Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Width of Main street in Anytown, USA

3169 views
18 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,099 posts
Width of Main street in Anytown, USA
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 5:00 PM

I'm not sure this question doesn't go in the Prototype category, but how wide do you fellows make your streets in a small city or town? I'm not talking about big city blocks four lanes wide plus bike lanes and parallel parking; I'm saying if your butcher is standing in his doorway and about to throw a pork loin to the candlestick maker across the street standing in HIS doorway, how far is the toss, inclusive of sidewalks?*

-Matt

*It is acknowledged that this sort of activity doesn't happen very often, even in small town America.

 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 21,339 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 5:56 PM

My non-scientific opinion is 3 inches, sidewalk to sidewalk.  I model HO in the late Transition era and it seems right.  I do not typically have parking on either side.  Sidewalks do help a lot visually.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,854 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 6:17 PM

Matt, in real life this can vary a lot, but for our models it is still best to get into the actual size range so that things look reasonably proportioned.

A kind of minimal small town downtown street would be about 36' inside the curbs, or about 5". Sidewalks might range from a little as 3'-4' wide or as big as 8'-10' so lets call them 5', so 3/4" wide sidewalks on each side will do.

So, building line to building line a small twon street might be 46' wide, or about 6-1/2" with the sidewalks.

Rural roads and residential neighborhoods can be much smaller. Here were we live in the rural Mid Atlantic, north of Baltimore, many roads are just two lanes, no shoulders, no curbs, so the paved width would be from 24' to 28', or about 3-1/2" to 4" in HO scale.

The road in front of my house is about 24' wide, no shoulders, no curbs.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    February 2017
  • From: Harrisburg, PA
  • 636 posts
Posted by hbgatsf on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 8:36 PM

This is another timely subject for me as I am currently working on an urban area.  I found an article discussing street and lane widths, and the recommendation was for lanes to be 10' to 11' with another 7' for parking.  That would equate to 2.75" to 3" plus another inch on each side if you want room for parking.  

I don't have room for 5" to have parking on both sides but I can manage 4.5". I think I can spread out cars and make that work.  

A question I have for the group concerns lines.  Do you use them or not?  I would think the narrower the street the less desirable they would be.  

Rick

  • Member since
    May 2020
  • 1,056 posts
Posted by wrench567 on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 8:37 PM

   Matt.

 I have trucked the entire lower 48 and the great white north. The width of small town main streets very widely. The north east have the narrowest main streets while the west has the widest. I have been on roads with 8 to 10 foot lanes and on roads with 18 to 20 foot lanes. I think the smallest main streets were in Vermont and Northern New Hampshire. The widest by far was Michigan and Ohio.

    Pete.

  • Member since
    November 2007
  • From: California
  • 2,327 posts
Posted by HO-Velo on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 8:51 PM

Wish I'd been able to devote a little more space to my main street; roadway is 4 1/4" wide, enough for parallel parking on both sides, larger sidewalk = 1",     smaller = 1/2".  

Regards, Peter

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,099 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 9:07 PM

Hmmm, I was originally wanting to go pretty narrow, but I'm not modeling Vermont, I'm modeling the farthest West. Maybe I should just go all out in the other direction and use Rainier, Washington as my prototype:

"Durn it, Abner, I was about to head home but you got me parked in again, leaving that gol-blamed F-unit in the middle of the road!"

-Matt

 

 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    July 2021
  • 194 posts
Posted by NorthsideChi on Thursday, October 6, 2022 10:37 AM

In the midwest, the conventional default right of way width is 66'.  Yes, I know this can vary depending on a variety of situations.  But when you look at sidwell books and tax maps, lot lines will adhere to this 66' default standard in some midwestern states.  So that is what it is doorway to doorway of two facing buildings.

