Forest foliage for your model railroad

John’s been back in touch, this time showing us how he makes his forest foliage:

“Hi Al,

It has been some time since I wrote. I have been moving and expanding my layout, and I finally got some proper scenery time in recently and thought I would share what I am doing.

I have a U-shaped section of the new layout which is situated directly above my new workbench. Because of its location, I want to get it completed early so that I can freely work on projects on the workbench without fear of breaking something when working above.

The U-Section has a nice broad 36” radius curve on one side, and I have been scenicing this area. In front of the tracks is an overgrown Pasture, but behind it is forest. Below is how I went about making the leaf litter material for the forest floor from the leaves right outside my home.

First, I collected leaves from near the house and removed the thicker bits of stem and larger veins. I was rough about it, if a little got in that is fine. Forest floors have sticks, too and these thicker bits make good sticks.

model train forest foliage

Once I had a blender cup full, I added some water – maybe a cup or so – and ran it on a low setting for about 5 minutes. If you want a finer texture, you could go longer, but 5 minutes is a good place to start for HO scale. Next I strained most of the liquid out using a fairly fine strainer.

forest foliage model railway

Then I spread the solid material on a piece of aluminum foil, and baked it in the oven at 175F for several hours until dry.

making model train forest foliage

The dried material is then easily broken apart in one’s fingers, and is ready to be sprinkled onto the next wooded section coming to your layout, before trees are planted. I fixed it in place with Isopropyl Alcohol and very (4 or 5 to 1) diluted Mod Podge.

forest foliage scenery

model train forest foliage

After the glue set, I went over the entire area with my airbrush, spraying an extremely diluted Tamiya XF-57 Buff. This is simply for highlights and it tones down the color to match what the material looks like in the natural world.

model railroad forest foliage

A big thanks to John – you can see more of his 10×14 HO scale layout here.

HO scale 10x14

And he shows us how to add grass to a layout here.

add grass to layout

A big thanks to John for his ‘how to’ on his forest foliage. I think it looks spot on – just like his grass ‘how to’.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.


PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

11 Responses to Forest foliage for your model railroad

  1. Jeff Frazier says:

    JOHN; GREAT TIPS, The Video was Very Helpful!! Keep up the School Time Hints!!! OUTSTANDING!!

  2. Jeff Frazier says:

    TO AL: Dear Sir, my name is Jeff F. , have been viewing your Blog for better than 3 years!! I live in a Veterans Home in California, Unfortunately we have NO WHERE to Build a Layout, But I doo Build Military Dioramas for the Memories Cases, and the Hints & Tips on Scratch building Buildings & Scenery Have been a God Send to make them So much More Realistic. Thank You & you fellow R/R’s So much!! It has given me a way to Keep Busy & Have FUN at the Same Time!! Know that I eagerly look forward to “SEEING” all the tips & Trains!! Sincerely Jeff F. ;-))))

  3. Bill in Virginia says:

    John your scenery looks fantastic!!

  4. Erick says:

    I think that is a great idea ; But a i also think is a lot work

  5. Joe Wright says:

    That is so realistic! Thanks for the course on how to make it!
    U have a great imagination for doing realistic things like this.

  6. Dan bear says:

    i just like to say love your site …. i dont do railroads but do likke to do panaramas using hot wheels and other model cars….i can use some of the technigues in wht i do…..keep it up

  7. Stephen Hill says:

    Remarkable talent and Ingenuity . We have to remember that years ago model railroad enthusiasts had to create from scratch and resource, there was no manufactured stuff , just the trains track and good old plastiville. Great idea and great tutorial , the challenge met and the results are truly remarkable, thanks for sharing . Wonderful layout .

  8. George Zaky says:

    I did not add the water to my blender of leaves. There is considerable dust this way so I do this in my garage, wear a mask, and sift out out the chunks. That makes 2 piles. One of sticks & branches & the other a forest bed that I really like.
    Your way is a lot cleaner.

  9. Ken Holbrook says:

    Hey John, I loved the tip with forest floor leaves. I think I’ll give it a shot. Although my trees are already in place, I think I can sprinkle the new leaves around them. Awesome tip. For those that say it looks like a lot of work, all I can say is if you want to make it look realistic, then you’re going to need to put in the time. Great job John!

  10. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome John, thank you for the wonderful tips I really appreciate it. If you have more tips I would be interested in seeing them. Again, thank you very very much !!!!!

  11. Robert E Brady says:

    Is there enough room on all those straight tracks to fit box cars without touching? I once had that problem.
    The Critic

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