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FORUM CLINIC: Building realistic model railroad scenery
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joef
Wed Oct 05 2005, 02:41PM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2112
Glad you're enjoying the FORUM CLINIC, Denny.

I use regular old corrugated cardboard boxes. I use a metal straight edge and a single-edged razor blade box cutter to cut the strips. I just eye-ball the 3/4" width.

BTW, this material is similar to what will be in my Siskiyou Line video volume 4, so you're getting a preview.

The video will take a single location on the layout through all the steps from bare benchwork to finished scene. I'm kind of using this FORUM CLINIC to see what the questions are so I make sure and cover that when I do the video.

[ Edited Mon May 15 2006, 03:31PM ]

Joe Fugate
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joef
Wed Oct 05 2005, 11:19PM


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Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2112

NEW! Model Trains Video.com has downloadable videos ($1.99 and up) that show me demonstrating these techniques.


TOPIC THIS POST: Applying the scenery "plaster" mixture

The plaster step can be messy, which is why I like covering the cardboard strips with 2" masking tape. The tape application goes fast, and makes the plastering step really easy because you can literally "paint on" the plaster over the masking tape. There's no holes in the "pre-scenery" for drips to fall through!


Rough plastered scenery made using the vermiculite mix described in this segment. This scenery has been painted with brown latex paint as well, and the track has been ballasted (covered in future segments). That squared off area you see in the left background is going to be a freeway bridge abutment -- Interstate-5 crosses over the railroad in this location approaching Rice Hill.

Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/scenery/Scenery3.jpg

In preparation for the plastering step, you also want to get some 1.5" masking tape (HO) and put it down over the track to protect it from plaster splaters. I don't ballast my track until after the plastering step is done, but it's still nice to keep the plaster mess off the track.

I use a special mix of patching plaster, portland cement, and vermiculite (powdered mica mineral). I like this mix because it's lightweight, has a natural gray color (as opposed to a bright white color) and it's kind of "rubbery" and a bit "fluffy", making it fairly easy to poke holes into with an awl. I like to use the awl for planting trees, because it's quicker than drilling holes, and it doesn't leave little plaster dust hills around the hole (more on tree planting later).

The mix also has a bit of a grain, which makes it nice for getting a "gritty rock" look if you're hand carving rock faces. I find the slight grit makes it easier to get convincing hand carved rocks in a pinch without using rock molds. More on this in a moment.

Here's the formula:
1 part portland cement
3 parts patching plaster
4 parts vemiculite (fine)

Make sure and use a fine gind of vermiculite (looks like coarse sand) or your scenery will be full of lumps and look more like "popcorn ceiling texture". Here's an internet link to fine vermiculite: http://seeds.thompson-morgan.com/us/en/product/m11988/1

Mix this to a consisency of thick cake batter and then paint it on. You should have a working time of about 20 minutes.

I prefer to use two coats. I paint one coat on mostly to cover the tape and to establish a solid base to work from. Usually the first coat has a lot of imperfections and unnatural brush marks, etc. I'm mainly trying to just cover the tape on the first coat (about 3/16" thick) so I don't worry much about how it looks.

After the first coat has set up (preferrably a couple of hours later) apply a second coat. The second coat varies from 1/8" to 1/4" thick and this coat I pay attention to how it looks, and I especially try to eliminate any unnatural brush strokes or globby inperfections in the first coat. I want the second coat to be fairly smooth and natural looking.

The second coat is where I do any rock work. I used to use lots of rock molds, but I only use them occassionally now. Western Oregon scenery doesn't need a lot of rock work, but when it does, I find I can hand carve something convincing just by mixing a slightly thicker batch and applying it over the undercoat, then globbing and shaping it with a common smooth kitchen butter knife. Make sure and allow for the thickness of the rock when you plan any rock cuts next to the track. Give yourself an extra half inch from the scenery base to your track clearance points to allow room for the rockwork and for any equipment to still have clearance to get past your nice rockwork.

This plaster mix does have one drawback you need to be aware of: it shrinks. Regular plaster doesn't shrink much, but this mix does, so it has a tendency to crack. But I so like the lightweight and soft properties of this mix, along with it's great natural color that I put up with the cracking. Just mix up a small thin batch and go fill the cracks. I find I get one crack about every two-three feet, I just patch them in a couple minutes and that's that.

