Roads to Nowhere....?

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Section Hand
Since I am restricted to the first floor level of my home and I can't maneuver downstairs as of yet to get to the layout room, I've been spending time thinking and doing future planning of improvements and the expansion of my layout. One thought occurred to me is that I have few roads on the layout and all lead to nowhere. No one has said or remarked about the roads or do I even think about it much anymore.

It funny that while I was laying in ICU I thought a lot about model railroading and what I liked best about other layouts I've seen in person or in photographs of other layouts. (I stopped thinking about food after the first week of not eating.)

My CM&NR layout also has the typical RIX overpass over the Saxeville interchange yard which I plan to redo and do more realistic weathering for a vintage type bridge that it represents.

-As an example this road ends at the tracks, but with the Wisconsin Central box car blocks the view no one notices the shortness of the roadway. The right side of the roadway serves the abandoned terminal building. The road was done using sand carried from Sedona, Arizona.

-The road at the left starts at the layout's fascia and ends at the freight yard in the distance. Again the length of this road goes unnoticed. Maybe the amount of detail in this scene hides the fact that this road goes to a dead end.

The expansion yard will be a mere 2.5 feet wide so even here any roadway that's planned will have a limited length unless run along the fascia or at an angle into the layout. I like dirt or gravel roads and want to have at least two in the expansion area. Dirt roadways are typical for yard areas.


-I like this dirt road in this photo I found on the internet. It suggests a maintenance access road along the main right of way in a rocky region of the United States.

On many model railroads I see roadways that blend into the background so there is the suggestion that the roadway is going somewhere or serves a purpose by dropping over the horizon or blending into some buildings or trees as an example. Or, the roads are incorporated into city scapes and serve vehicle traffic as on seen Chet's, Willie's layouts or on other model railroads which are featured on this Forum.


How do you construct and plan the roadways on your model railroads to help avoid roads that lead to nowhere, but serve a purpose?





Interesting arrangement and mixture of roadways and trackage in this web photo.-Greg
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Beach Bum
Greg: If I'm following you correctly, your concern is the arbitrary end of the road at the edge of the layout. I'm building an around the wall layout, using 2'x4' modular sections. I have numerous cross streets that cross tracks and immediately come to a screeching halt at the backdrop. My solution, is to use photos of streets to extend the road beyond to infinity. Jim Six recently did an article on the Model railroad Forum, where he used photo editing software to edit photos to make suitable backgrounds for his modeling focus. I believe Ken (Iron Belt ken) is experimenting with photo editing also.
Model railroads focus on track and structures, roads and highways like streams for instance are difficult to incorporate with any accuracy.
-I like this dirt road in this photo I found on the internet. It suggests a maintenance access road along the main right of way in a rocky region of the United States.
Often such service roads utilize the track bed of a removed second track. It's effective but has to have an exit to a public road using a private crossing, with a cable or movable barricade to discourage trespassing.


Jim 68cuda

Active Member
The roads to nowhere that I dislike, are the roads between two focal points where no roads lead anywhere else (not even off the edge of the layout in the foreground). Those situations make it clear that any vehicles in those areas were either brought in by rail, or were airlifted in. I'm reminded of the movie "Pleasantville". In that movie the high school geography class covered the geography of the town. There were no roads leading out of town.

I prefer roads that appear to extend past the edge of the layout (both leading off the edge in the foreground as well as roads that disappear into the backdrop. For those that would end at a backdrop, I prefer to use a mirror when possible. A small mirror at the end of the road, with trees hiding the side edges of the mirror and tree limbs hiding the top of the mirror, allows the appearance of a continuing road. In one of those situations there is a house that shows up in the mirror. I have the trim on the back side of that house painted a different color than the trim on the front. That way it looks like a separate and different house in the mirror. As long as there are no vehicles too close to the mirror, it looks convincing. Likewise roads can disappear under bridges and into tunnels on the backdrop. In those situations I also use mirrors under the bridge or inside the tunnel to make the roads appear to continue past the tunnels or bridges.

If you look at the pictures of the the white house, you will see the black shutters on the side and back that make the house appear different in the mirror to the right of the house. That viewing angle is only visible from an access opening in the layout and not from the usual vantage points. The road in front of the house is also reflected in the mirror. The tunnel to the left of the house also ends with a mirror that makes the tunnel appear to extend past the mountain. The position of the convertible does make it show up on the other end of the tunnel though.

