Modelling trees for your railroad.

“Hi Al,

If you want to make a Pine forest quickly and realistic looking, here’s your answer.

(1) A garden fern, Foxtail, provides ideal armatures. When the frond dies, remove the dead stems and trim to whatever height or scale you want your trees to be. If they are curved, gentle pressure will straighten them.

(2) Take a can of spray adhesive, the type used for mounting photos, etc. It is usually available in clear or colours such as white or yellow, (ONLY USE THE CLEAR or it will show in the finished product), and some ground flocking material. Holding the base of the armature between the thumb and index finger, apply a liberal coating of the adhesive and immediately dip it into the flock. Remove from flock and holding it upside down, twirl it gently over the container to flick off any excess. If necessary repeat the process for a heavier coating. Set it aside in a block of foam and continue with the next one.

(3) Allow the trees to dry for an hour or so, then take a can of any cheap and nasty firm hold hair spray,(the smell will eventually disappear), and give the trees a good coat or two to set the flock.

(4) The process is best done outdoors in a wind free place as overspray from the adhesive can lead to stickiness where you don’t want it.

An oblong ice cream container is ideal for holding the flock of your colour choice and it is an idea not to put too much flock into it at one time, as some glue residue will be transferred to the contents, causing it to clump after a while. Don’t throw this away as it will be useful for other types of trees.

(5) The lower sections of the fronds can be used inverted to give a conifer with drooping branches. You can if necessary, trim the branches to give a taper if you desire, and apply a more generous coating of flock in the top of the tree to hide the thickness of the protruding stem. Dead, fallen or dying trees can also be simulated. The armatures, once harvested, will keep for years until wanted although it it easier to straighten them if necessary before they get too dry. If you look around your neighbourhood and see these ferns growing, I am sure you will find , as I do, that the owners will gladly supply you with their dead rubbish if you tell them what you want them for. It is often the case that they are eager to see what the finished product is like. These trees are N scale but I also have them in HO. They would also work for O scale. Just make them as tall as you need.

If you can’t turn out a realistically looking tree in a minute and a half or less I will be very surprised. It’s dead easy. So what are you waiting for. GET STARTED !!!!!

By the way, the N scale grey deck arch bridge shown in the photos, is constructed of super glued 1,5mm square balsa overlaid on each side with strips of glossy corporate report cover light card applied with PVA glue and it is capable of supporting a 4 inch long 4KG piece of real rail standing on its head crossways in the middle, with only a 1mm deflection !! Not bad for strength.


A superb ‘how to’.

Thank you, Roland.

Don’t forget to have a look at the latest tweaks on the ebay cheat sheet.

And my son’s bundled up all his houses which makes them bit of a steal.

Please keep the tips coming.



31 Responses to Modelling trees for your railroad.

  1. Wayne Spencer says:

    Thanks for the instructions and pics. Will definitely use this on my HO layout. Thank you

  2. charlie tabor says:

    very nice looking trees good tip and alot of fun thk u crt

  3. Don says:

    Thank you Roland for this terrific tip. I have been looking for a way to make pine trees and this is the best tip of all. Buying them from a dealer is always way too expensive and making them gives you a wonderful sense of achievment. I’m looking forward to starting my own “forest”

  4. Bonny aka Granny Toot says:

    Great trees! However, is there another name for the foxtail fern?
    Bonny aka Granny Toot

  5. Denny Orem says:

    Loved tyour trees, have to try it

  6. Al says:

    One.of the best ideas I have seen yet. Looked like the real things.
    Will give it a try.
    Thanks to Roland and thanks again Al.
    Wishing you the best, Al. The Rookie!!!!

  7. bobby says:

    I love this, as I have been looking for a lot of ways to make trees and shrubs here at home. Cant afford store bought and could not find proper plant material to use. I will try this one in the very near future, if I can find the plant. Any other plant ideas are welcome.

    thanks again,

  8. bobby says:

    I forgot to say I live in the mid USA and dont knoow if this plant is available?


  9. Br john says:

    thank you roland. really great

  10. cyril says:

    good thinking Roland. If you want larger trees try the dead flowers
    of Hydrangea take of all the petals and you will have a perfect
    shape for oo/ho let them dry off then use the same method as roland

  11. john sanders says:



  12. Dr Bruce says:

    Hi Roland
    I’ve followed your instructions and with great success. Many thanks
    Dr Bruce

  13. jim says:

    Thank you for a great idea. They look very real and make very nice looking pine trees.

  14. Owen Benson says:

    Appreciate it if you could give us the “EXACT” Latin species name for
    this foxtail. Checked it out on Wikipedia, but couldn’t figure it out.

    Owen Benson

  15. Ian says:

    i like it very nice work would be very cheap.

  16. mlb says:

    nice “work”, not really. you’ve gone from start to finish in a manner that i think is ….. very, shall we say is (down to earth) well planed. the out-come, finished trees really looks like one of the best looking scale trees i have seen. and nice thing is its no “work” at all.


  17. Claude says:

    Living in the USA Southwest, I have found that sagebrush makes excellent tree armatures. Collect in the winter when the dey, dry tips are availabel and use the same flocking procedure.

  18. Brian Clauser says:

    Very nice looking trees!

  19. fred says:

    Nice, look like the reel world.

    Fred ( RSA )

  20. Bill says:

    That was great!!! So far this tip is the most realistic and natural miniatured pine tree. Thanks and keep it up!!!

  21. Dennis says:

    WOW! Fantastic trees.

  22. Barbara says:

    Great Pine Trees! I think this fern is a member of the asparagus fern species – foxtail asparagus fern (asparagus meyeri). I don’t have one yet but it is now on my shopping list!

  23. kimo says:

    Really nice looking pines,they look more real

  24. John May says:

    What is “ground flocking material”? Never heard of it!

  25. tony says:

    great tip on pine trees also mop head hydrangeas mop will be good for deciduos trees or ornamental specimens thank you all once again tony

  26. LARRY says:

    good looking work!

  27. Job well done and with the pics you saved a thousand words. Thx much for sharing.

  28. alan says:

    that is nice like to make mime like that

  29. Bruce Y says:

    Nice Job on trees, Does anyone know where to get layout plans for the layout in blue banner VERY top of this page?

  30. tommy 2 beers says:

    Gee whiz I have one of those just outside my front door not 10 ft from my lay out. I never though of that plant. Yes it is a asparagus family fern. Great idea

  31. Dave says:

    Thanks for these tips many ideas every day

    Thanks again

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