Having your buildings spaced 8 to 9 inches apart facing each other would be realistic to scale.  I typically have them at 8 inches because of space limitations.  

sidewalks I buy from walthers are about 1.5 to 1.75 inches. So a roadway might be 5 to 7 inches wide realistically.  Use a narrower width for parallel parking and wider for angled. Or perhaps wider sidewalks with trees and narrower roadway.  I should research why it's 66.'  But the butcher would have to have a good scale model throw of 8 to 9 inches distance to reach the other doorway 

When it comes to zoning, a historic downtown district would have zero setback from the front lot line and buildings are up to the sidewalk. Outside the east coast where many rowhouses and detached structures also go to the sidewalk, homes elsewhere would have greater setback. So if you had a Main Street on your layout, I'd space the commercial buildings 8 inches apart and then homes or schools a few inches further back from that with some front yards. 

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 185 posts
Posted by reasearchhound on Thursday, October 6, 2022 11:38 AM

My reply won't be terribly helpful from a modeling perspective, but my family came out to Oregon via the Oregon Trail in 1847. My great-great grandfather donated the land for what was to become a decent sized town just south of Portland. His one condition for the donation was that he would be able to turn his biggest team of horses and wagon (he made his fortune as a teamster with a fleet of wagons) around in the downtown streets. To this day when you go into that city the downtown streets are noticable wider than would be typically seen in a downtown setting.

My point in sharing this is that the width of streets is likely not a consistent number, but one that could vary based on a variety of circumstances.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,099 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 6, 2022 12:14 PM

Nobody thought my F-7 gag was funny? Hard crowd.

MisterBeasley
My non-scientific opinion is 3 inches, sidewalk to sidewalk. I model HO in the late Transition era and it seems right.
@Beas, I can afford 3 inches easily, I think, possibly a lot more. Thanks for chiming in.
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Here were we live in the rural Mid Atlantic, north of Baltimore, many roads are just two lanes, no shoulders, no curbs, so the paved width would be from 24' to 28', or about 3-1/2" to 4" in HO scale. The road in front of my house is about 24' wide, no shoulders, no curbs.
@Sheldon, I have had the pleasure of returning several times to Queen Henrietta Maria's namesake colony, where both my parents were born, and toured the area around Taneytown and Mayberry and Uniontown out in Carroll County, I guess west of you, where my ancestors farmed. It's really wonderful country, but I did notice that you have to be careful on those back highways because you'll suddenly come to a town and have to fold your mirrors back so you don't hit the buildings as you go through.
hbgatsf
A question I have for the group concerns lines. Do you use them or not? I would think the narrower the street the less desirable they would be.
@Rick, I've seen lines even in those close-quarter streets Sheldon mentions. The images that Peter posted show pretty tight streets and I think the lines look good. I would always put lines on a main street or arterial. Residential streets in town and back lanes I would not
HO-Velo
Wish I'd been able to devote a little more space to my main street; roadway is 4 1/4" wide, enough for parallel parking on both sides, larger sidewalk = 1", smaller = 1/2".
@Peter, thanks for the photos. I think the streets look very realistic. I can see that if two cars passed each other between the bus and the red car they would click mirrors, but I don't think I would have noticed that if we weren't talking about this.
NorthsideChi
In the midwest, the conventional default right of way width is 66'.  Yes, I know this can vary depending on a variety of situations.  But when you look at sidwell books and tax maps, lot lines will adhere to this 66' default standard in some midwestern states.  So that is what it is doorway to doorway of two facing buildings.

Having your buildings spaced 8 to 9 inches apart facing each other would be realistic to scale.  I typically have them at 8 inches because of space limitations.  

sidewalks I buy from walthers are about 1.5 to 1.75 inches. So a roadway might be 5 to 7 inches wide realistically.  Use a narrower width for parallel parking and wider for angled. Or perhaps wider sidewalks with trees and narrower roadway.  I should research why it's 66.'  But the butcher would have to have a good scale model throw of 8 to 9 inches distance to reach the other doorway
@Chi, you know that sounds very familiar, and I'll bet 66 feet is the street right-of-way here in Washington. I love the look of angle parking but I don't think it will fit in my current layout.
reasearchhound
My reply won't be terribly helpful from a modeling perspective, but my family came out to Oregon via the Oregon Trail in 1847. My great-great grandfather donated the land for what was to become a decent sized town just south of Portland. His one condition for the donation was that he would be able to turn his biggest team of horses and wagon (he made his fortune as a teamster with a fleet of wagons) around in the downtown streets. To this day when you go into that city the downtown streets are noticable wider than would be typically seen in a downtown setting.
@Hound, that's my favorite story so far today. I love it.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 3,491 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Thursday, October 6, 2022 12:28 PM

Questions like this can be very difficult to answer.

