Best asphalt/concrete freeway materials and methods [N-scale]:

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I live in Los Angeles, the land of freeways! In the past, I've used #400-grit black waterproof sandpaper for asphalt. To me, it looks and feels just like the real thing. Although I just made a $99 investment in a fairly large Kato Unitram street scenery piece, I would like to eventually build more prototypical-looking highways. I found this blog which details one technique. I've included a photo from the blog below:



[Not my photo: Photo by Jamie of http://csxdixieline.blogspot.com/2010/03/howto-build-modern-highway.html]

He is modeling in N-scale. This is great since I was wondering how I would apply road markings to the sandpaper. The author of the above blog stated he used:

• Woodland Scenics MG760 dry-transfer stripes (white).
• Woodland Scenics MG763 dry-transfer stripes (yellow).


Here's another excellent freeway build with signage that really impressed me:



[Not my photo: Screen-grab from a video by model-builder, Nils J. Mohberg]

This is from a 2012 YouTube video. The author indicates that the overhead freeway sign was completely scratch-built and lit with 5mm LEDs. Detail was enhanced using some etched open-grate the builder bought at a local hobby shop. The outdoor display advertising is a BLMA billboard with added custom detailing and lighting. As I mentioned in another thread, I have some now-discontinued Alps heat-transfer printers which produce excellent, offset-quality graphics, capable of printing on a variety of substrates. I hope to use that to produce similar types of signage (hopefully a working driver still exists for OS X).
 
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Inspired by the amazing Miniatur Wunderland 1:87-scale airport, I realized I already own several 150:1 scale model airplanes. Now I'm thinking to emulate a poor man's version of Wunderland. I would place the runway at the rear of the layout, perhaps running nearly the entire 12'-width of the surface. I would need to somehow create the runway graphics (dry-transfers or flat graphics tape). I'm sort of attempting to make my layout breakdown-able, if needed, so rather than plastering a roadbed in-place, I may try to find a piece of styrene already in the right approximate form factor and treat that material as as needed.
 

Rico

BN Modeller
I used fine grey sandpaper painted black. I then run a rough metal block over it to bring out the grey pebbles like asphalt. Sorry no pictures but try it on a small piece and let us know how it goes.
I've also printed out concrete roads from a website that I can't remember just now.
Not much help I guess?
 
I used fine grey sandpaper painted black. I then run a rough metal block over it to bring out the grey pebbles like asphalt. Sorry no pictures but try it on a small piece and let us know how it goes.
I've also printed out concrete roads from a website that I can't remember just now.
Not much help I guess?
Not at all! Those are all great ideas! Thanks! I'm going to give those a try!
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
Here's a link to my HO scale layout and what I did to try to make concrete and asphalt looking streets. Scroll about a third of a page down on page 11. It's cheap and effective.

http://www.modelrailroadforums.com/forum/showthread.php?32284-Logan-Valley/page11

Although it is HO scale, I see no reason that it wouldn't work for N scale. I had an N scale layout years ago with over 11 scale miles of mainline. Unfortunately, the quality of the locomotives in the late 70 were poor at best, I tore it out and moved on to HO scale.
 
Here's a link to my HO scale layout and what I did to try to make concrete and asphalt looking streets. Scroll about a third of a page down on page 11. It's cheap and effective.
That really looks great! The sidewalks are awesome, too! All that with just black chalk? Are the seams chalk also? Did you just use a regular Krylon spray paint to paint the styrene? You guys are really getting me amped about creating my own asphalt/concrete effects. Thanks for the info!
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
The signs I used were of two different thicknesses. I used the lighter weight ones for the streets and the heavier for sidewalks and entire city blocks. The seams in the concrete were drawn on and I used a black chalk for the "greasy" area on the painted streets and then given an over spray of clear flat paint. I used rattle cans for spraying the streets. Quicker and easier than cranking up and then cleaning the air brush. Krylon or a similar paint from the local hardware store was used. Found a satin paint similar to the concrete and a gray primer for an aged look for the asphalt. I also use a clear flat spray instead of buying Testors Dull Coat. Quite a lot less expensive.

Living up her in Montana, I have no hobby shops at all in my area so I have to be creative.
 
Thanks for all the helpful tips! What exactly does the clear spray do? Give it a matte sheen and sort of "protect" it? By the way, I think I may have found an easy way to make an airport runway! Our floor in the house uses a granite tile that looks lot like scaled-down concrete (see below). I think I have enough 12" x 12" tiles left to make a 10' runway. Other substrates I thought of include:

• Sintra® brand, closed-cell PVC sheets. Comes in light gray and dark gray, and is available in large sheets (e.g., 48" x 96" and larger).
• Wilsonart and Formica-brand laminates. These come in a huge array of patterns but is hard as hell to cut.

The other thing I was thinking of doing was laying down large, single sheets of gray Sintra as an "underlayment." Meaning, I can lay the Sintra on top of my work-surface so that the entire layout is concrete-ish looking from the get-go. It's flexible and easily drilled. I can also treat the Sintra with various materials, paints, and whatnot. I also want to lay large swaths of fresh-mowed, bright green grass (where commercial properties would likely have such well-irrigated lawns).

