Fantastic modelling tip


I enjoy all the tips, so I’d like to share on with you….

I’m sure some of you have done this, but I discovered it by mistake so I thought I would share.

I am building a diorama and was putting some plaster cloth around the base of a tree to build up the ground level when I went to move a piece of wire that was in the way. Then I thought I’d use it for filler. Then again it might make a good tree root, and it did. It added a little dimension to the base of the tree…

I believe the wire is referred to as bailing wire.

Anyway here’s the photo with a piece of the wire I used. Maybe I’ll try putting some on top and paint it brown…

— Stosh”

Just loved it!

And don’t forget the ebay cheat sheet. Latest one is here. Thank you for all the kind comments on it.



PS Beginner’s Guide is here if you’re feeling inspired.

48 Responses to Fantastic modelling tip

  1. John Gicking says:

    Thank you Veterans & Semper Fi Modelers!! 1958-1962

  2. Tommy Redman says:

    Thanx, follow you all the time, but you guys are so far advanced of me! I do need help with building topography. My board is only 4 X 10 with O27 guage Lionels I’ve had as a kid, some 65 years now. As a Vet myself I’m rooting for the old spirit, we here, and in Europe too, need to think very seriously! Tommy

  3. Len Lainsbury says:

    1954 – 1960 Great years -Good Pals – Happy memories!
    Now it`s a Mobility Scooter but at least I have my computer and model railways. Best to all – past and present.

  4. Gruffalo says:

    Try carving styrene packaging – do it outside as the little balls get everywhere and have so much static they are hard to pick up afterwards – then cover that with plaster cloth. You can create great rock faces, ravines and gentle hills without too much effort.
    As for the Remembrance day / Vets Day picture, shame all politicians now feel they need to make a mark on the world stage by sending their forces into danger from which there is no route out. Didn’t anyone learn anything from Vietnam? Oh, sorry, I forgot that they don’t teach history any more at schools as it might nit be politically correct!

  5. TONY says:

    Hello Stosh,

    Interesting tip. But keep in mind, tall straight trees like the one you have
    pictured seldom have surface roots (in the art of Bonsai, feet). Trees that
    are tapered usually have some feet at the base, seldom extending as far
    out from the trunk as you have them. Ficus trees and Rubber trees have
    huge root systems that extend several yards from the base of the tree.
    A way around the problem is to elevate the tree just a little and taper the
    ground giving the illusion of a wider base at the bottom of the tree. Don’t
    make your roots look uniform. In nature, they never are. Some trees like
    pines have no exposed surface roots as a rule unless the dirt has been washed
    away, usually seen on the sides of hills. Still, your on the right track.

  6. Stoshu says:

    Thanks Tony.

    This is mt first endeavor with rope trees. The trunk you are
    looking at came from the backyard ( it’s real ). I painted it, but it still needs some work. I’m making a school with a an animated playground.
    So semi realism is what I’m going for.
    I’ll pass on a picture when I complete it.

  7. Bill P says:

    Thanks VETS. Bless you all

  8. Chris says:

    Hi Guys

    Well I dicovered something very intersestiing I’m building a layout 2×8 the base is 3 layers of foam great for building on also carving into but by acident I was cleaning something using goo gone I spilt some on the foam not in avitel area walla an instent swamp area i have finished logs reeds etc. I have used again to carve other areas controlling it by using a old modellers brush it works well to get certain effects I then coat the carved areas with painters acrilic filler I spread around using different tools one is a wet artist brush half inch with a course bristle the foam is the dense stuff try it you” ll like
    the effects I have got are great but before applying the rest of art make sure your layout works without fault better to correct before putting the icing on the cake.

    Enjoy Chis

  9. Paul Otway says:

    Very interesting, made me laugh too.

  10. Hat says:

    Nice tip. I have a ? for the experts. I have found that the tips of real evergreen trees make great looking HO trees, problem is the needles get dry and fall off in time. Tryed spraying with glue & polyurethane. Both have worked for awhile, but after a few weeks the needles start to fall. Any way (thing) to keep them on?
    Thanks Hat A Vet in Veterans home

  11. Al Good says:

    Dried out evergreens, a bunch of them could look like a beetle infested forest.

  12. Hi I am a complete novice,and am doing my first model railway,I need help as to how you would do the lighting,can anyone give me some guidance

  13. Larry Vach says:

    Try spraying the trees with clear coat….then before they dry sprinkle some ground cover LIGHTLY on them…has been working for me…I live in florida…almost all the trees here are pine.

