Modeling a Rough Service Road

Written by Edward Traxler, photos by the author.

I have seen a lot ways that a road can be made – thought I would try something different. The small diorama I am building for the Kitforums Build Challenge needs a road that passes under a dump chute which is a transfer point from rail to trucks. Since everything else is in less then perfect condition I wanted this road to looked cracked and worn with age. I've modeled similar roads like this with plaster, in fact, the road on top of my diorama was made that way. I wasn't sure how well this technique would work but I wanted to give it a try.

The Roadbed

The road was built on a piece of scrap 3mm plywood. I cut a piece out that measures 2-1/2″ wide. In O Scale that is 10ft and the scale width of the diorama. This will allow me to build the road on my workbench and add to my diorama when it is complete.


The cork I am working with is used as a shelf liner which is a peel-and-stick product. Additionally, the cork is only .040″ thick which is two scale inches high.

Cutting and Tearing

I am trying to simulate a service or county road that is old, worn out, with pot holes and exposed dirt. The cork will be a base for the asphalt with dirt and fine gravel material will be used to fill in the holes. I used scissors to cut the cork and pliers to tear the edges giving them a more natural broken look. The paper backing, which I left on during this step, requires pliers unless you have strong fingers and nails.


As you can see in the photo below, I am gluing the cork to the plywood sheet using Aleen's Tacky Glue on top of the sticky side of the cork. Again, the idea is to represent a degraded surface that has been patched.


Fine Pumice Gel from Golden is just an acrylic gel with pumice added. It has a slight but noticeable texture. I used a little as a test, waited for it to dry so I could see if this would work. It worked fine, however, the texture is really too small for O scale and I could have easily used anything on hand such as Spackle. Note that Golden also makes a Coarse and Extra Coarse version which you might want to try.

I decided that the Fine Pumice Gel patching would work well so I continued. My theory on modeling things like roads is that it is hard to go wrong as long as you are not trying to model a specific instance.

I roughly laid down more patching material using a folded business card to scrape it into the depressions. I did leave some material out in spots as I can always add more later.

I painted a little bit at the bottom right in the photo a concrete color which looked worked well as seen in the photo above.


I gave everything a coat of concrete gray. It looked Ok, however, I was not completely satisfied with the result but it would work as a base color.

I thinned Floquil Weathered Black and painted the gray pieces that will represent asphalt. I then came back with a Brown Wash from MIG Productions and filled in the depressions where I had put the Golden Fine Pumice Gel the previous night. Note that although I leveled the paste, it shrunk when it dried. Further, the pumice texture is not really noticeable.

Here we see a close-up image of the surface. The texture on the pumice still is not all that noticeable. This would probably work really in HO Scale but there needs to be more a little more texture in O scale.

My next step is to fill the holes, or low spots, with a dirt, rocks and weeds.

Gravel and Vegitation

I used a screened mix of decomposed granite and floor sweep to add some gravel and clutter followed by small groups of grass and weeds.

The weeds were created by adding ground foam to some of the holes with leaves sprinkled on top of them which came from Scenic Express. A little sand (grout) sprinkled on top of it all helps bring it all together.

Vehicle Tracks

Martin G. Jones on the Westlake Forum pointed out that there was nothing indicating that vehicles used the road. I took an emery board and scrubbed it back and forth a sanding down the gravel it created ruts, very much like tires press rocks into the soil. Where I sanded down the ground foam it even looks like vegetation pressed down.

I was happy with how this turned out. A thin line of gravel down the center might help emphasize where the tires had run.

Marc Reusser pointed out that the model was starting to look like a sandbag had spilled on the road. Happy as I was with the road, I had to admit that this was a pretty good description. I went back with an emery board and scrubbed along the tire ruts and then I used weathering powders, scrubbing them into the surface with a short stubb brush. I finally realized that a white powder well scrubbed into the surface worked well and I was finally happy with the results.

When using weathering powders you have to seal them at some point. Water (white glue and water) or alcohol will cause the loose powder to blend into the surrounding area. You need to seal them with either a matt spray or a product made weathering powders such as the MIG Productions Pigment Fixer.

Final Comments

I was trying something new (for me) and I was really making it up as I went. I was pleased with all of the suggestions I received from my fellow modelers to help aid in my experiment. I my opinion, one of the greatest values in sites such as Shortline Modelers, is that people can reply to this article and make suggestions which help improve your models. If you want to use some of the techniques here, you don't have to use them all. I think that if you use a basic dark grey color then come back with a ligher weathering powder scrubbed down where the cars run, This would give you a very realistic road.

Experiment and have fun.

About the Author

eTraxx's picture

Edward Traxler

Retired from US Army as SFC. Living in South Carolina and enjoying that retirement.


great work ed thanks for shareing with every one