Now that we've plastered the scenery, I like to work from the back to the front as to the final details. This means we start with the backdrop in the next installment of this clinic.

NEW! Model Trains Video.com has downloadable videos ($1.99 and up) that show me demonstrating these techniques.

NEXT TOPIC: From blue painted board to sky backdrop

[ Edited Wed Mar 12 2008, 02:42AM ]

Joe Fugate
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joef
Thu Oct 06 2005, 09:20PM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
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TOPIC THIS POST: From blue painted board to sky backdrop

Before I build any scenery, I install and paint the sky backdrop a basic light sky blue. I don't want this blue too light, because one of the tricks that really enhances a sky backdrop and adds "snap" to model scenery is a realistic sky backdrop.

There are several materials to use for a sky backdrop, from masonite hardboard, to the backside of vinyl linoleum, to sheet aluminum roof flashing, to large sheets of styrene. My purpose here is not to get into all the different materials and ways to install a backdrop.

I use the backside of vinyl linoleum along the walls (a stiff backing already present) and I use masonite hardboard in the middle of the room where the backdrop needs to be freestanding and stiff on it's own. Vinyl linoleum is not stiff, so it doesn't work for benchwork in the middle of the room where the backdrop needs to be freestanding.

I like the back of vinyl linoleum because you can get long runs of it and need fewer seams. I just went to a flooring store and asked them if they had any flooring scraps 2-3 feet wide they would sell me. First, they wanted to know why I needed such narrow stuff. Once I told them I was using it backwards for smooth sky backdrops on a model display, they grinned, and sold me all I wanted at $5 a roll.

I tacked the vinyl to the wall backside out with small roofing nails and painted it a light sky blue. For masonite, I mounted it, patched the seams with white painters caulk (I like it because it's flexible) and smoothed the caulk with a wet sponge, and painted it a light sky blue.

Somewhere around the time you're ready to do your rough scenery terrain, it's time to think about doing more to finish your sky backdrop.

I'll pencil in the terrain contour on the backdrop before I install the cardboard strips, and then get out my airbrush and fade the horizon area on the backdrop with flat white. I use ModelFlex flat white, because it's ready to airbrush right out of the bottle.

Imagine a flat horizontal horizon line on the lower part of your backdrop, as if you were looking at the ocean. The all along that line where your penciled terrain contour drops down, fade the horizon from blue to almost white. Feather the white into the blue so that there's no stark white line on the backdrop. As you do this, follow your imaginary "ocean horizon", do not follow your penciled terrain contours. The white fading should be about the same distance down on your backdrop everywhere, not up and down with the terrain lines.

Here's a sample photo from my Siskiyou Line to show how effective the white fading can be. Notice how the white horizon fading creates a realistic sense of "vast outside sky" to the confines of my indoor layout.



I also mix some light blue gray and light blue green and paint basic mountains on my backdrop. Nothing fancy for the most part, because we want the layout scenery to get the attention, not the backdrop.

One trick to get good colors for backdrop mountains is to mix up a color that looks good to your for trees or rock mountains, then mix in some deep blue paint, along with a healthy dose of your sky blue paint you used on your backdrop. This will fade the color of your backdrop mountains and make them look like they really belong. The more sky blue you add, the farther back your mountains will appear to be. Experiment with a scrap of blue painted board until it looks good to you. One of the secrets for distant mountains is to keep the colors very light, which is on reason to mix in a lot of your sky blue color.

Clouds
I tend *not* to paint clouds on my sky because I love the look of a cloudless, sunny August day in southern Oregon. But if you do want to try some clouds, it's best to do them *before* you paint the white fading on the lower part of the sky. Spending some time studying photos with clouds in them will really help you out ... I recommend that unless you have experience painting landscapes you do your backdrop scenery painting with photo references at hand.

We could do a whole forum clinic just on painting clouds, but let me pass on a few tricks.

The closer to the horizon the cloud is, the smaller it should be. Clouds are objects too and just like you would expect with an airplane, so goes a cloud. An airplane direclty overhead is larger than an airplane off at a distance near the horizon.

Take your white you intend to use for your clouds, and mix some of the sky blue color in first. This will make the cloud look more like it belongs in your sky and will make it look less like a stark white cotton ball. The closer the cloud is to be to the horizon, the more blue you add.