  14. Tom Burris Sr says:

    I beg to differ with the comment of tree roots at the surface. My woods are full of roots nrar ir above ground surface.

  15. club lights says:

    Somebody necessarily lend a hand to make critically posts I might state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I amazed with the analysis you made to make this actual post extraordinary. Fantastic process!

  16. To Reply to John James Bruce – What type of “lighting” are you doing? Are you trying to light your buildings, points on the layout, or are you talking about lighting the room your layout is in?

  17. Marion says:

    TONY: Yes, sir, here in Mississippi we are on four acres of pines and various oaks. The pine roots can be seen anywhere you look above ground, and we are not on a hill. They make for interesting mowing of grass, but after a while, we kind of remember where they are before we reach them. That saves on blades!

  18. Marion says:

    STOSH: I love your wire roots! I am new to the hobby, and will surely use your tip. Some of our above ground pine roots run for a long ways. Do put some on top, and paint them brown. That’s realistic. Most of our pines have grown to 85-100 feet, and I love them, roots and all, especially when I step out in the morning, and the scent is so strong…..Oh, yes, I have vivid memories of baling wire from our farming days, and while we used baling twine (jute) for baling hay, we used the wire for dozens of miscellaneous things, primarily for a quick fix on machinery, and in fastening barbed wire onto fence posts. Never did I dream I would see it in a model railroad! After I told my husband of your tip, he said that he thought my deceased husband was up there in Heaven having a chuckle about it, too!

  19. Frank says:

    Don’t use grass stems for N gauge trees!
    Once upon a time our N gauge club had a open house. We needed a lot of trees at short notice, Outside of our clubhouse (Lee Hall Station) was waste ground on which there was a mass of long grass stems, gone to seed. We set up a production line, cutting off the tops of the grass stems; painting them with hair spray and paint; flocking them and drilling small holes in the scenery to plant them. We planted may be 200-500 in one night, with all our club members helping. What a great forest! Two days later, the night before the open house I visited to see if everything was in order and was horrified to find the whole layout was denuded of trees but stalks remained. It was as though a multitude of miniature beavers had been to work. Mice had chopped down our trees and dragged them into tunnels for mice nests. We had to vacuum out each tunnel. Lesson learned.

  20. Dave says:

    Nice job, I might have to try this one on my HO layout when I get it built.

  21. Warren says:

    Try hanging you evergreen limbs upside down for 30 to 45 days inside. I have had some luck with this. It is how some types of flowers are dried. You also may want to check out some info on the web about drying flowers/plants.

  22. Norman Bricklebank says:

    Hello to all you railway moddelers out there I have a 12×8 shed and I would like to do a shelf layout at about 4ft off of the ground around the back and side wall Narrow gauge has always been of intrest but it would not be able to follow the prototype because i would like to amass a collection of different bits and pieces from around the country on a fictiticious railway I would not like to have it more than 8 Inches wide any advice tips tricks and general suggestions would be very welcome cheers all Norman.

  23. Dale says:

    John: Re: lighting. I use high end (dense lights/foot) bright white LED rope lights on my 9′ high ceiling (painted white glossy). By weaving it to match the layout, I have soft, shadow-free lighting over-all. As I complete various scenes, I plan to add spot lights so I can simulate (single source) sunlight.

  24. Marion says:

    Oh, yes; we, too, live on four acres of pines in SW Mississippi, and there are roots everywhere, for certain. I can certainly relate to what they used to do to mower blades! To the gal who commented on baling wire: My first (deceased) husband and I were Iowa farmers, and used baling twine, but did have a good supply of baling wire around. It was a real asset for quick repairs. My present husband made a similar remark about the first up “there” laughing over this. My second (also deceased) husband also commented…I would love to be in touch with other female modelers. How can I do that? I would give you my email addy if I knew how!


  25. Duncan Galbraith says:

    Bailing wire was used to repair just about everything in Zambia and Rhodesia, on the farms, in the mines and on my old cars (exhaust hangers). Good idea for the roots of my baobab trees. Thanks!
    Pampas grass flowering heads make good bamboo groves and the stalks are good modelling material too. D/

  26. Dennis says:

    I have read that glycerin mix with water and the articles dipped in this mixture will keep them looking good forever. Either you can find it in a drug store or order it on the internet.

