5 Easy Steps for Building Trees in Minutes

Unless you’re modeling an arid desert, trees are an essential component of model railroad scenery. More than just another scenic accent, they truly bring scenes to life like no other item. While there are many pre-built trees available, few can match Scenic Express SuperTrees in either realism or value for money. 

What Are SuperTrees?

SuperTrees are made up of an organic material found in the arctic tundra of Scandinavia, distantly related to North American Sagebrush. Their size and branch structure are perfectly scaled to replicate “full size” trees in either HO or N scale. They are picked, and dried out before being packaged for sale.

Step One

Model SuperTrees for model trains

SuperTrees are available in various differently sized packs. Whichever size you choose, this is likely what you’ll see when you first open the box. Counter to what you might expect, the trees are actually made up of large (dried) clumps of raw plant, and have not been separated. While this looks intimidating at first glance, it actually makes the packs much more flexible, as you can sift through the branches to find limbs which will suit the exact size and shape you need for your trees.

Model SuperTrees for model trains

Once you’ve found a piece which fits your specifications, all you’ll need to do is gently snap it off of the plant. Most will taper off towards the top as the example in the picture does, however you can further “prune” the tree to achieve a different shape by gently removing branches from the structure. You may also notice several thin leaves stemming from your new tree. While they can be concealed, it’s a good idea to pick these off before detailing your tree, just as a precaution.

Step Two

Rust-Oleum Satin Nutmeg spray acrylic, variations of Scenic Express SuperLeaves, a container for excess material collection

Now it’s time to gather your materials to bring the tree to life! Scenic Express has a recommended process for this, which is laid out in the included instructions, however many modelers have developed their own preferred method. We’re going to use ours, which to our knowledge is quickest and most simple method for getting a large selection of trees completed in a relatively short amount of time.

Before starting the process, these are the materials we recommend;

• Rust-Oleum Satin Nutmeg spray acrylic (available at most hardware and craft stores)
• Several green variations of Scenic Express SuperLeaves
• A container for excess material collection
• Something to protect the surface you’ll be spraying onto

We recommend beginning with the Scenic Express SuperTree Starter Kit, as this includes several SuperLeaf packs, flock, and an extremely handy modeling tweezer for holding the trees while you work on them.

Step Three

Spraying a SuperTree model with spray paint

Note: This stage must be done in a well ventilated space!  Once you have your materials ready and within reach, it’s time to spray-paint your tree. Make sure to get a good covering of the acrylic from all angles, especially the tips of the branches.

Once this is done, position your tree over your material collection container, and proceed to sprinkle it with your SuperLeaves. This is a time sensitive procedure, as you want to make sure all branches are covered before the paint dries, as the paint will double as your adhesive. We generally choose one SuperLeaf color for our base and apply this fairly heavily. Then we’ll hit the tree again with some darker or lighter tones depending on the type of tree we’re going for. As a general rule of thumb, we’ve found that a pleasing effect can be achieved by using a darker shade for the leaves closest to the center, and lighter shades near the tips of the branches.

Spraying a SuperTree model with spray paint

Once your tree is covered, gently set it to the side and allow it to dry for about 15-30 minutes. If you’re building multiple trees, this is a great time to start on your next one! As the excess SuperLeaf material collects in the container, you can begin to use this for applying a more varied selection of tones at once, which will further speed up the process.

Step Four

Using a small picture hook to carve a space to plant a SuperTree in a model layout

Once your trees have been built and left to dry, you can choose exactly where you’d like to place them on your layout. We’re using a small picture hook to carve a space to plant ours, but anything small and sharp enough to cut through your foam board will do the trick. Remember to keep in mind how far off the ground you want the branches to be, and only carve as deep a hole as you need.

A SuperTree planted in a model train layout

Once you have your spot ready, it’s time to plant the tree! Before installing it, dab the base of the trunk with some Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement Glue. Although it should fit snuggly enough into the hole on it’s own, the glue will ensure that it stands strong.

Note – if you’re working directly on a wooden baseboard, this step won’t apply, and you’ll need to consider a different method to fix your tree to your surface. 

Step Five

Model train layout with trees, a rail station and railroad tracks

Now that your forest is completely installed, you’ll probably want to make sure that the ground below matches the natural detail of the branches above. To achieve this, we’ve used a mix of Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf and Briar Patch to create natural and wild looking undergrowth. We’ve made sure to only install this in more open spots that would likely receive direct sunlight. In the more shaded spots, we’ve added a fairly thick scattering of Scenic Express Leaf Litter, just as you would expect to find on a real forest floor.

Model train layout with trees, a rail station and railroad tracks

And that’s it! While perfecting the undergrowth and forest floor might take a little longer, we’ve found that we’re able to produce about 40 trees from start to finish in the space of one afternoon using this method. If you have a need for a lot of trees on your layout, this is without a doubt the most efficient and pleasing method we’ve found.

Try it out for yourselves and let us know how it goes!