Want realistic roads on your railway? Here’s how one artist does it perfectly

how to make roads29,145 miles.

That’s how many miles of road there are in the UK. Doesn’t sound possible but it is.

And here’s another number: 10,072.

That’s the number of miles of railway track we have.

What should be obvious from this is that roads on our model railways roads don’t get the attention they deserve (much like muddy paths)

In fact, the road modelling on most layouts is usually just a case of painting strips of grey and plonking down a few cars here and there.

But if you want your model railway to look real, the roads need equal love and care to your track.

Now take a look at the model asphalt (bitumen) road surface in the photo above. Glorious isn’t it and such a difference from the humdrum roads seen on most railway models.

This is by super-talented miniature painters The Brush Brothers. And they’ve kindly allowed me to reproduce their technique here.

Over to Luke at the Brush Brothers.

Making Roads – What you’ll need

  • Gypsum (quick-drying),
  • Sand,
  • Something to make a form that can contain the road during its production.
  • Wire brush
  • Privateer Ironhull Grey P3 paint
  • Astronomical grey paint
  • Maskol Masking Fluid
  • Masking or paper tape
  • Dull yellow and white matt paint (for road markings)
  • Optionally: isopropyl alcohol and colour pigments.

 Making The Asphalt Texture

Mix the Gympsum and sand to a 60-40 ratio and pour it into the mould to a height of a few millimetres, no more.

making a road in progress

[For the purposes of their model, the Brush Brothers only make small sections of roads. For use on layouts, we’ll obviously need longer runs of road surface but the principle remains the same. Create a mould to the shape and size of road or asphalt area required and follow the instructions. Andy]

Now leave the mixture to dry for several hours. [Gympsum is an air drying powered. Andy]

Once dry, you can break the gypsum slate, to get interesting shapes, cracks and formations.

making asphalt road for model railway

If you want to simulate roadworks, you can also add pipes in deep cracks and then leave to dry further. I typically give it 12 hours to dry completely.

Once dry, With a steel brush scrub layers of the plaster (circular motions) until the surface is rough.


And now it’s time for a basecoat.

The base colour (Privateer Ironhull Grey P3) and a light highlighting of astronomical grey [grey with a bluish hint. Andy]

Next, using the paper tape a template for the road markings was made and placed on the dried surface.

[Surprisingly, the width of road markings seems to vary a lot on UK roads. In just three roads I examined in my local area, yellow no parking lines varied from 3 to 6 inches wide. On my OO gauge layouts, I’ll be using a template with a gap of approx. 2mm for each yellow or white line. Andy]

maskol road markingMaskol was then applied to make scratches on stripes and the space between the template was then painted with a road marketing colour, yellow or dull white colour matt paint could be used.

Once dry, the Maskol and tape is removed.

Then I highlighted the asphalt plates using Astronomical Gray and applied a black oil wash to finish.

In some places on asphalt, I also have dry rubbed some pigment to and some interesting colours and dust.

Finishing Touches

Finally, I added some further black pigment and rubbed it with a finger.

With an airbrush, I sprayed the whole base with isopropyl alcohol to preserve pigments.

making model railway roads

The results speak for themselves. Easily the best road and asphalt surfaces I’ve seen. Now over to you to make up the 29,000+ miles needed 🙂

Words and pictures copyright The Brush Brothers, reproduced here by kind permission.

>A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
One comment
  1. The water paper makes good roads. I use it on my N gauge layout.
    Painting lines is a pain, but a bit of “dust” makes the surface realistic.

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