  27. john andrew says:

    In Australia we have liptons tea in a box and in a box (tea bags) these inner boxes are so close to container size that to me it doesn’t matter all they mean is cheap containers for my on30 layout with a little work to rename at least some of them we must give lip tons at least some free advert.john A

  28. darrel wright says:

    I have often heard of this stuff you can get (i guess only in the states) called STYROFOAM, i think its used as insulation, i know its not its not polystyrene, but can anyone tell me what is the equivalent product on the UK.
    It seems really great versatile material but can I find it?…

    I would bee appreciative if y’all could help me out on this.
    Thanks Darrel

  29. Darren says:

    Hi. Have any of you tried this One. If you have a belt sander in the tool shed, the used belts make very good road surface. Just cut them across paint them with the kids water colour poster paint and you have a 600mm length of road surface and if you happen to have a joiners shop near by just ask them they just put them in the bin and their machines use belts up to 2m long and much wider, you can have a motorway.

  30. Ben says:

    There are so many silver maple trees in the USA and the big ones do have a lot of roots exposed

  31. Bill Oikle says:

    Up here in northern New England we have an abundance of pines of all species. One thing I have found is that pine roots and stumps below ground level are forever. I have some that have been there in my lawn since I moved in 36 yrs ago. I built a small flower garden with the roots at the corner surrounded by 6 inch diameter beams painted with redwood latex paint. The tops of the 6 inch dia. stumps are at ground level and hard as a rock. We make trees using mostly lichen moss and small twigs then dipped in glycerin then set to dry.

  32. Arthur says:

    Hi Norman, There are pedantic modellers and there are free range modellers. My answer to you is do what apeals to you and do the best you can. Remember, there is poets licence and there is modellers licence. Go for gold in your own way and be happy when giong for. Remember, if you are not having fun it means that you are not diong it right,
    Arthur. (from kiwi land)

  33. Dan Marso says:

    I think tree roots will look good after painting. If not, they will be easier than real roots to remove. Very great tips, intimidating,my layout has been mothballed for a decade. I see some videos from Dave,that just put mine to shame, but I’m happy. If I can get mine running again. Semper Fi to all the Marine modelers and all Veterans, all Brothers! Danny , Rhode Island.

  34. Donald Lango says:

    in reference to this comment ; Hi I am a complete novice,and am doing my first model railway,I need help as to how you would do the lighting,can anyone give me some guidance
    John take some old miniature Christmas lights and dimmer switch drill holes under buildings you want to light up connect dimmer switch to power supply & then to lights put 1 light in each building from bottom of layout , don’t seal in building permanently ( duct tape works well ) this way you can replace light if it burns out , this allows you to adjust lights as bright or dim you want – have fun

  35. Craig Burton says:

    For your lights,research!!! Read all you can on different applications,quite a few different ways.I have ” bus wires,power in a large gauge wire,tap into wire with suitcases.Then I have ” just plug” lighting from woodland scenics! J.P. lights are the way to go!!! Many ways to get lights on layout,enjoy,and get bright!Craig

  36. Cary B says:

    Great tip, Thanks
    Cary B

  37. Martin Slaughter says:

    Cheap, simple, very effective. Nice ‘mistake’.

  38. Billy says:

    have you checked with your local building supply store. Don’t know if LOWES or HOME DEPOT is in the UK or not. Building supply or hardware store, that’s where I’d start.

  39. Billy says:

    Darrel (sorry I misspelled your name before)
    Building supply or hardware stores is where I’d start looking for styrofaom If they don’t have it, I’s sure they would have a reasonable substitute. And yes it is used for insulation. So any type of insulation that comes in large sheets would probably work.

  40. Dave Massimi says:

    My lasting thanks to all veterans for preserving our freedoms!
    The website is great and I appreciate that so many share your modeling tips…to me, best part of the hobby is that it’s ok to make your “little world” as simple/detailed, authentic/ fantasy as you want it, as there is no “wrong” way to do it…there is no rule that it has to be prototypical unless you want it that way.

  41. Bob Schworm says:

    Considering card stock buildings. But I have a black and white printer. Are there vendors that provide the printed building prints on stock, which can then be placed on your board medium?

    OR can the images in their pdf files be “snipped” out to a jpeg file and then taken to an office supply store that can print them up in color?

  42. Paul Case says:

    A great tip for cutting the polystyrene foam is the use of a vibrating trim cutting tool such as the Dremel Multimax. I found that knives and blades sometimes rip the material while cutting. With the Multimax you can slice off pieces so thin you can practically see thru them. It can cut very fast so you have to have a steady hand and guide it with care. Enjoy

  43. Steve Molaf says:

    Hi guy,

    New To this but completely enjoying every review and pics.

