Cattails at the trestle

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I haven’t had much time to work on the layout this month but over the weekend, I made some time – just enough to get started on planting cattails along the banks of the Lynn River.

I ordered 10 packages of HO scale cattails (plus other goodies) from JTT Microscale – the same folks who make the HO scale corn I’ve used in St. Williams. Each package has two dozen cattails in it, and over the weekend I used six packages to create three stands of cattails along the stretch of river near the trestle:
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I’ll use the remaining four packages to add some cattails near the twin-span steel girder bridge, then decide if I need to buy more. Each grouping of cattails is located on the inside of a curve in the river, where the water is a little slower: I avoided outside curves since water tends to erode riverbanks in these locations. The water flows left to right in these photos, so at the sharp curve near the trestle I located the planting after the curve, in the lee of the flow.

To plant the cattails, I drilled holes in the scenery base using a Dremel tool, dipped the end of each plant into a blob of Weld-Bond, and stuck them into the holes: easy-peasy. The Magic Water I used for the river drills extremely easily. But the sand I used as part of my ground cover does a great job of ruining drill bits – it’ll take the point off a bit in no time, and I wrecked two bits while planting six packages worth of cattails. The lesson: Use cheap bits in readily available sizes.

Keep in mind that this is early days – I have a lot more vegetation to add along the banks of the Lynn River, especially in this stretch that flows under the trestle. I will need to create many, many bushes and small trees to line the banks – but these bulrushes will add a different texture to the scene. I think it looks better already!

UPDATE: I originally called this post “Bullrushes / Cattails at the trestle” and used the term interchangeably. As reader Neil Froese notes in the comments, they are in fact very different plants. So I’ve updated the post accordingly. (Neil: Thanks for this – and it’s one of the reasons I write the blog. Now I know more about cattails and bullrushes. Cheers!)

11 thoughts on “Cattails at the trestle

  1. Trevor-great added details as usual. I am planning to add a small pond with bullrushes and lily pads. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of placing the bull rushes and other emergent plants (not the water lilies) prior to pouring the water?

    • Hi Bill:
      I’d suggest experimenting first. You don’t need to use commercial (expensive) product for experiments – a bunch of small wires or lengths of string would do the trick, I think. Do a little test pond and pour some water to see how much it climbs up the details…

  2. Thanks for the kind words, everyone – much appreciated! As I mentioned in the post, I’ll be doing a lot more on this scene and will share as I get more done…

  3. Hello Trevor,
    Great idea, however from someone who has studied streams and some aquatic plants. – Cattails are just cattails growing in slower water so the inside of the stream curve where also the stream will deposit more sand and sediment than on the outside erosion curve is a proper location. You could even go a bit further inland with some quieter water -as over years, the curve will move to the left as erosion and deposition take place. Also plant succession will occur on the inside curve as different species root in proximity to the stream’s edge.
    Bullrushes are a different plant with onion – like stems about a metre + tall that act like a whip and can stand a lot of wave action. These generally grow in a little deeper water than cattails. Further inland, you may even consider reed grass, or phragmites which is a tall grass growing 2 – 3 m
    Much enjoy your blog.
    Something I look forward to every week.
    So many good ideas.

    • Hi Neil:
      Thanks – and this is why I write the blog. Now I know more about cattails and bullrushes. Obviously, these ones are cattails – growing on the inside of the curves in slower water.

  4. Trevor, great job. But one thing was bothering me that didn’t look quite right and I finally figured it out. It is your swans. Only a bird nerd would pick up on it but they need a wee bit of black paint behind the bill and up to the eyes. See this pic of a mute swan.

    A great bit of work and the ripples really bring it to life.

    • Thanks for this, Bruce – I’ll make a note to add a bit of black to the swans. I bought those factory painted at the Springfield MA show a couple of years ago. I forget the manufacturer, but I remember that They’re actually HO scale.

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