In the city scene, there are mirrors against two walls in a corner. One mirror goes down the center of a street. That mirror makes it look like there are two rows of town houses facing each other instead of just one row. A VW bus is cut in half against the mirror to appear as one vehicle; The blue car has headlights painted red to look like tail lights in the mirror's reflection. The bridge in the lower left corner of the photo is reflected in the distance (as is my camera). Yes, when a train goes over the bridge it shows up in the mirror too, but it's far enough away that it's not distracting. Having mirrors on two walls in the corner makes the town look huge.
mirror town 2.jpg
mirror house 2.jpg
mirror house.jpg mirror town.jpg mirror tunnel.jpg
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Active Member
I decided where the industries and roads should go as part of my layout planning. The one thing I wanted to be sure of was to have realistic (mostly) roads, loading docks and parking areas. I haven't actually installed the buildings and roads yet, but you can see the plan for one end of the layout here.



Lazy Daydreamer
Greg, I have only a few roads on my layout, but I try to make them all look like they go "somewhere" beyond the layout surface.

In the following examples, I brush-painted wooded forest backdrops and painted a gap with a tiny pinch of grayish-brown to resemble a distant horizon, then had my road surface go up against that. I also tried to include the aisle-facing edge of the layout. All of these were taken with my cellphone so you'll have to excuse the distorted perspective.

This first one may be familiar, I posted this unfinished scene a few years ago in a separate thread - it's the road thru South Brooklyn:


Another shot of a similar road scene thru the Brook Park area:


The following is a shot of my interstate highway overpass, whose ends are hidden behind groves of trees. It is where the track disappears thru the backdrop to staging (need to place a vehicle or two on it); what looks like a scenicked area beyond is actually some random clumps of lichen I tossed down:


...and here is what lies behind the backdrop in the preceding image:


Those are all the examples I had time to upload tonite, hope you found them useful. Someday I'll use my Canon DSLR to take "pro" quality photos of the scenes in the first three images, and clean them up with the photo editing software Boris referred to in his reply...
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Well-Known Member
Staff member
A good idea, making the end where it hits the background look like the crest of a rise and the roadway falling on the other side. Another effective one I've seen is to have a T junction, with the road at the T's top, running along the backdrop's edge and building flats or vegetation on the backdrop. Can also be done with left or right turns at the end too.


Whiskey Merchant
Greg - Good subject. There really isn't much we can do for roads that come off of the front of the layout, but I tried to work roads into the backdrop in some fashion. My backdrop is old, Walthers Instant Horizons. I would have liked to updated it with a more modern backdrop, but with most of the layout being around the wall, it would have needed over 70 feet of backdrop. I almost passed out when I saw what it would have cost.

I tried to work the hard shell scenery into the backdrop when it was possible, using scenery to hide where the roads went at the rear to make it appear that it was going somewhere. Here are a few photos.

In the first one, you have to lean forward a bit to see where the road goes. Tried to make it appear that it curves around the hill on the right.


Here I tried to make it appear that the logging truck came around a small hill on the right.


In this instance, I tried to make the road on the layout join the road in the backdrop. (the last of my plywood prairie)


Here the road curves around a hill blocking where the road goes.


Here the road head towards a town in the backdrop with scenery and a structure hiding the end of the road.

I gotta get in on this - -

I have one road that runs through my small town, and I didn't have room to actually make that road go anywhere. So, I just painted the inside of the tunnel black (it's only about two inches deep) - that's the edge of the layout behind that hill that it disappears into. I think it looks fine - what do you think?
View attachment 40589
That looks great to me.
I don't consider a road leading off the edge of the layout as a "road to nowhere", but rather a road to the rest of the world. Here's a few of mine.
Coming through town.
10-12-19 015.JPG

Coming out of the grain elevator in the country.
10-12-19 016.JPG

A double-ender.
10-12-19 018.JPG

Leading out of an industrial park (unfinished).
10-12-19 019.JPG

I have a few that run into the backdrop, but I am still contemplating how I will finish them. Ray's ideas in post # 6 are what I have in mind. On the "'round tuit" list. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.