Bases for structures

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Raincoat2

Well-Known Member
#1
Many structures come with bases that double as sidewalks. But lots of structures don't have such bases. So I'm looking for ideas on what to mount some structures on that could be sidewalks as well. What do you all do?
 

migalyto

Active Member
#2
I’ve seen great results done with styrene, Dollar Store foamcore. Use a thicker one for the base, and thinner for streets to give the stepped look.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#4
I've always placed my structures on a plaster base (about 1/4" thick) and extended to include the sidewalk. I then use plaster for my roads and build them up leaving a step up for the gutters.
 
#5
Try the plastic For Sale signs sold at HD and Lowes among others. Believe that Chet (Montanan) in this forum used those and his downtowns are impeccable. I have used Gatorboard, especially for industrial buildings. 3/16" is sized perfectly to bring the structure up to the level of the roadbed.
Foamcore is a cheaper alternative to gatorboard.

Boris
 
#6
I'm with Boris.

In the N-scale scene below, the street, sidewalk, and foundations for the buildings are all made from plastic "For Sale" signs from Wal*Mart. The material is just over 0.030 inches thick, which is about 5 scale inches in N-scale.

- Jeff

Main_Street_1.png
 

Raincoat2

Well-Known Member
#7
Mike, Tony, Boris, Jeff - thanks for these tips. I remember Chet (Montanan), Willie, and several others discussing this some time ago, but I had never come to a conclusion about what would be best for me in HO scale. I have two towns, so I may have one done one way and the other done another way, just to see what they look like - they're far enough apart on the layout that it shouldn't look odd.
 

Raincoat2

Well-Known Member
#9
Jim - Thanks. I have some of the City Sidewalk pieces. My problem is when a structure does not come with a base. I need to mount it on something and then put sidewalks and streets in so they match in scale.
 
#10
I'll need to tackle this question within the next 3-6 months, so i'll keep track of further developments in this conversation.

I paid a visit to a local sign shop and got tons of 'cut-off' foam board for free.
 
#11
Evergreen Styrene offers pre-grooved sheets with 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" squares in .040" thickness that I have used. I use some .040" x .060" strips under the other walls to make the building base that still allows inserting lighting or details from underneath. Use the sidewalk sheets under the front wall. The styrene "For Sale" signs can be easily grooved with an Exacto knife to simulate the expansion grooves present in most sidewalks.
 
#12
Jim - Thanks. I have some of the City Sidewalk pieces. My problem is when a structure does not come with a base. I need to mount it on something and then put sidewalks and streets in so they match in scale.

I generally want the sidewalks to have a uniform appearance throughout an area, or at least along a row of buildings. I will eliminate the base of a structure that includes the sidewalk if the sidewalk won't match up well to the sidewalks for neighboring structures. Sheets of plastic or wood can be scored to look like sidewalks, and to a degree, you can do the same with illustration board. But to get realistic results is time consuming and requires an steady hand for both scoring the expansion joints and sanding a uniform curved edge to the curb. I reserve those methods for wide curves where straight plastic sidewalks won't work. Generally, I prefer the pre-made plastic sidewalks. And with both Walthers and Smalltown USA products, you have the ability to include driveway aprons and storm drains along the curb.

I use both the Smalltown USA City Sidewalks and the Walthers sidewalks on my layout. I use illustration board or mat board sourced from Hobby Lobby or Michaels in many places for the streets and in some cases for both building bases and for grassy areas. I have also used balsa wood for building bases as well as grassy areas where extra height is needed to match up to the height of the sidewalks.

In the first photo, I used illustration board for the streets and the street level illustration board extends under the hotel and the church to the left of the photo. I used the plastic Smalltown USA sidewalks around the church and hotel, and across the driveway entrance from the church. The areas not covered by the sidewalks under the church and hotel (including the grassy area around the church and the curved grassy area across the driveway from the church) are built up with a second layer of illustration board so the structures (and lawn) sit level with the sidewalks.

On the opposite side of the streets, where the houses are, I used the Walthers sidewalks. The Walthers sidewalks are a bit thicker as they are intended to fit over the edge of their street system. They overlap the edge of the illustration board streets just as they would the Walthers plastic streets. But the back edge is a bit thicker than the Smalltown USA sidewalks. In this area, I used balsa wood to build up the yards of the houses to match the height of the back edge of the sidewalks. I did cut out sections for driveways and used illustration board for front walks and driveways in this area. In the case of the house in the second photo, I used a section of Walthers brick streets for the driveway of one house. But again, the building base as well as the yard of the house is a single sheet of balsa.

The third photo shows why I like to use illustration board for streets with Smalltown USA sidewalks. The street level is covered with illustration board painted to look like asphalt. With the illustration board, there is enough flexibility to have a slight incline on the street, and the Smalltown USA plastic sidewalks are flexible enough to bend a contour to match. In the case of using the bank on the slope, the Smalltown USA sidewalks were easily notched to fit snugly around the architectural features of the bank.
The sheet of illustration board that makes the street extends under the bank and under the city hall at the top of the hill. Again, a second layer of illustration board matching the thickness of the sidewalks is used for a base under the bank and for the base of the city hall.

In the 4th photo, The Blair Line used car lot kit comes with wood sidewalks. They work well on a flat surface and I'm sure you can find sheets of wood or illustration board to match the height of their sidewalks as well to use for building bases. In this case, the sidewalks and signage is all glued together as a unit, but not attached to the illustration board street and parking lot it sits on. That way the fragile pieces can be moved when necessary. The wood sidewalks are slightly thicker than the Smalltown USA plastic sidewalks across the street. In this early construction photo, you can see the edge of the illustration board that serves as the street as well as the area around, and the base for, the gas station in the background.

In the 5th photo, I used Walthers Street System for all the streets and sidewalks in one town on my layout. Since the sidewalks are rather thick along the back edge, I used balsa wood for bases of all the buildings to bring them up to the height of the sidewalks.



illustration board 1.jpg
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illustration board 5.jpg
 
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#14
Jim. Aha - the photos help a lot. Thanks for the thorough explanations, too. This gives me multiple options.
Just be careful when painting. Wood and paper products (illustration board) absorb moisture and warping can occur with too thick a layer of paint. Might be worth experimenting with paint a bit before gluing anything down. With the balsa wood especially, the wood can expand when painted and then contract again as it dries. The illustration board is more forgiving as its sort of intended as a surface to apply artwork to and is often used for painting.
 
#15
Just be careful when painting. Wood and paper products (illustration board) absorb moisture and warping can occur with too thick a layer of paint. Might be worth experimenting with paint a bit before gluing anything down. With the balsa wood especially, the wood can expand when painted and then contract again as it dries. The illustration board is more forgiving as its sort of intended as a surface to apply artwork to and is often used for painting.
Again, thanks. I like hearing words of experience!
 
#17
Jim (and others) - One more question - - with structures like the Merchants Row series, which come with bases for mounting but also extend out to function as sidewalks, do you cut them off or not use the bases at all and just mount the finished structure to the illustration/mat board?
 
#18
I used cheap "For Sale" signs for my streets and sidewalks. I use the back of them and paint them concrete color. For the sidewalks, I use a heavier sign that is a bit thicker, and just happen to be almost the same thickness as the bases on the merchant row buildings. I use a fine pencil to draw in the seams in the streets and sidewalks and give everything a shot of clear flat to seal them. In the picture, you can see the two city block bases on the left.

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I cut the thicker sign material for sidewalks in front of homes.

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