Friday, November 25, 2011

Weeping Willows

If you have spent any time in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Southern NSW or northern Victoria you will have seen weeping willows lining the banks of mountain streams & rivers. They are a signature tree of the region I am trying to model. Modelling trees is one of my favourite aspects of the hobby so I have long planned my streams to have weeping willows on their banks too.

I have made several attempts to make a willow but the resulting trees looked anemic to say the least and badly needed a lot more bulk and leaves. I have been making the armatures from copper wire soldered together.

Earlier this year the well known British modeller Gordon Gravatt released a book about modelling broad leaf trees. Gordon is one of my modelling hero's. He has built numerous layouts over the years that are often featured in magazines like Model Rail Journal. His latest masterpiece is a model of the French metre gauge railway Reseau Breton. The layout called Pempoul is stunning and even more remarkable when you discover he literally scratch built everything. If you have some time to kill google Pempoul. I digress, I got my copy from Titfield Thunderbolt bookshop in England who do a great mail order. The book is Modelling Trees Part One- Broadleaf trees, published by Wild Swan.

Gordon recommends that when building trees with a soldered wire frame it pays to start from the top and not the bottom. I found that following his advice helped me to get a lot more twigs to add foliage to, as you can see in this photo. He uses a plaster mixed with white glue for covering the wire . The plaster Gordon recommends is called Artex and is used for adding texture to ceilings but I couldn't find it here in Australia. I used powdered polly filla with mixed results. It didn't dry as strong as I would have liked. I am not sure what plaster I will try next as it needs to have a long working time and a degree of flexibility as not to crack when I add the foliage.

In the past I have used punched paper leaves for trees. A recent business trip to Adelaide took me to Orient Express who sell the excellent miniNatur scenery products from Germany. I found a foliage mat covered with individual leaves sold as Beech foliage. It comes in a range of colours with spring being a bright colour similar to the willow trees I am modelling
As you can see I have started adding the foliage and I am very pleased with the result & it should look great when I have it all on. Even though the minaNatur product comes as a mat it is quite time consuming  to add to the tree as I am tearing the mat into individual strands to get the weeping look. A tree this size will use at least two packets, not cheap but in my mind well worth the expense.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Splines 1.2

I have been trialing a different style of spline construction. The first spline roadbed I built was solid, made up of Masonite packing strips bought from Bunnings. It takes 14 strips to make a roadbed 42mm wide. While it is very strong it took longer than I thought to glue all those packing strips together.  I had read that some modellers use spacer blocks to save on materials and to make construction go quicker.
Solid spline on the left & splines with spacers on the right.

So I decided to give it a try. I used 9 packing strips glued in three splines separated by 10mm thick spacers. This has given me a roadbed that is 47mm wide and about 50% quicker to build. I think it is just as strong as long as the spacer blocks are placed together. The gaps between the splines also have the advantage of not needing to drill holes for the track wiring. I am planning to build the remainder of the layouts roadbed with spacers.