Clouds are objects, so they generally have a shadow on their underside unless they are high altitude clouds or thin and very wispy. To get a good cloud shadow color, mix just some gray and more of your sky color together with some of your white, and use that to shade the underside of your cloud. Ideally, add the shading while the white is still wet so you can blend the white and the gray to create a gradual shadow effect.

It's best to mix all of your cloud paint ahead of time, paint a few clouds with white, then go back and add the shading color while the white is still wet. If you plan to add more than a few clouds, paint your clouds in layers ... starting near the horizon with lots of sky blue color in your white and gray paint.

Also remember clouds near the horizon will be closer together than clouds overhead.

Move up to the next layer, and put less blue in the white and gray.

Finally do the uppermost clouds, and use just a smidgen of blue in the white and gray.

NEW! Model Trains Video.com has downloadable videos ($1.99 and up) that show me demonstrating these techniques.

Next, we'll look at how to get realistic looking track.

NEXT TOPIC: Ballasting and weathering track

[ Edited Wed Mar 12 2008, 02:30AM ]

Joe Fugate
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joef
Sat Oct 08 2005, 02:35AM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
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TOPIC THIS POST: Ballasting and weathering track

With the sky backdrop finished and the rough scenery plaster work done, I usually ballast and weather the track next. I use MicroEngineering flex track, codes 83, 70, and 55. I like this track because it has very tiny spike heads and a realistic randomness to the ties. Ballasted and weathered ME track looks better than handlaid, in my opinion.

(NOTE: Model Railroader editor Andy Sperandeo asked me to submit an article on these techniques, which I have done. My article should appear sometime next year, so watch for it. In the meantime, I'm going to be covering these techniques in the Siskiyou Line video series video volume 4 on scenery, among other things.)

Here's a photo of some finished track done this way (from the MR article):


(Click photo to enlarge)

I ballast the track using Woodland Scenics fine gray ballast, which is a color that matches the prototype Siskiyou Line. You'll need to pick a color that is right for the region you model. Keep in mind that when you bond the ballast using the techniques I outline here that the color darkens slightly.

I spread and shape the ballast using my fingers and a small stiff-bristled brush. I like to use my fingers because it gives me lots of control. I use the stiff-bristled brush to brush ballast away from the rail sides and off the tops of the ties after doing the shaping with my fingers. You want your ballast to be even with the tops of the ties, but not *on* the ties.

I use 70% isopropyl alcohol straight to wet the ballast prior to gluing. This pre-wetting step is essential because without it the glue will simply bead up all over the ballast and ruin all your careful shaping efforts. The alcohol is great because it goes right in without disturbing the ballast. I use an old white glue bottle, fill it with alcohol, set the tip to release just a drop at a time, and then dribble it all over the ballast until everything is soaked with alcohol.

Next, I bond the ballast with a white glue solution. I mix 1 part white glue to 3 parts water, and add several drops of dish detergent to the mix so it will soak in readily. Carefully dribble the white glue all over the ballast and let it dry overnight.

The white glue will displace a few ballast grains, but for the most part, things should stay put nicely if you follow these directions. For the few grains that always stray, after things have dried overnight, I take a small screwdriver and lightly scrape the stray grains off the rails and tie tops. Use light pressure on the rails so you don't strip any plastic spikeheads off the track (especially critical with ME track because of the tiny spikeheads).

Vaccum to remove any loose ballast grains.

I paint the sides of the rails with Pollyscale Roof Brown (mainline) or DRGW Depot Brown (sidings/spurs). I prefer waterbased paints, and Pollyscale sticks to the metal rails well. Use a size 00 brush, and don't fret if you get paint on the ties. If you look at real track, you'll see some of the weather color on the tie plates and ties under the rail -- so you're just making things more realistic if you get the rail weathering color on the ties around the base of the rail!

Next, I use an old phonebook as a paint palate and mix some craft acrylic paint (black, brown, white) to get some black-brown and gray-brown color that I paint randomly on a few ties using a size 0 brush. Hit maybe 20-30% of the ties to give them some realistic variation. Paint spur and siding ties more weathered brown and gray tints to reflect the greater weathering and less maintenance they typically get.

Let everything dry for about 30 minutes.

