Troublesome Trees Trimmed

(The alliterations continue…)

I’ve been having misgivings about the trees behind the St. Williams depot. I’m very happy with the trunks and branches, but less happy with the canopy. A couple of off-line discussions with friends confirmed that there was something wrong – and they suggested I thin out the canopy to give the trees more of a see-through effect.

I revisited Gordon Gravett‘s first volume on Modelling Trees, and that is indeed a major part of the problem. Yesterday, I decided to do something about it.

Here’s how the trees looked before I started:
3 Trees at St Williams photo 3Trees-StW-02_zps32555903.jpg

The canopy is quite dense – it looks like giant clumps of packing foam have been stuck into the trees. Worse, it hides a lot of the work I did to fashion the armatures in the first place: Why go through all that trouble if the end result is going to look like a ball on a stick?

I spread a rag over the road to protect it, then pulled out all of the foliage material and saved it in a container. I then started rebuilding the canopy – using about half of the foliage I did before, and teasing it out even further. The redone trees now look like this:
St Williams - Trees Trimmed photo Arborist-02_zpsccfe3c74.jpg

Much better, I think.

Here’s another before and after pair of photos – looking along Charlotteville STreet:

Before… and clumpy:
Charlotteville St in the Shade photo 3Trees-StW-01_zpsddf79296.jpg

After… and airy:
St Williams - Tree Trimmed photo Arborist-01_zps879d28b3.jpg

Again – much better, I think.

I’m still not completely satisfied, but as one of my sounding boards noted,

I would say that you have taken Woodlands Scenics foliage about as far as it can go, and any further attempts to approach the peak of Gravett-inspired perfection will need alternative materials.

I agree. I really like the netting material that Woodland Scenics uses, but the ground foam is not as nice as the leaves I have from the Selkirk Leaf Company. I would love to get the Woodland Scenics netting without the foam. In fact, I think I’ll email Woodland Scenics to see if that’s possible…

(UPDATE: I’ve just checked the Woodland Scenics website and they offer a product called Poly Fiber. I’ve emailed to ask whether this is the material they use as the netting in their foliage products. Stay tuned for an answer.)

(AND A FURTHER UPDATE: A customer service person at Woodland Scenics replies: “The Poly Fiber is made from the same fiber material (netting) as Foliage, but it is put through an additional process to make it more fluffy (for lack of a better word). Poly Fiber can be pulled thin and lacey and then sprinkled with Turf, similar to Foliage.”)

Thanks to my sounding boards for the reality check!

18 thoughts on “Troublesome Trees Trimmed

    • Chris – ah-hah! I was just updating the post when your comment came in. I think it is. I’ve emailed WS to confirm.

  1. Maybe the CN Telegraphs guy trimmed the trees because they were fouling his pole line?

    You should see how Hydro One et al trim trees that foul their lines!

    • Hi Wes:
      Not easily. The lights are what they are. I’m pleased with the strong shadows they provide on most of the layout, and the backdrop is just a plain blue expanse so the shadows aren’t hiding painted details. I can live with it, and would add it looks better when seeing the layout in person.

  2. How about an LED strip on the edge of the back of the layout to throw some light up and onto the backdrop to eliminate the shadows?

    Just my $.02 worth for today,

    Otherwise the reduced trees look much better, another example of “less is better”,


    • I worry that might draw too much attention to the backdrop, Terry. Good idea though.
      I’m happy with how this scene appears in person, actually. When not focusing on “trees” but on the “scene”, one doesn’t notice the shadows. At least, I don’t.
      My backdrop is a classic case of the “Don’t think of elephants” test. If I say that, you’ll think of elephants. If I talk about the backdrop, all eyes are drawn to it. But when friends and I are looking at the layout – or, better yet, running a train on it – the backdrop pretty much disappears. I know those who have taken part in operating sessions will agree…

  3. Hi Trevor,

    Much better on the trees. I wonder what happens if you make it even thinner and then add the other ‘leaves”? Just a thought.

    Mike S.

  4. I like the new foliage. I’ve got to get back to the club to do some more scenery work. Your photos made me realize I’m not scratching that itch.

    I’ll testify that the shadows on the backdrop are less obtrusive in person, though I haven’t seen that scene when the trees had leaves on them. Must have been late fall πŸ™‚


  5. Trevor,
    This shows less is more! One alternative that you might want to consider is Micro-Mark’s poly fiber. I actually just purchased some to experiment with (eventually! ), and it appears to be the same thing, but perhaps a bit more economical. Anyhow, it might be worth checking into (usual disclaimers apply!)

  6. I like your new trees.

    Irony is though that the thickness of the foliage and what it obscures will depend on the kind of woodland you are modeling. We have thick second growth woods on the lot behind our house in Delaware — about 25 feet to the lot line. In the middle of summer you cannot see into the woods and can only see tree structure at the tops of the very tallest trees. The Black Pines that are at the edge of the woods barely have limbs on the woods side of the trees — only the part exposed to the sun on our side have needles, cones etc.

    In the end you need to model what you see in nature.

  7. Trevor,
    just reading your blog on having trouble with the smaller, end branches of your trees. May i suggest that you try my Selkirk ‘Branch Netting’, it is less prone to “clumping” if applied by dabbing onto the larger branches, thus giving a more open effect than the ployfibre, which tends to be to ‘thin’ and hence the denser it sticks together.

    • Hi Nigel:
      Thanks for the suggestion. I have to admit that I’ve tried the branch netting and I’ve never been able to get it to work for me. I know your group has done marvellous things with it.

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