IT'S ONLY A PAPER ROOF
ADD VARIETY TO STRUCTURES WITH TARPAPER
BY DEAN LOWE
WE SELDOM SEE the roofs of buildings from the top. We may give little thought to their texture or color because, from ground level, most roofs are out of our normal line of sight. But buildings on model railroads are another story. Whether indoors or out, a model railroad allows us to see its structures from a much higher viewpoint.
If we were to see full-size buildings from the same altitude, we would see a variety of colors and textures. One of the more common is that of tarpaper. Though some tarpaper roofs are colored, most, especially those on railroad structures, are gray-black.
Most large scale structure kits come with shingle or shake roofs. They are certainly attractive enough, but an entire layout with nothing but shingle roofs is hardly realistic. Tarpaper offers an easy and inexpensive alternative.
CUT, LAY, AND TRIM
Modelers in the smaller scales use a very effective technique to represent tarpaper. It begins with common tissue paper or a better grade of toilet paper. If you plan to replace the roof of a kit structure, cut new roof panels from wood or plastic sheet. After you attach them to the building, you will cover them with the "tarpaper". Assuming your building is ready for roofing, let's get started.
First, cut tissue paper into strips between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 inches wide. That represents the width of a typical 30 or 36 inch wide tarpaper roll in 1:24 scale. Cut enough strips to cover the roof, allowing for a slight overlap on either side of each strip. Cut the strips slightly longer than the actual length of the roof. Then dilute white carpenter's glue 50-percent with water and add a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing detergent to break the surface tension.
Paint the glue mixture onto an area the length and width of two or three strips. Start at the bottom edge if you are covering a pitched roof. Work your way up to the peak, first on one side, then the other. Remember to lap the bottom edge of the upper strips over the upper edge of the lower strips as you work up. When you have reached the roof peak, lay on a strip wide enough to overlap the top strips on each side.
You may lightly brush some glue mix over the roof to wet any dry spots or to help smooth out bubbles. Dab on the glue very lightly; the paper will tear easily when it is wet.
The roof will dry in a few hours. If you are in a hurry, a hair dryer will speed the process. Once the roof is thoroughly dry, trim the edges with a new single edge razor blade or a sharp hobby knife and you are ready to paint.
BRINGING GOOD THINGS TO LIFE
Floquil Grimy Black is a good color for many tarpaper roofs. You may apply it with a brush or an airbrush. Either way, once it has dried, you may randomly brush on semi-gloss black to represent tar oozing from some joints. A very dilute wash of Floquil Dust will add a convincing sunbleached look. [An alternative approach would be to spray the roof with Testor's Dullcote. As soon as it dries to the touch, brush on a wash of India ink and rubbing alcohol. That will discolor the Dullcote, creating a faded effect.-Ed.]
You may add a little more character with a few random "tin" patches. Just cut a few pieces of .005- or .010-inch thick styrene into rectangles and nail them down with common straight pins. Color them with Floquil Roof Brown [and, maybe, some powdered pastel chalk of an appropriate shade-Ed.] to represent rust and tar the edges with semi-gloss black. The unusual texture of such a roof will distinguish any structure. I have used this method on locomotive and caboose models, resulting in very rustic appearing roofs.
Another good material for representing newer, smoother tarpaper is 320 or 400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Overlap the strips just as you would the tissue paper. Dave Cummins' article on building a "two-holer" in the December 1992/January 1993 OR offered a very good example of such a sandpaper roof.
Try mixing a few tarpaper roofs with the shingle roofs on your layout. The overall effect should be much more realistic with very little effort.