I recently bought Gordon Gravett's books on modeling trees. I found out about these fantastic books (the second one is about modeling conifers) via Trevor Marshall's blog. The books (printed in England and only available in the U.S. via International Hobbies in California - their web site appears to be gone now) are a pricey investment, but if you are into scratchbuilding and look forward to making realistic, foreground trees of various species, these are the books to get! My first experiment is shown here. It stands 13.5" tall (72 scale feet) on the front edge of my layout.
The books show how to make the tree's roots, which was something I had never done before. When I planted this tree on the layout, I filled in the space between the roots with Sculptamold, and later on painted the Sculptamold, and applied ground foam. You can see the roots slightly exposed out of the ground. Several had to be cut off at the front edge of the layout.
I was happy with how the trunk, roots, and branches came out. However, I still have to experiment some more with the finer branches and leaves. I used fake hair, like the book recommends, but mine didn't come out looking right. The author gives you an estimate on how long each of the tree samples he has in the books took him to build. There is a sizable investment of time required. His "quickest" tree starts at 15 hours! I spent a week of my modeling time on this tree. I did build a second tree (not yet finished) at the same time, but I built that one while I was waiting on glue or paint to dry on this one.
Before I had received the above-mentioned books, I got a general idea of how these trees were made from Trevor's web site. The tree on the left in the photo below was made using that general idea. The "leaves and branches" are from another tree that I didn't like.
The second major accomplishment this month is the construction of a completely scratchbuilt team track platform. You can see the article on how I built it on this page. This section is about how I integrated that structure into the layout. The platform is to be installed next to the short spur that was my recent focus on applying more scenery. The scenery base on my layout is not flat. I decided to try out DAP's "Liquid Cement Crack Filler" (left over from last year's garage remodel). It is supposed to be self-leveling, which would be perfect for this project.
Since the area to be covered is at the front edge of my layout, I applied several pieces of masking tape to keep the cement from flowing off the layout. I then poured the material. While the cement was still wet, I lightly pressed the platform into it. I had poured cement in the area directly under where the platform sits in the photo below.
The next day I had to apply another layer, because the previous day's pouring did not leave a level surface. The second pouring came out better, but it was still not level. I'm not sure this approach was any better than to just use Sculptamold and "trowel" it by hand.
After the cement had dried overnight, I applied a layer of white glue over it and sprinkled N-scale PRR ballast to give the illusion of a packed-gravel lot. I originally thought that the cement itself might be good enough, but I didn't like the surface and its color, hence the "gravel". When that dried, I vacuumed the loose ballast and applied Bragdon Enterprises' weathering powders to indicate traffic patterns. I also added some slight weathering to the platform itself.
And here is one view of my final scene. I covered the cement near the base of the platform with white glue and applied some additional bushes to better integrate that with the rest of the scenery work I had already done at the spur.
I painted an MTH figure (after doing some surgery to his left arm). I also painted a "block" of boxes and barrels from Model Tech Studios. Neither of these are glued down to the platform, so that I can play around with the scene a bit more.