Next, we need to weather between the rails. Looking at prototype track, it tends to weather differently between the rails than it does elsewhere. To simulate this, I mix 1 part plaster with 1-part black powered tempera paint and brush this dry powdered mixture down the middle of the track (mainline).

I mix 1 part black, 1 part yellow, 2 parts brown, and 4 parts plaster and brush this dry powdered mixture down the middle of sidings and spurs.

I mist the track with wet water to fix the plaster-tempera mix in place (it will also fade somewhat). The secret is the plaster in this mix -- that will make between-the-track weathering more or less permanent once you mist it with water and it dries. For extra heavy weathering, brush some more weathering powder between the rails while the track is still damp.

Finally, I clean off the railheads with 600 grit sandpaper (polish the railheads, really) and then vacuum.

As you can see, if you treat the track like any other model and weather it appropriately, it will look great!

NEXT TOPIC: Finishing the rough scenery: applying dirt/background grass

[ Edited Tue Mar 11 2008, 01:29PM ]

Joe Fugate
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joef
Sun Oct 09 2005, 03:29AM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
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TOPIC THIS POST: Finishing rough scenery - Applying dirt/background grass

Now that we've ballasted the track, it's time to deal with all that bare scenery.

After the plaster sets up, I typically paint the scenery a basic dirt brown color. I go to the paint store and find the cheapest indoor flat latex paint I can find and have them mix me a good dirt color. Find a photo that has a dirt color you want to match, take it to the paint store, and match to a color chip, then have them mix up a batch for you.

Once I get home, I mix the paint 50-50 with water, and then paint it on the plaster scenery to give it a nice dirt brown color. I often do this before I ballast the track.


Progression from painted plaster (foreground), to plaster with dirt (middle foreground), and finally adding vegetation (in the distance). We cover painting the plaster and applying the dirt in this segment. We'll be covering the grass, bushes, and trees in later installments.

Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/dirts.jpg

After the track has been ballasted, I start from the ground up adding scenery color and texture. For the background scenery, color maters most, and texture is not as important. You'll see what I mean in a moment.

I know lots of people who use fine ground foam or real dirt for their "dirt" in their layout scenery. Ground foam of any grind is generally too coarse for dirt, and a good range of dirt colors are hard to find. Real dirt has the problem that it's the right color outdoors under sunlight, but will be hopelessly too dark under indoor lighting of any kind. And real dirt will probably look the worst under common cool florescent lights, shifting color toward the blue-green end of the spectrum as well as looking too dark.

So I make my own "real dirt" by using powdered tempera paints and plain white plaster of paris. This is a variation on Linn Westcott's famous "zip texturing" idea popularized in the late 1960s. The nice thing is you can take a photo that has the dirt color you want to duplicate, and you can match it exactly by mixing your own colored "dirt" while you are looking at the photo under your layout lighting.

(Notice what you are doing here by matching the color in this fashion. You are getting a dirt color *under your indoor layout lighting* that looks the same as the dirt color outside in a photo taken under outdoor lighing. If you took some of that dirt from the photo area and brought it indoors and held it under your layout lighting next to the photo, it would look much too dark! So much for using real dirt.)

Be aware that the plaster - tempera paint mix darkens quite a bit when you wet it down, so mix up a batch that looks too light to you, then apply it to a scrap of scenery, wet it down and allow it to dry. Once it's dry, check the color. If it's too dark, add more plaster and try again. If it's too light, add more color and try again. Keep track of your formula so you can repeat it later.

Generally, you want somewhere between 2 - 8 parts plaster to color, or perhaps 10 parts plaster if you need a really light "dirt". Keep track of the total parts that are color. For example, the rich brown dirt color below has 3 parts that are color, so 9 parts plaster is really a ratio of 3 parts plaster to 1 part color (9 divided by 3 is 3). For reference, here's some simple formulas I use.

Rich brown dirt:
1 part black
2 parts brown
9 parts plaster (3:1 color to plaster)

Tan dirt:
1 part black
2 parts brown
1 part yellow
16 parts plaster (4:1 color to plaster)

Get yourself a tea strainer, spray wet water (water with a few drops of detergent in it) on the bare brown scenery, and sprinkle some of the plaster-tempera mix onto the scenery. Then mist the plaster mix from above lightly with more water from a pump spray bottle. In a couple of hours, the plaster should be dry and set up. If it's still loose, spray it again.

