The Importance of Roofs


When you're always looking down on the structures in your model railroad, roof tops are very important when getting details right. They are some of the first things that viewers will see. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to make them look good because there are so many real-life variations from which to model.

Example of a roof top

The roof surface itself come in many different forms. Below, I will list some more common types and how to create in n scale.

Roof type

N scale

Shingles: These are very common on sloped roofs found on residential homes. Luckily, in the n scale world, this type is usually a texture molded into the surface of a building model kit. No need to DIY anything.
Tar paper/rubber membrane: Commercial buildings with flat roof tops are often found with tar paper.

There are two ways to recreate this roof type:

  • Black, fine grained sandpaper - For a dark look. Requires some weathering with chalks and some white washing.
  • Masking tape - Cut into strips of 9.525mm x 95.25mm (5ft x 50ft in real life) and make sure that the seams in between the piece are visible. Paint them a flat gray and add black tar lines if desired.
Ballast (rocks): Also found on flat roof tops. Fine to medieum grained sandpaper works very well at recreating ballast. I like using light brown color as you can darken it to make it look more weathered. Look for sheets with some color variations between the grains of sand.

This link has some great roof detailing ideas:

It's also important to make sure that you include other commonly found details on your roofs. Flat roof tops lend themselves well to HVAC units, chimneys, duct work, pipes, various metal stacks, and water tanks.

Lyforms Small-Scale offers two sets of roof details: SP009 and SP020. Both contain different sizes of HVAC units and stacks in a variety of shapes and sizes.

It's all about raising the roof!