Grade Crossings and Roads

I’ve been using a different method, for me anyway, for roads on the BS&T.

On my old layout I used a lot of plaster to build up streets and roads. It was a lot of work to try to get them smooth enough to resemble a road. Then if something happened to chip the plaster you have an odd coloured pothole.

So, I used a tip I read on Harold Minkwitz’s web site (Inpirations – Dirt Roads, Bushes, and Grass). He uses 1/8″ craft foam for streets. You’ve likely seen examples of these streets in other posts on the BS&T Blog.

One of the best uses of this product is for grade crossings. The foam is the same thickness as code 100 rail (sorry for all you more scale conscious model railroaders using smaller rail <wink>) so it makes perfect grade crossings. All you need to do is hold the foam in place and run a sharp knife along the rail to get a perfect fit. Anywhere you need a gap for wheel flanges just trim the foam a little narrower.


This grade crossing (below) in Derwin’s Drop would have been almost impossible to do with plaster. I wouldn’t have even attempted it. But I did this the other evening in about 20 minutes.


The wheel flange clearance may be a little tight, but the foam gives enough that I don’t think it’ll give me any trouble. I ran an S-4 through this about 10 times, at different speeds from a crawl to normal speed, without a hitch.

I’m going to try Harold’s method of making old cracked pavement in this area. He applies a thin layer of coloured plaster over the foam, paints it to simulate old asphalt, then presses on it causing the plaster to crack. Instant stress cracks. Then pick a few pieces out to make potholes.



No Responses to “Grade Crossings and Roads”

  1. Ron Pare says:

    Hello again great post, I can’t wait to see the technique of road cracks being done.
    I wouldn’t mind chatting with you have the chance drop me an email.


    No problem, you can email me anytime!


  2. willayerst says:

    That’s pretty strange, I’ve not come across that before. I’ve got a road I need to model about 18″ long and I was going to use plaster, but it might be worth using this stuff. Has it got a particular name other than ‘craft foam’ ?

    I’ll check the label this evening to see what it is actually called. I got it at Wal-Mart in the craft section. The package contains about 10 sheets (5 black and 5 white) of about 12″ x 18″. I cut it using my rotary cutter to about 3.5″ width for narrow roads or a little wider for parking along the street. I put two layers beside the street where I want sidewalks (see downtown Stevenville photos). It makes a nice base for buildings too (see the early Kenville Miracle Chair building photos).

    Glad I could introduce you to something new!


  3. Hey Scott;

    I recently tried one of the new Blair Line curved grade crossings ( they come in a variety of radi) – they sure are nice and easy to use as well. They stain nicely with India ink/ alcohol…


    Hmmm… I should look them up. I’m in need of some wooden crossings, and although I don’t mind making my own, some of the manufactured ones sure do look nice. Thanks for the suggestion.


Leave a Reply