Thursday, December 24, 2020

Making better roads, Part 3

In the preceding post about my upgrades to Bromela Road on my layout, in the town of Ballard, I described how I went about making the pavement marking warning of a grade crossing ahead. I used an actual standards drawing of this marking, and simply cut out and pasted down the paper parts. That post is at this link:

I mentioned in that previous post that I would soften the bright-looking white letters and “X” marking on the roadway with weathering powder. I wasn’t happy with how this looked, so decided to use my “regular” color for painted markings on darkish-color roads, SP Lettering Gray, and painted the paper parts that way. (If I were doing it again, it would be easier to paint the paper parts before installing.) I show the current state of it below. This may be compared to the white version shown in the previous post (link in the paragraph above).

Note also in the photo above that the roadside edges remain simply painted, without scenery materials. My base color for dirt is Rust-Oleum “Nutmeg,” though as my layout locale nears the coast, the soil ought to become more sandy. To that end, I mix in some of the Rust-Oleum “Almond” color. blended with proportions to suit. Along roadsides, I have also been adding Woodland Scenics “Fine Turf” as Green Grass, no.T1345.

With those features done, I placed the Advance Warning Sign, as it is called, the round yellow sign that warns motorists that they are approaching a railroad crossing. In my article on railroad crossings in Model Railroad Hobbyist (July 2020 issue, in the Running Extra section), I showed these signs in model form. Here is the one on Bromela Road

Though not a view any operator or visitor could access, this look down Bromela Road shows the Warning Sign a little in advance of the pavement marking.

      Speed limit signs. I realized that none of my layout roads have speed limit signs. They add flavor even if not absolutely necessary. These signs were standardized nationally in the 1930s, though some localities continued to have their own variations (as with so many topics in model railroading, photographs are your best authority for your era). In my Model Railroad Hobbyist article (July 2020), I discussed how in the past, most states had their own standards for such things, and these varied over time.

Example of the national-standard signs can be found in the MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Safety Devices) for your era, available on line; but essentially those same standard signs are still in use, so you can simply go on line to a seller of real signs, download the sign images, size them for HO scale, and print them out. They are black and white, so any laser printer will deliver a good sign. Here are two I have used. 

I used Evergreen scale 4 x 4-inch styrene for the posts. For the look of unpainted wood posts, as are common in highway installation, I painted the styrene posts with Tamiya “Desert Yellow,” no. XF-59. I find this a suitable wood color that looks reasonable as somewhat new and not heavily aged wood.

Below is one example of a speed sign in place. This is Pismo Dunes Road in East Shumala, a moderately busy road in this area, thus the 35 mph limit. The SP stock pen is at right.

Another example uses a 25 mph limit. This part of Willow Lake Road is right alongside the SP depot in my town of Santa Rosalia, and near entrances to industry loading areas, and thus has a lower speed limit. There’s nothing tied up in the harbor at the moment except a rowboat.

With the addition of these signs, my work on several roads on the layout is approaching completion, but I still have to deal with Bromela Road’s fairly sharp turn at the tracks on the south side of the branch. This would often call for signs warning of the sharp turn (the MUTCD makes clear that placement of these depends on the judgement of the highway engineer as to whether they are necessary). I will show my solution to the problem in a following post.

Tony Thompson


  1. I don't know much about posting on a blog. I did post one, but it didn't appear here, it's under the blog of tank cars? I said your road needs to be less smooth. Your signs are great. And don't let the cattle get loose!

  2. Minor correction - MUTCD stands for Traffic CONTROL Devices, not Safety Devices. The RXR marking looks very good. For the discriminating modeler note that the lines that make up the "X" are 16" wide while the lines perpendicular to vehicle travel are 24"' wide, something that some of the commercial products get very wrong. For comparison, the standard crosswalk line and the limit line at a STOP sign are 12" wide.

    1. Thanks. Don't know how I made that error on the MUTCD since the name I gave doesn't match the initials! My "X" and perpendicular lines are cut from the actual drawing, but I didn't give the dimensions (they are in the drawing I showed).
      Tony Thompson