Inexpensive Ways to Make Trees and Ground Cover For Your Model Railroad Layout
One of the most exciting aspects of model railroading is creating the scenery to enhance the landscape of a layout. The scenery is what adds the personality and interest to a layout to make it truly unique.
There are all sorts of scenery accessories you can purchase from online model train stores, but many things can be made from everyday items around the home. You do not always need to spend money when there are things around you for free.
Twigs from your back yard are a good example. They can be used for making small trees and shrubs, or be cut to resemble logs. There is no need to paint them, because they are already the right color. Small wooden meat skewers (from the supermarket) can also be used to make logs and they are very inexpensive to buy.
The same goes for adding grass to your layout. You can purchase some very good products such as “Static Grass Flock” to provide ground cover, or you can make your own. Some model railroaders use a mix of ready-to-use grasses from the hobby store, and combine this, with there own home made grass recipe.
Gather some fresh mulberry leaves and dry them in a microwave oven. After they are dried out, drop them in a kitchen blender and you have instant ground cover. The best thing is; it costs you virtually nothing to make. Store it in a plastic bag for when you need it.
The only disadvantage with making your own ground cover is you will not necessarily know how long it will last when compared to the bought stuff. Many of the ground cover products from a hobby store will have been treated to help them maintain their color and withstand temperature and humidity variances over time. Some of them are non-flammable and nontoxic, so you need to decide what is important to you.
A lot of model railroaders use dried kitchen herbs for leaves and ground cover. They mix different herbs (eg. thyme, oregano and parsley) for different effects. When doing this it is best to lay some newspaper underneath, as it can be a messy process. That way you can catch and reuse any herbs that do not stick the first time.
Sea Foam (also called “Forest in a Box”) is a popular material for making small inexpensive trees. You can bend it to look like trees and then spray on some adhesive and sieve on some flock. It is usually best to mix a few little pieces together rather than use just one piece for an entire tree.
Fine brass wire can be used to strengthen the trunks and branches. Torn up pieces of masking tape can be wound around the tree trunk to add some width. This can then be sealed with a mixture of wall filler and PVA white glue.
You can even add sprinklings of kitchen herbs as mentioned earlier. You can then spray the trees all over with matt varnish, or spray them (upside down) with a mix of white glue and water. You then leave them to dry overnight.
Lichen is also ideal for making shrubs and trees. It is very versatile and looks good as mass foliage and undergrowth on a train layout. It is also inexpensive and easy to work with. You can purchase it in a range of colors that can be used separately or mixed together.
So, there are many, many ways to make ground cover and trees for your model railroad layout. It is a lot of fun and you might want to try some different options to see what works best for you. The point I am really making here; is that things on your train layout do not always need to be expensive. You just need to be a little creative in your approach. Have fun!
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Robert Anderson is the author of Model Railroad Scenery & Layout Construction Ideas.