When building a railroad a number of compromises are made.   What has to be included?  What will be ommitted?  If there is a station, invariably it will be much smaller than  any real one.  If there is a locomotive depot that most probably will be smaller than a real one.

My point is, any scenery will also be a compromise to the real;  roads especially.

Unless a modelled road is in front of you, the further away it is the narrower it looks.

 

The real road on my layout should be two lanes wide each way.   Do that in model form and it would look rediculous.  I modelled it one lane wide each way to compromise.

 

 IMG_5855 by David Harrison, on Flickr

 

Yet, half way along it is two lanes wide each side.   (Ignore the little people on the carriage.  My grandchildren were having fun.)

 

 IMG_5547 by David Harrison, on Flickr

 

Then if you want bring buildings closer,  there is no road at all.  Here the backscene building is virtually behind the modelled buildings.  No room for any road vehicle whatsoever.

 

 IMG_5157 by David Harrison, on Flickr

 

Now if anyone wants to throw a pork loin, in the last picture it would be easy.  So easy,  he could just hand it to him.  Laugh

 

Probably not the answer you wanted,  Matt,  but don't forget the compromises. Smile

 

David 

 

 

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,099 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 6, 2022 12:34 PM

NorthBrit
Probably not the answer you wanted, Matt, but don't forget the compromises.

@David, I always love your photos. And thanks for the advice, but unfortunately I am never able to forget the compromises that model railroading and life in general require of me. ;)

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    March 2013
  • 427 posts
Posted by Colorado Ray on Thursday, October 6, 2022 8:27 PM

NorthsideChi

In the midwest, the conventional default right of way width is 66'.  Yes, I know this can vary depending on a variety of situations.  But when you look at sidwell books and tax maps, lot lines will adhere to this 66' default standard in some midwestern states.  So that is what it is doorway to doorway of two facing buildings.

Having your buildings spaced 8 to 9 inches apart facing each other would be realistic to scale.  I typically have them at 8 inches because of space limitations.  

sidewalks I buy from walthers are about 1.5 to 1.75 inches. So a roadway might be 5 to 7 inches wide realistically.  Use a narrower width for parallel parking and wider for angled. Or perhaps wider sidewalks with trees and narrower roadway.  I should research why it's 66.'  But the butcher would have to have a good scale model throw of 8 to 9 inches distance to reach the other doorway 

When it comes to zoning, a historic downtown district would have zero setback from the front lot line and buildings are up to the sidewalk. Outside the east coast where many rowhouses and detached structures also go to the sidewalk, homes elsewhere would have greater setback. So if you had a Main Street on your layout, I'd space the commercial buildings 8 inches apart and then homes or schools a few inches further back from that with some front yards. 

 

The 66 foot length is from the older days of manual surveying.  66 feet is the length of a standard "chain".  A chain is four poles long. A pole is 17.5 feet.  A mile is 80 chains.  A quarter section is 40 chains by 40 chains, or 160 acres.

Ray

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 6,401 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, October 6, 2022 11:00 PM

Colorado Ray
The 66 foot length is from the older days of manual surveying.  66 feet is the length of a standard "chain".  A chain is four poles long. A pole is 17.5 feet.

I'm guessing that is a typo, a pole/rod is 16.5 feet.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,854 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, October 6, 2022 11:27 PM

Another historical note about this. In the City of Havre de Grace, just down the hill from my house, nestled along the banks of the mighty Susquehanna and head water of the Chesapeake, the town fathers layed out most of the main streets pretty wide.

70' to 80' rings a bell. BUT they did not build the streets to that total width. 

So as you drive down Union Ave, lined with a number of beautiful late 19th and early 20th century homes of substantial size, the fact is 6'-8' of the front yards are actually on the city right of way, should they ever choose to widen the street.

