Model railroad trees

Bill’s been back in touch with part 2 of his excellent tree ‘how to’ on model railroad trees.

If you missed part 1, it’s here.

“Hello again Al and fellow Modelers

This is Part 2 of the pine tree build.

This one picks up on painting and detailing and also has a short how to do making N Scale tree using the same materials.

Let’s dig in right where Part 1 left off. Note I’m starting with Photo 1 again for this part of the build since it’s in a different post.

Model railroad trees

Photo 1 shows the spray paint I use for the trees. These are camouflage flat earth colors – browns and dark forest greens. For these I wear a pair of latex gloves and go outdoors and stay the entire tree from top to bottom. Cover as much as you want as it does help blend everything together and covers the ground cover used to seal the various glued used during construction.

Model railroad trees

Photo 2 shows a painted tree. Note the tree has been roughly shaped at this point. This is the flat dark brown color of spray paint.

Model railroad trees

Photo 3 shows this batch of trees I made in various stages of completion. It’s very evident which trees have gone thru the painting process at this point.

Model railroad trees

Photo 4 shows how I set up a few containment stations so when I apply the foliage I capture excess for future use and also keep the bench reasonable clean. For the foliage I use a few different colors of woodland scenics ground cover. Burnt grass and mixed ground cover are the two I primarily use but I also use the weeds green color as well for some trees.

Model railroad trees

Photo 5 shows a quick spray station set up for application of extra hold hair spray to the trees. Again this keeps the mess down.

Model railroad trees

Photo 6 shows how I like to spray which is top down for the most part. This covers the branches but minimizes the amount of spray getting on the trunk which will need to be brushed off later.

Photo 7 and 8 show sprinkling the ground cover on the tree. Trees are rotated as you see fit snd after the first application I tend to spray the tree with hair spray again then sprinkle a different color of ground cover on lightly near the ends of the branches. Photo 8 shows a tree that has completed this part of the process.

Photo 9 shows a different style of pine tree I make using furnace filter material. I use the same materials for the trunk just keeping the rustic wire straight the full length. I use one long and then three progressively shorter sections of wire to build up the trunk.

To this I apply wood glue and ground cover as before. The furnace filter material I cut to rough shape and peel it as thin as I can and then round it snd cut notched in the outer ring of each piece so it looks more like branches.

These then I use a screwdriver to open a hole in the center and I slide it down the trunk and super glue in place. Gaps between I generally keep to about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. All other steps to finish are identical as noted in this post.

Photo 10 shows a completed tree waiting for clean up to remove excess material from the trunk. A small stiff brush works perfect for this task.

Photo 11 shows the same tree cleaned and layout ready

Photo 12 starts the construction of an N Scale tree roughly 4 inches tall. The same materials are used but here I’m using only a single trans of the rustic wire.

To start the build I super glue s few branches in different locations. I then hold the tree snd I dab on white glue to hold the next branches in different areas as I rotate the trunk.

Note that I go back and spot glue with super glue as well to make sure everything stays in place.

Photo 13 shows the completed tree before shaping

Photo 14 shows the tree getting ready for the first hair cut. Nothing fancy needed at this point but just get it into the basic shape you are after.

Photo 15 shows the model railroad trees after spray painting.

Photo 16 shows the tree after foliage has been applied. Same technique as used with other larger trees is fine with the smaller trees as well.

Photo 17 shows the tree after its trunk has been cleaned up and final trimming has been completed. It’s layout ready at this point

Hope folks give these a try. It’s very satisfying to make your own trees and cost effective too!

Best wishes

Bill in Virginia”

A huge thanks to Bill for sharing his model railroad trees ‘how to’.

If you want to see what his layout looks like, here’s his last video update:

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to make your start.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

13 Responses to Model railroad trees

  1. Peter Briggs says:

    Your process blows me away well done for passing this tutorial on its so helpfl to ALL modellers. One sometimes wonders just how bloody authentic model railways will get!!!! Anyone got smoke yet?????

  2. Paul Case says:

    Bill you have a beautiful layout in the video. Is that HO or N? Having run DCC from the beginning of my layout work it appears eerie that there is no sound from the working engines. Do you expect to convert to DCC sometime? I also noticed a rough spot in the track at about 10.5 minutes into the video as the track crosses a road. Hope you feel better with your health situation so that you can enjoy your trains.

  3. J S Frirdman says:

    Thank you for an incredible working scene on your equally incredible layout.

  4. Bill Holt says:

    awesome detail, great job !!

  5. george zaky says:

    Thanks Bill
    I had a real 55 Ford- same color as yours and my back was not an issue. Getting old is not for the weak.
    Great layout and the operation looks to be seamless.
    Be well & safe
    George from LI, NY

  6. Kent Pool says:


    Thank you.

  7. John Bullock says:

    Great tree educational!

  8. DJfromNJ says:

    Great tutorial, layout and video. Thanks for sharing! Wishing you a speedy recovery and good health going forward. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  9. Erick says:

    Pretty Kool.!!!

  10. Frank says:

    Excellent subject and how to. I always thought that a small forest of trees looks awesome on a model railroad and gives it an impressive look and helps to reflect the scale of the railroad or layout.

  11. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    Great job. Like I said in post 1 IK’m giving this a try on my “G” gauge outdoor layout.

  12. Ray Suckling says:

    Quick Question for Bill. What is the brand of the plastic motor vehicles and can you get them in HO.
    Ray Oz…………..

  13. Dan Hulitt says:

    Loved the tree class, Bill. I have made several with this method, using thinner wire. Will have to find rustic wire. I use my drill as the twist agent.

    Mn Dan

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