At One With Nature

I told the better half that I’d been planting trees today and she immediately asked if this included the mandarin sapling I’d purchased about 6 months ago for the back yard. I replied that the trees I’d been planting were very low maintenance, that their leaves would never block the gutters nor their roots cause the footpath to heave up. She repeated the question and I had to admit that the trees I’d been planting were on the layout. I told her that it had only been six months and that I didn’t like to rush a job. She rolled her eyes at me 🙂

Over the last couple of weekends I’ve been filling the gaps on the second of Morpeth’s three scenic modules with extruded foam. I’m yet to be convinced that laying track directly onto foam is a good long-term proposition, especially on an exhibition layout, however I find the foam is a wonderful product for use as a scenic base. I spent last weekend happily cutting and shaping the foam and gluing it into the thin gaps between the edges of the layout and the ply track bed. I also had to fill the gaps in and around the station building. I had most of this in place last weekend with only small gaps to fill. Once I have the foam in place I then covered it in a layer of plain paper towel that has been cut into small squares and dipped in a 50/50 mix of water and white glue. I make the paper towel pieces about 25mm square (approx 1″) and pat these into place with a cheap artists paint brush. I left these to dry during the week and finished off this job yesterday (Saturday).

Today I gave the all the new landforms a coat of acrylic house paint that is a rich ochre yellow. I can’t remember the exact name of this colour but the most recent can of the paint was colour matched from a sample I took to the local hardware store from a tin I purchased ten years ago (at least). I like yellow as a base colour and this is also used as the colour of the fascia so the colour is continuous right across the layout. After lunch I laid down a layer of white glue that was thinned very slightly with water and over this I sprinkled my base layer of Woodland Scenics Earth Blend ground foam with a tiny dash of dark green mixed in. This was given a very light spritz of water with a dash of dish washing detergent in it and then left to dry. This gives me just a basic ground cover that I will fuss and fiddle with over the next couple of weekends. I’ll also start laying down some ballast during this time.

At the end of the day as I sat and contemplated my labours – and to avoid thinking about not planting that bloody citrus tree – I unpacked some store-bought trees I’d had delivered a few weeks ago and plonked these at various locations around the station. I can’t stand making trees so, as the only alternative is to buy them, I need to make the most of the ones I’ve purchased as they’re very pricey, a lot more expensive than that mandarin anyway. Unlike nature, you have to think about where you’re going to place your model trees and I’ve found there are a couple of basic rules about this that work for me. The first one is that I always place them in groups consisting of odd numbers and, as I’m trying to get few to go a long way, this means that they will tend to sit on their own or in groups of three. I can’t afford forests of five in one spot! 🙂 Secondly I find that model trees always tend to have a good “side”, so I turn them around a number of times till I find the side I think is their most attractive “face”. Finally trees rarely sit on their own in a flat landscape devoid of detail. For this reason I start by laying down a base colour, then I add low shrubs, creepers and weeds and then I shrub up the landscape with a higher layer of bushes and small trees. To be completely honest it doesn’t really matter if any of this understorey looks anything much like the real thing as long as it looks bushy. The only critical part is that the larger trees look something like those that exist in the real world you are trying to model. In this case I need trees that look vaguely like gums. These are not the redwood forests of California, it’s the central coast of NSW! The trees in the photos are from Auscision and designed for the HO market but my backdrops are relatively low so they can’t be all that high anyway. The Auscision trees are a bit weedy and undernourished but they blend ok and I have some really nice Trackside trees that I’m also going to blend into this part of the landscape. These should make the general treescape look a whole lot more authentic.

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