In planning the layout, I had to come up with hundreds of trees to simulate the hills of West Virginia. Without having to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on individual trees, I used what Model Railroader used on their project layout: puffball trees.
These were made with black poly fiber from Micro-Mark. Small pieces are torn off, then rolled into a mushroom shape. These were then dipped into a 50/50 mixture of white glue and warm water, then rolled in three different colors of ground foam. This method was time and labor intensive, as is making trees with armatures, but it saves dollars when you need several hundred trees. On the original layout I probably made and placed 250+ puffball trees.
For foreground trees, I first used trees by Woodland Scenics. Although most had an airy look about them, I really don’t like the plastic shiny trunks. I removed all but one of these trees and replaced them with trees from Grand Central Gems, which have real wood trunks.
However, after seeing trees from Scenic Express on several layouts, I decided to buy several boxes for numerous trees that I needed for my expanded layout. The armatures very realistically represent deciduous trees, if you don’t mind the fairly thin trunks. At my first inspection after opening the boxes, most of the armatures are bent or curved. These of course have to be straightened before they look realistic enough to use.
To straighten these, I found a video on YouTube from scenery expert Dave Frary about how to make these trees, particularly how to straighten them. With a low heat soldering iron, this can be done by lightly touching the armatures on the opposite side of the bend. Be sure not to use too much pressure or the stems or armatures will break.
Another tip on these trees is to snip off the pointed tips on the armatures, and round off the top of the tree, otherwise you’ll have deciduous trees that look like pine trees. To coat these, I use Super 3M Adhesive to cover the armatures. I then coat the tree with green turf, and some with a blended turf for variation, then sprinkle “super leaves” from Scenic Express onto the tree. I then spray the finished tree with cheap hairspray to seal everything.
A word of caution here. Be sure to do these in an open area with plenty of ventilation. Outside is the best place I’ve found. Be sure it’s a warm day without wind,otherwise you’ll have the adhesive spray everywhere. I recommend wearing long neoprene gloves and using a respirator. Also use plenty of newspaper or whatever you’re spraying against, as the 3M adhesive sticks to EVERYTHING!
Several photos of these trees I made and placed two days ago: