Friday, January 1, 2021

Scenery for Berkshire Junction part 3

Realism to strive for

I have long admired the scenery depicted on my friend Jim Dufour's Cheshire Branch layout, particularly the trees. Like mine his layout is set in New England and requires lots of trees. A photo of the model trees on a portion Jim's layout below are an example of the true to life realism I would like to be able to achieve.

            Jim Dufour Photo

Those unfamiliar with Jim's layout may see photos of his modeling in Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume Four from Speedwitch Media and soon in Model Railroad Planning 2021 from Kalmbach. A search for Boston & Maine Cheshire Branch Model Railroad by Jim Dufour with come up several videos of his layout.

Berkshire Junction foliage

Berkshire Junction was a remote tree lined and weedy location as indicated by a prototype photo taken during the era of the layout. This is the look that I would like to approximate, it will be a new and interesting modeling challenge for me.

No short cut

I have dreaded and put off making the large number of trees that will be necessary for the layout since first deciding to model the New Haven Berkshire line. I enjoy modeling all things man made, but not so nature. The few individual trees I made for the Danbury diorama are pleasing but were time consuming to make. The thought of making many hundreds more individual examples prompted trying some time saving short cut methods but the results failed to be realistic even when I tried to convince myself that the were. Individual trees made one at a time from Super Trees armatures sold by Scenic Express will be the best way forward for my layout. 

Tree production begins

Jim noted that his spray and sprinkle tree making method is no different from many other modelers but offered much needed encouragement, tips and the basic tree foliage blend used on the Cheshire Branch to get my tree production started, I sincerely thank him.

I find this production tree making is actually quite simple once getting over procrastinating about it. The Super Tree armatures are first sprayed flat black from a rattle can then set aside for a day, this was done on an outside work bench.

Next is the spray and sprinkle part. Aqua Net extra super hold hairspray is used as an adhesive to quickly affix the foliage blend to the tree armatures, this hair spray is labeled as "unscented" but it is surely not plus flammable, this is also best done outside. Apply the hair spray onto the branch part of the armatures first then sprinkle the foliage blend onto the branches, quick respray, done, fantastic!

The Cheshire Branch foliage blend of 2 Woodland Scenics fine turfs is, 1 part #T1346 "weeds" and 2 parts #T1349 "green blend". These were purchased in the 1qt shaker containers, emptied and blended thoroughly in a larger clean plastic container then returned to the shaker containers for use.

I did modify the sprinkle part to a "spray a squeeze" method. I find that sharply squeezing the plastic shaker container propelling the blend onto the armatures works better for me. I do this over the deep clean plastic container below, a lot of material comes out with each squeeze but the excess is captured in the container. After 5 or so trees the excess blend is pored back into the shaker container and the squeezing continues, there is very little waste.

Planting trees

The Berkshire Junction diorama is 17' wide but only has a 9" vertical opening. With this limited opening the foam board land forms are better completed on the inside workbench where there is more room before permanently installing them on the layout.

I find that sitting at the bench planting the trees into the land forms, arranging/re-arranging them easy and kind of fun after all the trepidation about this job. 

After a pleasing arrangement is reached two additional colors of Woodland fine turfs #T1344 "burnt grass" and #T1342 "earth" are lightly sprinkled randomly on a few trees for a color variation then all the trees are sprayed with matte medium for a permanent set. 

Tree making out side was shut down recently by a snow storm, but it has mostly melted and work will now continue.

The land forms have been returned to the layout for a check to see how they look so far and to take the below photo. I like the Cheshire Branch blend colors and think they look good under the 5000K layout lighting. 

I am also pleased how the trees on the dividing hill between the Maybrook main in the rear and the Berkshire line in the foreground now accentuates the "junction" of Berkshire Junction.

Will post more photos when trees are completed.