If I want something that looks muddy, I'll soak the plaster good. Or if I want a more dusty look, I'll take it easy with the water.

I also use this technique for background grassy slopes, since the color is more important than the texture for background grass. Mix up a color that matches the grass color I'm using in the foreground, then I'll add a pinch of blue tempera to it (and *just* a pinch) and add an extra part of plaster to lighten it. Here's an example for background yellow grass.

Background yellow grass:
2 parts yellow
1 part brown
pinch of blue
15 parts plaster (5:1 color to plaster)


Background yellow grass powder has been applied to the hillside against the backdrop in this photo.

Now that we've got some basic dirt color on things, it's time to move toward the foreground and look at adding some realistic grass.

NEXT TOPIC: From the ground up - Realistic grass

[ Edited Sat Aug 23 2008, 05:39PM ]

Joe Fugate
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Denny
Mon Oct 10 2005, 09:39AM
Registered Member #21
Joined: Thu Dec 09 2004, 07:20AM
Posts: 404
Glad you're enjoying the FORUM CLINIC, Denny.

I use regular old corrugated cardboard boxes.


thank you Joe,
I printed out this pages and read them carefully on my 20 minutes train trip back home from work. I noticed you already said you use carboard boxes, oops
I find this tecnique very quick and easy so I wanted to give it a try on my european layout. here you can see some pictures.
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joef
Mon Oct 10 2005, 10:05AM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2112
TOPIC THIS POST: From the ground up - Realistic grass

One scenery area where I am a real fanatic is modeling grass correctly. I've been on a crusade of sorts for years to find the best materials for modeling grass realistically, yet quickly enough that it doesn't take a lifetime to scenic your layout.


Getting realistic looking tall grass on your layout does a lot to enhance it's realism.

Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/RoseburgBluffs/Photo-20.jpg

I've tried sawdust, ground foam, twine, sisal rope, brush bristles, felt, yarn, sweatshirt fabric, static grass, fake fur, and silfor.

Twine, sisal rope, brush bristles, and yarn all require you plant them a clump at a time, and it can take several evenings of tedious work just to do a small field so that it has more grass than bare spots.

Sweatshirt fabric and static grass work pretty well, but you have to do a lot of fiddling with contact cement, equipment, and so on, and the results are sometimes inconsistent.

Fake fur and silfor work the best in my experience, with a couple of caveats.

Fake fur looks just a little too "fuzzy" on the edges and is hard to transition from grass to bare spots convincingly. Silflor is just about the perfect all around grass modeling material, looking great on the edges as well as in the middle, but it costs something like $20 a square foot, so it's not cheap. Compare that to 75 cents a square foot for fake fur and you can see which one ought to be used for the larger grass expanses.

So I model a large grass expanse with a combination of fake fur and silflor. I use silfor on the edges and fake fur in the middle of a larger grass expanse. I get fur with a similar nap length to the silfor, and I brush in acrylic paint both into the fur and the silfor to match their colors. Here's a couple of photos to show you the result:

First the finished scene, without distinguishing the fake fur and the silfor.



Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou.railfan.net/images/silflor/Silflor1.jpg

The the same scene, with the fake fur and silfor boundaries marked.



Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou.railfan.net/images/silflor/Silflor2.jpg

This approach economizes on the use of silfor, yet solves the fake fur edging issue. The boundary is nearly indestinguishable and can only be seen up close if you know what you are looking for. No one even notices unless you point it out, and even then most people can't see the boundary with certainty.

To attach the grass, I use hot glue. Get yourself some rubber dishwashing gloves and put one on your main hand you use to plant the grass to protect yourself from the hot glue -- it can cause nasty burns if you aren't careful. I'm left handed, so I wear a glove on my left hand.

I undercut the backing on the silfor then put a ring of hot glue around the edge and press it down to the scenery and hold it for a few seconds to allow the glue to set up. For larger expanses of fake fur, I cover the backing with zig zag trails of glue, then press it in place.

I like the hot glue because it makes the work go fast. I can press a piece of grass in place and move on a few moments later to do the next clump or spot of grass.

