Elle Towan
June 20, 2016
7 min read

Woodland Scenics Road System

Nearly all model railroads will incorporate a road of some sorts, whether it’s an old dirt road running alongside the track or a bitumen road that leads up to that freight depot.

It doesn’t take long to do a quick search online and find out there are literally a hundred ways to make a road, some are easier than others and some obviously look better than others! As a general observation you’ll probably find the quicker and easier it is to make the road the less realistic the end result will be and for the more difficult and time consuming techniques the end result is usually better.

But that’s not always the case! Woodland Scenics have a great road system that is easy to use yet very realistic and it doesn’t require any special knowledge or techniques.

Overall there are 7 products on offer from Woodland Scenics that greatly simplifythe process of making roads and in the video I demonstrate 6 of these products.

  1. Smooth-It:
    This is the main base for the road, it’s basically a plaster material similar to ‘Plaster of Paris’ however it has a longer working time, approximately 4 or 5 minutes which is important when using a spreader to smooth out the road. I found this very easy to use and it mixes well. For roads on steeper grades you’ll want to make the mix slightly thicker by adding more ‘Smooth-It’ which will help prevent the mix from running and pooling at the bottom of your hill.
  2. Paving Tape:
    If you look around your house you’ll probably find something similar to ‘Paving Tape’ lining the gap around your front door! Woodland Scenics ‘Paving Tape’ is very similar to a product you might find at the hardware store sometimes called ‘Window and Door Sealing Tape’ however…

    It’s tempting to use the alternative but don’t be fooled, it’s not much of a saving overall and the benefit of using the Woodland Scenic brand is that it’s just the right thickness for making gutters and sidewalks and the adhesive that adheres the tape to the surface is less tacky which makes it much easier to remover once you've spread the Smooth-It to make the road.

    Additionally the paving tape package also contains a styrene spreader for spreading the plaster between the paving tape.
  3. Top Coat - Asphalt & Concrete:
    Basically an acrylic paint that's specifically colored to model dark bitumen roads and concrete sidewalks and roads. I find it useful to get good consistent results and I have a great technique using these two products together to add realistic texture to the road surface.
  4. Road Stripping Pens & Remover:
    Two colors are available, white and yellow. The pen itself is similar to an artist paint pen however the nib is narrow compared to the regular paint pens. You can also buy the road stripe remover which will dissolve the stripe which can then be removed with a paper towel, as a word of caution, the remover will remove the top coat paint if left too long.
  5. Flexi Edge:
    A simple to use ruler that has the ability to bend around corners and hold its shape. I was surprised at how useful this tool was! The edges are raised which helps avoid paint from the striping pen bleed under the ruler while you mark out the road strips. It has markings for HO, N and O scale on the ruler for marking dashed lines and road widths.
  6. Gravel:
    As the name suggests, a gravel texture that can be used for making gravel roads or in my case, modeling the road shoulders. It’s much finer than ‘Fine Ballast’ and you can get a variety of colors. Not all roads have or need gravel edges but this product certainly adds a level of realism that's hard to beat.
  7. Grade Crossings - Not demonstrated in the video
    This is a product I’m yet to use, it comes as a wood grade crossing or a steel grade crossing and it’s perfectly sized to fit on all codes of track. It comes with shims, so depending on what code you use, for example code 100, you just add one or two shims under the grade crossing until the crossing sits at the right height according to the track used.

The system itself is for the most part self-explanatory. You’ll find instructions on the boxes of all the items detailing how to use each one and some of the packaging has additional information like specific road measurements depending on the type of road you want to model.

There are many methods for marking/drawing the road width but the one I found easiest was making a foam template using pencils, just set them to the desired width in the foam and draw away!

The paving tape goes on easily and once the Smooth-It has been mixed simply apply it to the area and spread it with the supplied spreader. You’ll probably find you get a lot of over spill, don’t worry it’s easy to remove, just wait an hour for the Smooth-It to become firm (but not completely set which takes 24 hours) and brake it away.

Just as easily as the paving tape went on, it comes off as well. Unlike some of the cheaper alternative tapes that are meant to be applied to window and door frames and not come away easily…

You may find after sanding the road back you have some small (very small!) air bubbles that leave very small holes, you have the option of making a very thin mixture of plaster which can be spread over the surface again using you finger or a cloth, then once dry sand the surface back to make it smooth, however I found the small holes added detail to the road.

The holes from the bubbles are barely noticeable to the untrained eye! But for people like me who get up EXTREMELY close to inspect the road you will most likely notice them. Once road texture and detail has been added they are almost invisible even to me!

Adding texture to the road can be done with a sponge, after painting the base coat on I mixed some asphalt paint with the concrete paint to get a color I liked and lightly applied it to the road with the sponge. This is a very easy technique but it certainly makes the biggest difference in the overall realism of the road.

Other details like cracks are simply drawn directly onto the road using a felt tip marker and repair patches are made with a paper template, a sponge and some top coat ‘Asphalt’.

And don't underestimate the usefulness of the Flexi Edge... A fantastic tool in my opinion especially if you plan to do a number of roads on your layout. This tool will be getting quite a lot of use on my future layouts!

The final detail to add was the road shoulders, the Woodland Scenics 'Gravel' made this job very easy. It’s similar to sand however I’ve always found it hard to get sand that’s the perfect color and I also find sand often has shiny particles that reflect similar to glitter. The Woodland Scenics Gravel doesn’t have any shiny particles in it.

Overall the Woodland Scenics Road System is well worth the investment in both time and money. Sure there are cheaper alternatives but for simplicity and realism it’s hard to go past this system, not to mention consistency and ease of use.

There are not a lot of products on the market that provide the results that the Woodland Scenics Roads System consistently provides and that’s why I’m giving the products as a group a 9 out of 10.

If you really want to see how easy it is to make great roads that look amazing then I urge you to watch the tutorial and see just how easy it is!


Download the files associated with the project. All files are included in a zip for convenience.


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