The street, curbs, grassway between the crub and sidewalks, and the sidewalks are all well within the "city right of way".

Here is an example. The city right of way is about where the little stone wall is, and not all the side walks are that far back from the curb:

 

Sheldon

 

    

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,099 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Friday, October 7, 2022 12:00 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
BUT they did not build the streets to that total width. So as you drive down Union Ave, lined with a number of beautiful late 19th and early 20th century homes of substantial size, the fact is 6'-8' of the front yards are actually on the city right of way, should they ever choose to widen the street. The street, curbs, grassway between the crub and sidewalks, and the sidewalks are all well within the "city right of way".

Sheldon, it's the same here in Seattle in many places, in fact my street is like that. My yard properly begins a foot or so from the sidewalk into my de facto yard, and the grass verge between the sidewalk and the street belongs to the right of way. Many homeowners plant very elaborate gardens in that area. I built a little cedar farm box so we could grow vegetables out there where the sun shines most and hottest, but we've always known that the city could decide to come through and tear out anything they didn't like, even if they weren't widening the road. Someone once built an elaborate mini skateboard park with ramps for their neighborhood kids on their verge, and the City made them get rid of it because of liability.  

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    September 2020
  • 432 posts
Posted by JDawg on Friday, October 7, 2022 8:25 AM

Well, TMK, the average lane is somewhere between 10-12 feet for slower (>50mph) traffic. Parking lanes are around 8ft. So you are looking at around 40ft, or 5 1/2 inches for ho scale. This is formula I use for my downtown and residential streets. Highways are usually a bit wider, maybe closer to 12 feet wide, plus 6-8 for a right hand shoulder. 

JJF


Prototypically modeling the Great Northern in Minnesota with just a hint of freelancing. Smile, Wink & Grin

Yesterday is History.

Tomorrow is a Mystery.

But today is a Gift, that is why it is called the Present. 

  • Member since
    July 2021
  • 194 posts
Posted by NorthsideChi on Friday, October 7, 2022 9:12 AM

Thanks Ray!  That makes complete sense now   Plus Chicago lots are 125' deep, but 132' to rear alley centerline, so 330' per block unit width by 660' block unit long which is why most residents here commonly know walking 8 long blocks is a mile (or 16 short blocks)


Colorado Ray
 
NorthsideChi

In the midwest, the conventional default right of way width is 66'.  Yes, I know this can vary depending on a variety of situations.  But when you look at sidwell books and tax maps, lot lines will adhere to this 66' default standard in some midwestern states.  So that is what it is doorway to doorway of two facing buildings.

Having your buildings spaced 8 to 9 inches apart facing each other would be realistic to scale.  I typically have them at 8 inches because of space limitations.  

sidewalks I buy from walthers are about 1.5 to 1.75 inches. So a roadway might be 5 to 7 inches wide realistically.  Use a narrower width for parallel parking and wider for angled. Or perhaps wider sidewalks with trees and narrower roadway.  I should research why it's 66.'  But the butcher would have to have a good scale model throw of 8 to 9 inches distance to reach the other doorway 

When it comes to zoning, a historic downtown district would have zero setback from the front lot line and buildings are up to the sidewalk. Outside the east coast where many rowhouses and detached structures also go to the sidewalk, homes elsewhere would have greater setback. So if you had a Main Street on your layout, I'd space the commercial buildings 8 inches apart and then homes or schools a few inches further back from that with some front yards. 

 

 

 

The 66 foot length is from the older days of manual surveying.  66 feet is the length of a standard "chain".  A chain is four poles long. A pole is 17.5 feet.  A mile is 80 chains.  A quarter section is 40 chains by 40 chains, or 160 acres.

Ray

 

  • Member since
    March 2013
  • 427 posts
Posted by Colorado Ray on Friday, October 7, 2022 2:01 PM

MidlandMike

 

 
Colorado Ray
The 66 foot length is from the older days of manual surveying.  66 feet is the length of a standard "chain".  A chain is four poles long. A pole is 17.5 feet.

 

I'm guessing that is a typo, a pole/rod is 16.5 feet.

 

Good catch!  Either a typo or brain fog - likely the later.

Ray

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!