The one downside of hot glue is the fine web-like glue strings you get all over everything. Use a strong light and just grab them up like you do cobwebs and pull them off the scenery now and then as you work.

Next, bushes and other ground cover.

NOTE: I also discuss the pros and cons of silfor and fake fur on my Siskiyou Line web site at: http://siskiyou.railfan.net/model/constructionNotes/silflor.html

NEXT TOPIC: From the ground up - Realistic bushes and ground cover

[ Edited Wed May 03 2006, 06:08PM ]

Joe Fugate
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joef
Tue Oct 11 2005, 03:37AM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
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Posts: 2112
TOPIC THIS POST: From the ground up - Realistic bushes and ground cover

For bushes and other low ground cover I use four basic techniques. In all cases, I glue the bushes / ground cover in place with hot glue. The hot glue enables me to plant a bush and immediately move on. Do use some glove protection on the main hand you use to plant with because hot glue can cause very nasty burns if you don't protect yourself.


Finished scene, using the bushes and ground cover techniques described in this segment.

Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/scenery/KingCreek.jpg

1. Woodload Scenics Foliage

This is the stuff that comes as ground foam bonded to a mesh netting. You can tear off chuncks, roll it up into a ball-like shape, and plant it with hot glue as an instant bush. It comes in 4 colors: light green, medium green, dark green, and conifer green. I use mostly the first three colors for bushes, with a preference for lots of light green, because that's the color many real bushes are as compared to trees. I only use conifer green once in a blue moon as foliage on background conifers.


2. Lichens and ground foam

Lichens has a form of branch structure that looks good under ground foam foliage. I typically spray the lichens a light tan or brown-gray, then hit it with spray adhesive and sprinkle on green ground foam, and it's ready to plant with the hot glue gun.


3. Horsetail foliage from Scenic Express (see note below)

Scenic's Express horsetail foliage is great stuff ... I love using it to model vines, blackberry bushes and the like. It has a nice leafy look, with the underside of the leaves being noticeably lighter than the upper side. This looks great in the foreground for low, vine-like growth. It also looks great growing up buildings and tree trunks where approriate. The stuff's a bit pricey, but you don't need use a lot of it to be effective. I have one mat of horsetail foliage that has lasted me for nearly two years on various scenery projects. I use hot glue to plant the horsetail foliage.


4. Scraps from Deciduous trees (see next topic post for details)

These look the best, because they have a nice branch armature under all those leaves. And when you're making deciduous trees using the techniques I'll be describing in the next post, you'll end up with some ratty looking trees now and then that can better live their life as a collection of bushes instead of one big ugly tree. Again, I use hot glue to plant these tree-scrap bushes.

Here's some photos showing the kinds of bushes and ground cover discussed here, and how they look in a scene close-up:



Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/Texture3.jpg

And in case you can't figure out what is what, here's the same photo with everything labeled:



Yahoo image link: http://siskiyou-railfan.net/assets/images/post_photos/Texture4.jpg

Next, realistic deciduous trees you can make quickly and that don't cost you an arm and a leg.


NOTE: Scenic express sells a plethoria of great scenery products. Go to their website, click "About Us" and call their 1-800 number, asking for a catalog.

Their web site is: http://www.scenicexpress.com

Their catalog is simply amazing -- I keep one in the "reading room" just to thumb through and use for planning scenery projects. Much of the catalog is full color and it's like the "who's who" of model scenery products. If you are serious about doing good looking model railroad scenery, the Scenic Express catalog is one resource you don't want to be without. (No affiliation with them ... I just love their catalog as a resource).


NEXT TOPIC: From the ground up - Realistic deciduous trees F-A-S-T!

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joef
Wed Oct 12 2005, 10:52PM


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BONUS TOPIC: Sweatshirt Grass
One thing I mentioned in the last post, but didn't cover was how I made the sweatshirt grass. I got the technique from Railmodel Journal, January 1995 page 44.

I purchased white sweatshirt material at Walmart in the fabric department and dyed it a nice golden yellow using Rit fabric dye.

I got some DAP Weldwood contact cement in a 3 oz bottle.


Yahoo image link: http://www.thehardwarehut.com/images/caulks_sealants_adhesives/dap-00107.jpg

The stuff smells to high heaven, so be careful! Here's a link to an online source:
http://www.thehardwarehut.com/catalog-product.php?p_ref=2054

I applied the contact cement, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then pressed down the sweatshirt material into the cement, fuzzy side down. Don't press it down too hard, you want to glue down the fuzz, but not the material backing.

