (and - perhaps more importantly - what not to do...)

Hope you and yours are safe and well - and that you're finding some time to immerse yourself in this wonderful hobby and turn the world off for a little while.


  1. FWIW, I used styrene on my O&W layout in Livingston Manor. Seems to be just fine still, check with Bruce.:>)

    1. Good to know! How did you glue them down? I don't recall them having a crown in them.

    2. They didn't. Don't tell Bill.... ;>)