NMRA 75: Tuesday 7/13/2010

JeffShultz's picture

Welcome back to my experiences at the NMRA convention - and it was a pretty busy day.

The  first clinic I went to this morning was by Donald Harbin, titled "The Roots of Making Trees." Donald has discovered that the root structure of a 1 to 2 year old Ash sapling (grows in most states) makes a fine armature for building deciduous trees on. His layout is in the Fall time period, so he ends up with some pretty colorful trees:

Basically it's a tree root, very well cleaned, with Woodland Scenics poly-fiber foliage and ground foam glued onto it. Looks pretty good, and based on a diorama that was passed around that he did several years ago, pretty hardy too (it had been attacked by the cat before being  brought to the convention):

A later clinic involved making city streets using an "encapsulated PVC foam" product called Sintra. It's got more texture than straight styrene, can be worked easier, and is relatively inexpensive (free if you can get a sign shop to give you their scraps). None of the photos came out on that one - too dark a room.

The last (so far) clinic I went to today was on The Allegheny Terminal, Building and Operating an Industrial Strength Railroad.  Greg Johnson lead us around his 1500 square foot HO scale layout that is centered around the Pittsburg area and is very heavily industrialized. It's featured  Great Model Railroads 2010.

Off to an Advanced DCC class... more photos later!


dfandrews's picture

Thanks for the update posts

Thanks, Jeff, for the daily update posts.  For those of us who cannot be there they are much appreciated. 


Rincon Pacific Rwy, 1960.  HO scale std. gauge - interchange with SP.


Rio Grande Dan's picture

Bright little Tree there! Not Bad!

Bright little Tree there! Not bad!

Thanks for the Idea of ash trees sappling roots as I have many around my home.

I look forward to your future posts.


Rio Grande Dan

Scarpia's picture

Do you have to prepare the

Do you have to prepare the roots in any way first? Boil them in glycerine, dry them out, etc. I'm just wondering, as other wise they might become brittle over time (at least you'd presume).



HO, early transition era www.garbo.org/MRR local time GMT +4
On30, circa 1900    


JeffShultz's picture

Cleaning the Ash Roots

I'm going to quote the relevant paragraph from the handout about this:


"Returning home I begin the process by dumping my box of trees in the drive or yard. With the pile of plants spread out I take a sharp pair of wire cutters and snip off the top of the plant below the leaves. The remaining 'trunk' of your tree can be shortened later before planting on the layout. The extra length gives a good handle for building on the framework of the root structure branches. Use your garden hose to rinse off any remaining clumpps of dirt. I also use a bucket of sapy water swirling the roots in it for a few minutes making sure alll traces of soil are removed. A final spray from the hose will clean any remnants of soap and dirt. A light mist is all it takes. I don't recommend doing this in the sink because all that dirt can quickly plug up the drain. Besides there may be someone in the house that willl strongly object should you be discovered washing your 'trees' in the kitchen sink! Let them air dry for several days, either by spreading on newspapers or hanging from a clothesline with spring type clothes pins."

That's it - and the trees he said were something like 10 years old still looked pretty good to me.

Jeff Shultz

MRH Technical Assistant


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