Then I waited overnight, returned and ripped up the sweatshirt material, leaving behind all the fuzz. A light dusting of tan plaster-tempera powder, mist with water and voila! You get what you see in the photos in the last post called "sweatshirt grass".

Joe Fugate
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joef
Wed Oct 12 2005, 11:44PM


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Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM
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NEXT TOPIC: From the ground up - Realistic deciduous trees F-A-S-T!

My favorite method for building great looking deciduous trees quickly involves a natural delicate plant Scenic Express calls "SuperTrees" and that Noch calls "Seafoam".

You can buy an entire small "tumbleweed" sized bush that will make 50+ trees from Scenic Express for $20. Call 1-800-234-9995 and ask for their catalog. It's a gold mine of scenery materials!

Also FCSME member Bill Carl and I have some similar techniques for making these trees -- see the FCSME website for one way to do supertrees: http://www.fcsme.org/bcarl/how_to_make_scenic_express_supertrees.htm

I pull sprigs from the raw tumbleed and throw them into a large bowl. Next, I dip the sprigs in a 1:7 matte medium solution, then hang the sprigs upside down to dry. Some sprigs have an unnatural curve to them ... while they are drying upside down, I will clip a clothes pin onto the end of these sprigs to pull them straight while they dry.


Hanging supertrees to dry after dipping them in a matte medium solution to toughen them up.

The matte medium treatement helps a lot to stiffen and toughen up these delicate sprigs so they're more durable on your layout.

I let the sprigs dry overnight. I ususally do at least 50 sprigs at a time.

The next day, I take these sprigs down and stick them upright into styrofoam blocks usually 5-10 trees at a time. The next steps you need to do outside where there's plenty of ventilation. Do the following steps one right after the other without waiting for the paint to dry.

First, I spray the sprigs a tan or grey color using cheap spray paint.

Next, I lightly mist the sprigs with a hint of flat black. You just want to create a kind of shadow effect on the ends of the branches and the tree trunk. Most of the tan/grey color should still be showing.

Next, spray the sprig branch bodies (but not the trunk) with spray adhesive (like Elmer's spray adhesive shown here: http://www.pearlpaint.com/shop~parentID~984~categoryID~975.htm ) and sprinkle on medium green coarse ground foam. I don't worry too much about the exact color, since I control the exact color with later steps. Any medium green color will work.


Sprinkling coarse medium green ground foam onto the painted supertree sprigs.

You can control how dense you make the tree foliage by how much adhesive you spray on and how much ground foam you sprinkle on. I generally try for at least some amount of see-thru look to the trees, so I don't get too agressive with the spray adhesive and the ground foam sprinking.

After the trees have their foam applied, now it's time to give them the proper coloration. I use craft spray paint of various green shades. A favorite of mine is Design Master Basil green (see: http://www.afloral.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=535 ) -- this is a nice yellowish green that I think simulates the color of summer-time deciduous tree foliage for Maple, Ash, Alder, Elm and so on.

Oaks tend to have darker foliage, more like Design Master Hunter Green. Avoid painting the trunk part of the tree ... keep to the foliage area with the spray paint. If you do happen to get a bit of green onto the lower tree trunk, don't fret. Moss and green "mildew" are not uncommon on real tree trunks.

Then to finish, I'll take a pale yellow spray paint and mist it lightly onto the tree from above to simulate the effect of sunlight on the foliage.

And there you go -- your trees are ready to plant!


As you can see, these trees look absolutely great, and they take mere minutes to produce!

Once you've prepared the sprigs overnight with the matte medium solution, you can crank out finished trees 5-10 at a whack in just a few minutes time. And to top it off, they look *great*. I use this technique for most of the decidious trees on the Siskiyou Line and they look wonderful. Like this:



To plant these trees, I use a small sharp awl to poke holes in my soft vermiculite plaster scenery, put a dab of hot glue on the end of the tree trunk and poke it down into the hole.

NEXT TOPIC: From the ground up - Realistic conifer trees F-A-S-T!

Joe Fugate
http://siskiyou-railfan.net - 200,000 hits and counting!


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