Does anyone know which is the best-looking "cheap" grass mat brand sold at MTS? 'Cause, I'm going to need a lot! The JTT light green grass mat doesn't look too bad. This would be going in the rear of the layout, so viewing distance would help take the edge off. I actually don't mind it looking kind of fake. Who knows? I may be modeling artificial grass! (I just don't want it to look "Life-Like" fake.)
 
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I just bought a pile of matte vinyl graphics tape (more commonly called "chart tape") in varying widths, in white, yellow, and red. I first checked Amazon and Chartpak, but the most complete inventory was found at a company called Graphic Tape & Label. This stuff is really affordable (e.g., 1/8"-wide matte white tape goes for only $2.23 for a roll 324" long). The wider widths I'll use for the runway markings. For a runway apron, I may give Rico's gray sandpaper trick a shot. If this works, all I'll need is some blue and red marker LEDs!

For roadways, I did some quick scale calculations, and it seems 1/32" is about right for N-scale highway markings. I got a roll of 1/32" matte yellow tape to create "double-yellow" highway divider lines (even though it's at scale, if it looks too skinny, I'll try 1/16"). As soon as my tape arrives, I'll do some quick tests using #400 grit black waterproof sandpaper. Not sure which adhesive to use to attach the sandpaper to some sort of substrate, but in the past I've used 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. Can't wait to try this stuff out!
 
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I just bought a pile of matte vinyl graphics tape (more commonly called "chart tape") in varying widths, in white, yellow, and red. I first checked Amazon and Chartpak, but the most complete inventory was found at a company called Graphic Tape & Label . . .
Well, even though I thought everything I ordered at Graphic Tape & Label was in-stock, my order still shows as, "awaiting fulfillment" on their site. Meanwhile, I was at Home Depot yesterday, and saw this Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint, which may be a good candidate for painting asphalt road surfaces (onto which I would apply the graphics tape for road markings). There's a tiny bit of silvery glitter on the can's color-keyed cap (which would improve its asphalt-ey appearance), but I'm not sure if it's actually in the paint or not:

 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
The problem I had with the tape on sandpaper was the tape sat up too much and appeared to float on the surface.
 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
That paint looks great. Be sure and post some pics after you try it. I always used a bit of Grimey Black to vary the surface of my sandpaper asphalt roads, and it really destroys the brush!
 

MikeOwnby

Active Member
I'm liking the sandpaper idea. And the chart tape for that matter. I'd used it for metal restraining bands on pipe loads, but never thought about highway markings. Looks like I may finally have a solution for my own cartoonish looking roadways.

Anyway...what I've been using to glue down the roofing felt I'd been using previously, and should work equally well for sandpaper, is simply latex caulk. It adheres like crazy, stays flexible, and you don't have to worry about overspray. I've used it on everything from cork roadbed to vehicle roads to concrete retaining walls.
 
The problem I had with the tape on sandpaper was the tape sat up too much and appeared to float on the surface.
Hmmm . . . I'm also afraid that the adhesive won't adhere well to the sandpaper's irregular surface. I may end up painting instead. Not sure what to use as a base material, however. I need a material that's exactly 1/4" thick.
 
. . . what I've been using to glue down the roofing felt I'd been using previously, and should work equally well for sandpaper, is simply latex caulk. It adheres like crazy, stays flexible, and you don't have to worry about overspray. I've used it on everything from cork roadbed to vehicle roads to concrete retaining walls.
I tried some 3M Super 90 on some paper-backed grass mat and it worked great (though, I would tend to recommend Super 77 over Super 90). Any wetness which wicked through evaporated within a few minutes. I just bought a new can of 3M Super 77, and I think that'll work even better since its spray pattern is finer than Super 90's (I'm gluing paper-backed products directly to melamine or to my plastic Unitram streets). When experimenting, I've just been using 3M double-stick tape.

For temporary, or moveable mounting applications, actually, an old hot-waxer would be ideal (wax machines were used in graphic arts to "paste-up" layouts for photographic reproduction before the days of computerized typesetting and page-layout applications; e.g., Aldus' Pagemaker, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXpress).
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
The problem with the Elmer's foam core is that it is so hard to get the cardboard off. I tried pealing, scrubbing, and soaking. Don't remember how I got it off to this day. Does work great once one gets the cardboard off. But I didn't use it for asphalt or cement, I used it to make a cobblestone brick roadway.
 
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I'm using the Foamcore as-is. I got the Elmer's Chalk Foam Board at Michael's today (you have to show them the sale price on your phone), and it's virtually identical to Foamcore-brand foam board bought at an expendables supply store like Filmtools (which sells Foamcore in 4' x 8' sheets for the film/TV industry). The Elmer's board's thickness is exactly the same height as the Unitram pieces, so it should fit into my layout quite nicely. And, unlike wet/dry sandpaper, it should more readily accept the graphics tape adhesive (if, and when, I ever get my order filled!). Its matte-black surface (one side only), should make a reasonably realistic-looking asphalt surface once the appropriate graphics tape is applied.
 



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