Curb Appeal, Part Two


My last post detailed the start of construction of US Highway 6, a major arterial road in Iowa City and over The Hills Line. As with any scenic element that covers or crowds the rails, I spent time testing numerous trains over the crossing to make sure I wouldn’t have electrical or mechanical issues when operating.


An advantage of modeling the modern era is that you can easily research sometimes-overlooked details using geo-mapping software. Google StreetView makes it quick and simple to check what was actually there. You then just copy and match what you see.


In this case there is a grass median east of the crossing and a concrete one on the west side. Curbs are present along the sides of the grass median, but end before the crossing. No curbs are present along either side of the highway or the shoulders.


For the curbs I use .040 Evergreen Strip Styrene attached to the base with lacquer thinner. A compass set to the same angle as the road makes it easy to align the curbs to the backdrop image.


For the concrete median, I used scrap pieces from the road base. This is where the .040 thickness comes in handy, since I can easily cut complex shapes using scissors or a utility knife. The median narrows at the end to start a left turn lane.


Scrap pieces are also used to shim the road up to the grade crossing height. I’m not a fan of the rollercoaster effect that appears on model railroad grade crossings, where the road bumps up and drops back down over the rails. I glue the shims to the bottom of the grade crossing pieces so that the road base will sit level with the crossing. The entire structure is then sanded to remove any rough cuts and fit into place.

Next time we’ll paint, weather, and detail the road so it blends into the surrounding area.

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