Tag Archives: shrubs

Number 1: The Larch

There’s quite a lot going on on Boltorr’s landscape at the moment.

Indeed, I feel like Slartibartfast designing the Norwegian fjords while I’m blending Boltorr dam and the RoW into the aeons old Dumnonia terrain.

However, today I’m taking a break from terraforming and taking a quick look at trees. Trees are a rare event on the open Dartmoor, but when they turn up they’re going to be mighty old and rugged individuals whose size belies their strength and fortitude.

I recently found these two images, taken from a similar point on the old Princetown branch. Maybe 80 years separate the images, one taken in the railway’s heyday, the other, more recent, from the footpath the way the track has now become.

Yet, if you look into the half-distance there are two trees, one half obscured by steam on the old photograph, but both clear enough on the contemporary image. Other than the rails, not much has changed.

Things may come, and things may go, but trees go on for ever...
Things may come, and things may go, but trees go on for ever…

It seems to me that possibly the hardest thing to emulate on a model landscape are the things that are alive. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of layouts where the trees look like bright green bottle brushes or bits of dowel with sponge stuck on them, and I like it. I also like theatre, and I know what suspension of disbelief is. I can see Elsinore on a blacked out stage populated with a couple of boxes… I get it.

However, that isn’t Boltorr.

These are my first steps in achieving a realistic looking tree for Dartmoor.

I went out and explored my garden, or yard, if you like, and found a few sprigs of some herby things which bore a resemblance to a full size tree trunk. Having read the literature, it seems that in the US, sagebrush bears the closest resemblance to a natural looking model tree. I’ll be growing a pot this spring to nurture a few more trees.

But, after trimming, this is what I got – about 50-75mm long;

Trimmed herb stalks, sprayed with varnish to make them a bit more handleable
Trimmed herb stalks, sprayed with varnish to make them a bit more handleable

They were very dry and fragile, but a spray with matte acrylic gave them some body.

I used Micro-Mark black poly fibre to represent the finer branches on the tree. A bag is enough to build your own Birnam Wood. It should last forever.

I built up layers of fibre, gluing it with no more than cheap hairspray. Just get the biggest one you can find in the dollar/pound store. It’ll be perfect.

The real issue is to tease it out as far as you can go and get a good, misty, homogeneous distribution through the branches.

I built up the foliage, first by sprinkling Noch very fine grass fibre, making sure it really got into the poly mesh and finished by draping bits of Noch foliage – which has to be teased on its own fibre backing to get an airy enough effect.

A final bit of hairspray and trim off any wayward strands and you get this:

My first tree set against the currently developing Dartmoor scenery.
My first tree set against the currently developing Dartmoor scenery.

This is my first attempt, and I think it looks pretty good, though I say so myself. I’ve yet to see how this can stand up to dust and general wear on tear on a model railway, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

My next herbacious thoughts will be going in the direction of emulating gorse bushes…

Btw; these books are a huge inspiration: Modelling… Trees… Grassland (series) – Gordon Gravett, Wild Swan Publishing