Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Modeling Concrete Roads

Before getting into scenery, and around the same time you do grade crossings, you should put in the roads. Like with the grade crossings, I'm using Wethersfield as a test bed and over the next few posts I'll describe the different methods I tried for modeling concrete roads.

Like with most things, I try first to consult the prototype and I've been fortunate to have collected a couple of appropriate photos of what I'm trying to model: 
Middlesex Turnpike (old Rt. 9, today's Rt. 99), looking north, Cromwell, CT
The above shot is my go-to for roads since it's shot from such a perfect (and rare) vantage point, is actually in one of the towns I'm modeling, and - bonus! - is even from around my modeling era.

Southbound train on the Berkshire Line at Kent, CT
This shot on the Berkshire Line, while nowhere near my layout in space or time, is priceless for being a color shot from at least near my era (late '40s/early '50s) and area (Connecticut).

After collecting some prototype photos, I then consult a "standard" if there is one.

I found the above diagram in one of the Kalmbach scenery books and it provides a common, albeit very general (and probably product-specific) standard for doing roads. However, one of the perils of have such smart friends is getting additional feedback. Bill Chapin - a civil engineer by trade - couldn't help but provide exhausting (though appreciated) detail on how concrete roads were built. The short version is that concrete roads typically have lanes 10' wide, with crosswise joints every 33'.  Shoulders are typically 3-4' wide on each side.

So, armed with my photos and guidelines, I first tried Lou Sassi's method of using DAP Concrete Patch to make concrete roads ("nothing says 'concrete' like actual concrete").

My "subroad" is foamcore, which I got covered with some scenery material. So my first step was to sand that down.

Next, I masked off the road - 21' wide total - and masked off the grade crossing, leaving the center clear to fill.
Sassi's method uses multiple layers of masking tape as a form. I think I used 8 layers of tape. Be careful that you make the inner edges even for easier removal later.

The second most harrowing part of this process is troweling on the concrete.

The MOST harrowing step is skreeing the concrete, especially over a grade crossing, keeping it even without getting it everywhere.

After allowing it to set up for about an hour, I put in the expansion joints. Believe it or not, I used an X-Acto blade, which should have been plenty thin enough, but the concrete must've still been too wet since the blade made pretty wide lines.

Also, be careful when you pull up the tape from wood grade crossings - or else you may have part of the wood pull up as happened here.

Here's the completed, real concrete road. Not bad, from a distance . . .

Stay tuned for why this may not actually work - at least in HO scale.

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