A Glorified Parking Lot

In describing the multitude of streets in southern Iowa City, a friend once called them nothing more than glorified parking lots. Since a lot of the roads are either bisected by or parallel to The Hills Line, none are anywhere close to arterial thoroughfares. But since the prototype was first and foremost an electric interurban, such narrow passageways are part and parcel to setting location and era.

East 1st Street, at least the portion that I’m modeling, comes to a sudden and complete stop just south of the industrial spur. The fact that I had to place the Maiden Lane interchange on a curve forced me to adjust the spacing between elements and eliminate some of the lineside structures, but the scene is still representative of what’s actually there.

Both the street as well as the area for Iowa Fire Equipment were cut from one complete sheet of .040 styrene to prevent seams. Areas were then trimmed, notched, and removed as needed to match the prototype.

Curbs were added with .040 styrene strip attached to the sheet with lacquer thinner. The advantage of this method is that nor only can the curbs be formed by hand, but will also create a gulley that will later hold scenery.

The streets were then masked and painted with a variety of rattle can spray paints to simulate both asphalt and concrete textures. Weathering was done with a combination of PanPastels and an India Ink and rubbing alcohol wash. Once finished, the styrene was attached to the subroadbed with construction adhesive.

Base scenery was added, including static grass, dirt, and ballast. After experimenting with a different order for applying the scenery layers, I went back to my tried-and-true methods I’ve developed over the years. Neither is particularly better than the other, the way I do it is just faster for me.

J&M Automotive was worked into the scene to blend the structure into the base. Finished details, including trees, bushes, and weeds were added to finish the scene. I’ll continue to add individual items over time, always using images from the prototype as reference and guide.

The goal of my scenic design is always to make a given area appear as part of a whole, rather than an individual showcase. That’s key to creating a complete scene, even for something as simple as a single street.

6 thoughts on “A Glorified Parking Lot

      1. James,
        Why use lacquer thinner vs MEK?

        I use MEK exclusively for gluing styrene and have never heard of lacquer thinner before.



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