If you want your layout to look authentic and lifelike there’s a quick and easy tip you can use.
I’ve just had an epiphany regarding my model railway landscapes.
I’m writing this while travelling across Southern England on my way to Cornwall, by train of course, and watching the landscape roll by it dawned on me how many trees there are, everywhere!
We may have lost the forests that made up our landscape long ago but we still have huge numbers of trees all around us. Whether they’re singular oaks standing proud or the familiar Ash, Beech or Birch they’re all around us.
And this applies not just in the countryside but to built-up areas as well. As my train speeds past towns and villages there are still huge numbers of trees to be seen. In gardens, on pavements and road islands, next to churches, between warehouses. Even in city centres. They’re everywhere.
“Life on earth is inconceivable without trees”
We’re blessed to have such a multitude of trees in this country.
But oddly, this profusion of trees in our environment is something that is often missing from HO, OO and N scale incarnations. And I’ve checked.
Sure the very best layouts – the award winning ones you see at the exhibitions – feature lots of tree’s but most others don’t. We tend to skimp on the vertical greenery. Most model railways have the man-made structures nailed and low level vegetation is also done well but there just aren’t enough trees in the majority of railways.
Just take a look at these pictures from around the country. Trees, Trees and Trees!
Now take a look at your model railway. How many trees do you have? I’d hazard a guess you have a LOT less than in the pictures above yet if you want your railway to look lifelike it obviously needs the a similar proportion of trees per scaled down mile.
Model Railwya Engineer Extra
While looking at the trees on my journeys I also noticed another element often missing on model railway scenery. Take a look at trees around ypu. No, not the branches but the base of the trunk. I’d never really scrutinised tree trunks before – let’s face it it’s not high on most people’s to-do lists – but in doing so I noticed a great many have hedge rows, bushes, brambles and extensive ivy growing around their base. This is also something lacking from a great many models. So when adding your trees, don’t forget the ground-level accompaniments.
If you want to make you’re own trees or add extra touches, this video shows you how.
Another thing I noticed while travelling was how many trees there are along railway lines. Again, this is lacking in many model railways. We tend to keep the view to railway lines clear when in reality train lines are often surrounded by thickets – just take a look at sides of railway embankments, in most cases, you’ll see what I mean.
One tip, if you do position trees near your railway lines however, is to check the maximum width of your rolling stock – it’s annoying to “plant” trees and then have to reposition them.
And it’s not just the quantity of tree’s that is lacking from models but the variety too. We’re very fortunate in the UK to have a wide number of native and non-native trees so having lots of the same trees dotted across your layout looks just as wrong as having too few trees. Thankfully, a good variety of trees are available from Hornby Skaledale, Noch and Woodland Scenics and Seafoam. You can also make your own as I covered in make your own model railway trees.
I’ve now ordered a load of Seafoam trees for my layout (the joys of Amazon and eBay app’s on my phone) and once I’ve added trunk growth (see above) and fitted them I’ll post some pictures here. Now back to my train ride.
Footnote: Anyone interested in tree’s is recommended to investigate the work of pioneering scenic modeller George Iliffe Stokes, his trees were/are some of the best ever seen in the hobby.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Affiliate notice: If you plan to buy the products on this page or similiar, please use the links here. These will take you to carefully selected businesses, including Hornby, Rapid Online, Amazon, eBay, Scale Model Scenery and Element Games, through which you can buy products mentioned. These links are made under their affiliate schemes which means that although the price to you does not change I receive a small commission on the orders you place which helps me maintain this site and allows me to create more articles like this. Please see my disclaimer for more information. Thank you for your support, Andy.