    Wanted to pass something on to you all. Don’t know if you know about two different apps that carry Trees, People, Street Lighting Fixtures and a ton of HO all the way up to 027 gauge and everything in be tween. First one is called and the other one is called (all lower case). Once you open either one, open store and list hobbies and things should start opening up.

    A lot can cost nothing (just pay shipping), but nothing that I saw today was more the $ 12.50. can’t beat those prices. HO people were in 100 count, ready for painting.

  44. Don Poitras says:

    HELP!!!I am a newbie and want to install a good quality sound decoder in a Kato n scale emd e5a silver speed locomotive.Can someone tell me which one I should buy and where to buy it.I will be running my set with a NCE power cab foe DCC.thanks Don Poitras

  45. Chuck Frank says:

    Don, the issue you will run into with putting sound in your Kato E5 is finding a location for a speaker and a hardwired decoder and a keep alive. You have basically 4 choices: 1. cut away part of the top of the chassis sides front and rear to provide enough room to place one or two sugarcube speakers, preferably with baffles, decoder and keep alive; This will mean shaving about 3/8″ off both the the front and rear chassis. (This will substantially reduce the pulling power of the loco.) 2. Put a “naked sugarcube speaker in the fuel tank shell (assuming it’s a recent model with hollow plastic fuel tank, not a metal one. This is Kato’s solution. still need space for the decoder and keepalive tho.) 3. Buy a Broadway Limited E7 with sound and swap shells (It’s real easy) 4. Buy a dummy B unit and put the decoder, keepalive, and speaker in it. (run a wiring harness between the B and A units meant for a steam loco with a tender install to connect the B to the A.)
    There is a 5th option, ESU has announced a drop in loksound decoder replacement for Kato locos (hopefully they will include a keep alive capacitor on board.) Unfortunately I haven’t found anyone with any in stock yet, including ESU.
    I have shell swapped several of my older LifeLike E unit shells onto Kato E5 or E8/9 chassis (also an easy swap with minor modifications to the shells) to drop in DCC (non-sound decoders) but now I want sound, so I have started swapping my LL shells onto Broadway Limited sound equipped chassis, and also installed the sound equipment into a couple dummy B units. Both are the most cost effective solutionsso far, altho putting sound in the B unit means running it with an A unit modified to line up. I advance consist a powered DCC equipped (non-sound) Kato re-shelled chassis B unit with a re-shelled Broadway Limited A unit when I want more flexibility, helper power and sound. Neither of these solutions give me the sounds of two prime movers running together, my holy grail.

  46. Hi Al, Thanks for setting up this wonderful site for sharing helpful tips. For Marion in Mississippi -I’m in New York Finger Lakes Region and would also love to hear from other female modelers – I’m in the process of trying to complete a concept that my late husband designed…He was into trains and I was doing dolls houses, During Covid isolation, I have restarted building from his supply of model kits and working out the layout details so that I can start layout construction this spring when the weather is better! Enjoy hearing the nearby train sound its signal every afternoon at “tea time” and know my hubby is seeing thins underway!

  47. Jerry Kramer says:

    I beg to differ with someone who said pine trees roots are NOT close to the base showing root growth.
    All old growth Pine trees here have surface roots showing at surface.

  48. C.H. Specht says:

    There are sites that sell replacement speakers for laptop computers and cell phones, like ebay. These are some of the smallest and lightest speakers made and most have great sound too. I haven’t got any engines with sound (yet) but that is what I will probably use.
    There are also many higher voltage/current power supplies and battery chargers that can easily be used to power layouts. Just put a high wattage power converter (buck) converter in series with the power supply and adjust the voltage properly.
    I’m using an old 18volt 20amp power transformer out of a computer with proper rectifiers and filtering with five 400w converters set at 16.5 volts to drive everything. Each converter has its own 5a circuit breaker and is also current limiting for extra protection.
    All the parts (except the transformer) were bought on ebay or Wish. I think I spent lest than $75 for the whole mess.
    If you have an older, lower voltage but high power supply, like a 12v 10a unit, you can get boost converters that will raise the voltage to whatever you need. They aren’t much more expensive, but you have to be careful of the wattage you use.
    For example, the 12v 10a supply is good for 120 watts, but I try to never exceed 80% of the available max, so that leaves you with 96 watts. A boost converter will take the voltage to 16.5v, but you only get 5.8a at 96 watts. If you fuse the circuit at 5a you have a healthy, reliable supply for one DCC booster.
    I will send schematics and parts lists to anyone interested.

    C.H. Specht

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