Model Railroad Scenery – How To Make Trees

Trees are a great addition to any model railroad and the more you have the better it looks.

However, if you had to go and buy these trees from a hobby shop it would cost you a lot of money.

Here are 2 simple ways to make your own model railroad trees:

1) Find them in your back yard or go for a walk and find them.

Small twigs have a similar structure to the branch structure of large trees. So, go for a walk and look for the twigs that look like trees. In an hour you will find enough twigs to create hundreds of trees.

Look for the dried twigs as this will avoid problems later on. Plants with small leaves can also work very well. The best time to look for these is in Autumn as the leaves will have dried out.

Your twigs can then be trimmed to the size you want. You can buy tree foliage from your local hobby shop or you can make it by using old sponges.

The sponges should be dried in the oven and then torn apart. The foliage can be attached to the twigs by coating the twig ends in PVA glue. Wait for a few minutes until the glue goes sticky and then dip the twig end into the pieces of dried sponge.

With a few coats of spray paint you will end up with some great looking trees for your model railroad. The 2nd way is:

2) Make them from wire and electrical cable.

Multi-strand copper electrical cable is the best to use for these trees. The copper wire is easy to manipulate and allows you to get exactly the she right shape of tree that you want.

The pvc on the electrical cable acts as the trunk and where you want the branches to start you would remove the PVC and manipulate the inner cores of the cable to the shape you want. As with the twigs apply PVA and your dried sponge as the foliage.

Dan B Morgan is the editor of the popular and 100% FREE Model Railroad Newsletter. This is compulsory reading for any model train beginner. It contains valuable information on the right way to build your model railroad and how to achieve this within the time, space and budget you have available.

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6 Responses to “Model Railroad Scenery – How To Make Trees”

  1. Walter Norman says:

    I make all kinds of trees for my layout. With 5 rooms
    hundreds of them are needed, & one room being a logging RR that can add up to thousands. I have lots of trees on my property so getting any type of branch is not a problem.
    Reviewing clinics on tree making, also other subjects will always give modelers a chance to pick up
    something new that makes it a little easier.
    After 50 yrs in the hobby, still learning.

    • Nisha says:

      this is most probably an XPS Extruded Polystyrene (styrofoam) it has much lsmaler bubbles than the widely used EPS (expanded) one and is harder. But this XPS is usually available in DIY stores as well.

    • Mpumi says:

      As i am into model diorama’s, and not raelly railroad’s. your tutorials raelly helped me get a grip on how this type of work is done.. AAAA+++++ on your work. one of the best vids i’ve seen yet

  2. Carman says:

    You posted this question about a week ago, I have viewed your video and there are a number of other options that are rather inexpensive or even free.

    I have made my own crushed foam and dyed it to the colors I wanted, I have used wire and Kleenex as paper maché to form trunks and major branches. The trunks can be painted to any tree type you want. I prefer the foliage nets now available as a quick and easy way to dress a tree.

    There are a number of natural sources that can be used depending on your location. These include some types of weeds for larger trees as well as small ones, don’t know their name but they turn rust color and are the shape of a Lombardy poplar. The bush moss grows wild in most wooded areas and can be dried and died, coated with finer crushed foam in what ever color you like can look very good. Babies breath is also a good tree stalk and can be cut to any size.
    I have also used dried roots, which can be purchased commercially in tree kits, or acquired from your flower garden. I find juniper and cedar good for this, the creeping kinds.

    Also some flower roots, personal preference leaves it open here.

    For stumps and more detailed trees I have used wire and Milliput to make trunks.

    Coniferous trees are the easiest with a tapered dowel and wire and crushed foam. It is all up to the artist.
    If you are creative and have the time to spend, one can create a forest for almost no cost at all.

    Fabric dies are cheap and easy to use
    by experiment and dilution you can vary color intensities and shades, I found it excellent. A small piece of window screen in a frame will help you separate the fine crushed foam from the course, I made my own using a blender and a water spritzer. The water is to dampen the foam so that it won’t gather at the top of the blender from static. I just used cheap pillow stuffing foam to start.

    I also experimented a lot with ground colors and coverings. I found my own colored dirts, dried and pulverized using the balast laying technique of watered down white glue to make a paste and a large putty knife worked really well for flat ground.
    Binder twine, that stuff they make bailed hey with works really well as tufts of dry grass and bases for reeds.

    Milliput is my favorite sculpting medium, can make almost anything and it lasts for ever. It is an epoxy clay, two part, out of england. I have used it to dress models, to eliminate seams and add detail. I have used it to create tree bark, made masters from it for casting. THe uses are endless, only limited by one’s imagination.

    I found plaster of paris to be an excellent medium to work sloped and vertical formations with, have even made my own tunnel rl faces with it. I have sculpted it with small ceramic tools, even used it for molds. The dental plaster is the best. You can color it with bisque stains for ceramics and powder it with fine dirt to create awesome effects. You need to work very small sections at a time as it cures quickly. There is a way to retard curing with vinegar, I just don’t remember the proportions anymore.

    You can even build your buildings out of cereal box card board, I use both cereal boxes and soda cracker boxes, they are different thickness. By sanding the printed side they can be laminated and cut to make anything from walls and siding to shingles.

    I have used granulated dirt, sand blasting sand and other materials to create authentic looking ballast for tracks. I have even used the card board for model bases so they could be moved around to change up the look of the display.

    No one needs to spend a fortune on premade things for their display, there are a lot of cheap alternatives that make creating a model train display far more challenging and exciting.

    I have even used fabric dyes to tint the various levels of water to create depth effects, I like the easy water pellets, but I do find that it become impregnated with dust after awhile. A harder type would be preferable that can be air blasted to be cleaned rather than remelted.

    I have sculpted and carved fish and birds for water scenes, it is impressive when you can see fish in the water. Or breaking water, that is awesome.

    Depending on your resources and availability of materials, you can create an entire display, no matter how large, for next to nothing, and let’s face it. Over half the fun in model railroading is the construction of the display, the other half is playing with the choo choos, hee hee.

    I hope these ramblings have been some help to you, and your followers.

    You want to know anything else, just ask. I know next to nothing about the actual trains, but I spent a lot of time creating the display I made for my son.

    You have a great day and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


  3. R.L.Klaus says:

    I grab bits of sage whenever I’m in Nevada. The sage stems are be far the best for making trees.

  4. Cardosao says:

    Hi. This stuff is sold in Australia as insulation foam. That might help. Also enpexdad polystyrene is the white stuff which goes everywhere and there is also the yellow stuff that you use to stuff cushions. If you are having trouble getting it try an insulation place eg a place that makes commercial refrigerators etc. Try the yellow pages under insulation might help.

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