As I continue to formulate a history for our two free-lanced pikes, the White Water Western and the Arizona Pacific, my boys are itching to get started. Admittedly, my attention span is a bit short at times, but nothing can compare with that of a six and nine-year-old boy.
At this point in time, no decisions have been made with regard to a time frame or real-world location for our railroads. This eliminates the construction of all but the most generic of structures. Bridges, too, would be premature without a completed track plan. Freight cars? Well again, not really sure what to purchase. The same goes for locomotives.
So, in order to keep them happy with a little progress, we are preparing to make trees... lots and lots of trees.
Our fictional pikes will be vaguely located in the high-country of east-central Arizona where Ponderosa Pine and Aspen are the predominant vegetative life. In order to make this layout believable, we have begun gathering supplies to make these trees.
Many years ago, a friend of mine from the Bay Area of California brought me some expired bloom stalks from a plant known as Pride of Madera. These stalks, though a bit brittle, make great conifer armatures. Since that time, I have endeavored to grow these plants in Arizona, but with no luck. I have searched far and wide for a suitable local replacement, but again, no luck.
This has forced me to go with the tried and true method of filter and dowel pine trees. They can look pretty convincing, are fast and inexpensive, and are easily manipulated by the hands of child and adult alike. Another type of tree, those made of wired bristle, are also easily made, and are quite durable. For the latter type of tree, we've purchased a number of dark green, Christmas village trees from our local dollar store.
In the desert, we have a huge variety of low, woody shrubs. These bushes, collectively referred to as 'stumble brush' by the local ranchers, can be used for most any type of deciduous tree. Since waterways throughout our region are lined by the likes of Cottonwood, Sycamore, and Willow trees, these too will need to be made in some quantity.
As our mainline continues down grade to the open desert, these mountane species will give way to Oaks and Junipers, Mesquite and Hackberry, and finally, Palo Verde and Giant Saguaro cacti. These smaller trees can be modeled from the same 'stumble brush' as the larger trees of the mountain canyons. Carefully cleaned and dried roots also make some great looking desert trees.
Giant Saguaro, on the other hand, may be a bit more challenging. Carving them from basswood is a possibility, but very time consuming. I thought about soldering wire armatures and then dipping them in tool handle coating to thicken them up, but this will require a fair bit of experimentation. I'm not really happy with the cacti currently on the market, so I'll have to come up with a solution if our plan is to include some desert terrain.
If we decide to model part of Phoenix, then there will also be an assortment of palm trees and other ornamentals to contend with, along with orchards of citrus trees. Like Giant Saguaro cacti, I've never been happy with the commercially available palm trees, and while it would be easy to make the ornamental trees with 'stumble brush,' most city trees look too neat and uniform to use such free-form armatures. For now, we'll busy ourselves with the trees of the upper elevations, and take a wait-and-see approach with respect to desert and city vegetation.
If you've been following this Blog, you've realized by now that this is going to be a long-term project. In order to keep all of us interested, deviations in this blog will become more common-place. Begin looking for threads involving modeling, track-planning, and personal reflection as we move forward, and also look for more photos and graphics as progress continues. And again, keep the comments coming. The more ideas we gather, the better this model railroad will become.
'Til next time, Happy Railroading!
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