Trees for Farthing - Mark One

Projects over the summer have included trees.

The original inspiration came from the tree-lined perimeters of Reading’s Vastern Road and King’s Meadow goods yards.

Vastern Road yard, Reading, 1948. Source: Britain from above.

The trees here were quite close to the track along some sections. Earlier photos from the 1900s show larger trees, so they must have been a feature from at least the 1880s.

Vastern Road yard, Reading, 1948. Source: Britain from above.

Apart from a bit of dabbling ages ago, this was my first real attempt at trees. It does show! But for what it's worth, here's a summary of how I did them. The basic armature was made from Treemendus 0.5 mm wire, cut to 150 mm lengths of which I used 45 per tree for my purposes. Similar wire can be obtained from florists.

To form the trees, I used the method suggested by Treemendus, whereby one wire is twisted around others (rather than twisting all wires). This is certainly a quick method, but the outer wire does show.

Treemendus recommend using masking tape in order to smooth out the trunk and main branches. This helps, but also adds to the thickness. Accordingly, I may use fewer wires per tree for the next batch.

Once done, the armatures were coated in Treemendus bark powder. This can be sanded for a smoother look.

For the crown and foliage I diverted from the Treemendus approach and instead used Heki sea foam, each piece glued to the armature with superglue. The pods can be removed, but I didn’t bother as the foliage I used conceals it.

The crown was sprayed with a few quick coats of light brown/grey. I used Liquitex, these are low-toxic water based spraypaint for artists.

Foliage was added using “coarse turf” from Woodlands scenic. This is the “burnt grass” shade.

The foliage was attached using Hob-e-Tac- glue, non-toxic and very sticky.

The foliage sticks to the outer reaches of the seafoam, leaving a nice natural branch structure behind it.

A coat of Woodlands “scenic cement” was sprayed on to further stick things down. This darkens the foliage somewhat, so I only did one coat.

As these are planted urban trees, they needed to be fairly uniform yet individually different. It helped to build them alongside each other.

I found that it was possible to make up individual bits of sea-foam twigs and retro-fit them to the trees. That way, any areas that I was unhappy with could be improved.

The species is nominally London Plane-ish, although I admittedly concentrated more on just learning the techniques. I did try to indicate the mottled/patchy look of the bark with a paintbrush, but it doesn't show up well and needs more work.

The original plan was to have 3-4 trees at the front of the layout.

I liked the views beneath the canopy.

And the shadow effect when the sun came in through our windows.

But from a distance the layout seemed too “front loaded” and forbidding. Trying out various configurations I was struck by how the different positioning of trees can give very different impressions. E.g., compare these two photos:

In the end I opted for the arrangement seen below. This gives me street trees but also an open view. It requires an extension of the layout at the back, featuring another road and - you'll be relieved to hear - a backscene. This is currently being built.

It's all been an interesting exercise. I will probably keep this first batch of trees for the time being, but have started experimenting with alternative methods, including natural plants. More on that later.