About Trees

Definition: tree, a woody perennial plant. Shrubs and trees are sometimes confused. However, shrubs always have many stems which branch at or near the ground level, while trees usually have a distinct stem or trunk.

Trees grow throughout the world from the far north to the far south.

The tallest trees are the California redwoods which reach heights of about 350 feet.

The smallest trees are birch and willows in the arctic tundra which grow only a few inches tall.

The thickest tree trunks belong to the European Chestnut which can measure nearly 60 feet in diameter!

The biggest trees are not necessarily the oldest. Bristlecone pines reach a height of only about 30 feet but some are thought to be 4000 years old!

When steam power was brought to the woods (sawmills, donkey engines, and logging railroads) in the late 1800’s logging was revolutionized and the rate at which trees were cut accelerated dramatically.

At one time there were so many trees loggers believed they could never cut them all down (we know differently now).

Ask Canyon Creek Scenics’ forestry officer

Q:Some of the pictures on this site look like real trees. Are they all models?
A:All pictures on this site (unless specifically noted) are of Canyon Creek Scenics’ model trees. None of the trees in these photos have been electronically altered or enhanced.

Q:Your trees look good, but they seem pricey. Why do they cost so much?
A:There is a lot of labor involved in making these trees. It takes time to carve and shape the trunks, color them realistically, add individual undergrowth branches, and make the foliage airy and light (rather than thick and chunky). Each tree is hand-crafted to our very high standards of quality. Believe us, if we could make trees more quickly without compromising quality we would.

Q:How do I plant your trees?
A:All Canyon Creek Scenics trees have a mounting spike. Drill a hole in your scenery and plug-in the tree. If you use rigid extruded foam scenery you can just push our trees’ spikes into the scenery. We don’t recommend using glue to install trees as this prevents reusing trees on a different layout or moving them to get at track for maintenance. Hide the joint between tree and ground with our Fir or Pine Tree Debris slightly mounded and scattered around the base of the trunk.

Q:How many trees do I need?
A:Trees tend to grow near other trees. That isn’t to say that you never find trees by themselves. If you’re making a model forest you’ll definitely need more than a few trees. When planting large trees for an old growth forest 10 trees per square foot. will look fine. With medium trees you’ll likely need 15 to 25 to make a dense forest. With small trees you’ll need a lot more. Of course, you can suggest a dense forest using background trees rather than using all foreground trees.

Q:How should I arrange the trees on my layout?
A: This is a tough question! Perhaps the best answer is to spend time looking at the way real trees are grouped. We like to put trees in groups with taller and more detailed trees up front. By putting medium and small trees farther away you also get a bit of forced perspective making your layout appear larger. You should take care not to block locations where you’ll need to reach into the layout. When the time comes to uncouple rolling stock or operate manual turnouts you won’t like having a row of tall trees in the way. If only infrequent access will be required for maintenance, trees planted loosely (not glued in place) in the ground can be moved then replanted.

Q:What should the floor of my forest look like?
A:Another good question! It really depends on the age of the forest. An old growth forest will have a canopy of foliage overhead dense enough to block out the sun. Very little underbrush grows with so little light. The ground will tend to be littered with branches and dead foliage that has dropped from the canopy overhead. Places where trees died long ago and fell over will have decaying remnants of trunks and stumps. When a tree is cut or falls enough sun light can reach the forest floor in that area for undergrowth and young trees to start growing. A newer forest in which the trees do not yet block out all sun light will have lots of underbrush and younger trees.

Q:How do I model the floor of a forest?
A:We suggest going for a walk. Look in your backyard, local park or hiking trails for small branches that have fallen off trees or bushes. Saw these into short lengths to represent branches lopped off by loggers and left behind or break them off to represent branches broken off by the wind. Use different diameters. Remember that in HO scale a 1/4″ diameter branch is close to two scale feet in diameter! Something this big will represent decaying trees that fell down. If you model a locale and season where the weather is wet, dose them with extra-hold unscented hairspray and sprinkle on a bit of green fine ground foam to model the moss that grows everywhere in a wet forest. Sprinkle our forest floor debris around mixing it with a bit of clump foliage. Use more clump foliage in new forests to represent the extra undergrowth, less in old forests. Old forests though, will tend to have more moss than younger forests – sometimes to the point where it covers nearly everything!

Q:Making a forest looks difficult. Is it?
A:It’s not too difficult but can take time. Just as it takes time to accumulate a roster of locomotives and rolling stock it takes time to accumulate enough trees to make a healthy forest. Think ahead a bit. Try to visualize how you’ll want your forest to look and prepare the land contours first. If you don’t have enough trees at first use a few trees, lots of stumps and forest floor debris and undergrowth. Try to cluster the trees together. In a way a model forest grows the opposite of a clear-cut logging operation – you begin with barren landscape and then the trees start arriving.

Pete’s Interesting Tree Facts

(and some tree fun to add bit of zip to your model scenes and dioramas)

FACT #1:Trees are the largest living things on earth (except for that fungus thing that’s as large as several US states). And yet a large number of modelers plant mostly small trees in their scenery. Douglas fir trees, for example, really reach for the sky – to an average height of well over 200 feet. Canada’s largest known Douglas fir has been growing for 8 centuries in British Columbia’s upper Coquitlam watershed. A magnificent specimen reaching to a lofty height of 311 feet tall and 26½ feet in circumference, it would be a true tourist attraction if modelled in an HO scale scene.

FUN:You could really have fun modeling this tree – in HO scale it would measure 1¼ or so inches in diameter and 3½ feet tall (No, you don’t need new glasses and it’s not a typo!). It would have many gaps in the foliage where the storms of centuries have ripped off branches and there would be dead branches in several areas with lots of stubby, broken-off limbs jutting out from the trunk below the canopy. Of course, there’d be moss and lots of it too! And you would plant it among other tall trees – two footers at least with a barkdust and gravel or dirt path leading from our big guy to a small log hut stuffed with souvenirs for sale next to a model parking lot. Add lots of cars, RV’s, pickups, and a tour bus or two and finally groups of sight seeing scale figures, and voila! A tourist trap!

FACT #2:Somewhere in Montgomery Woods State Reserve near Ukiah, California in the USA, park ranger Karl Poppelreiter keeps watch over his charge, a record-setting Coast Redwood, Sequoia Sempervirens, known as the Mendocino Tree. Ranger Karl sees to it that the exact location is known only to a few so this amazing tree will be kept safe from the ravages of not wind and rain, but from hordes of people! If you love conifer trees, you’ll drool over the size of this relatively newly discovered big tree! Standing higher than the Statue of Liberty it measures a whopping 367 feet tall and the trunk is ten feet in diameter. Now, that’s a tree! It’s been growing in a ravine for 400 to 600 years (you could pinpoint its age a bit closer if you counted the growth rings, but ranger Karl absolutely won’t let you do that!). You won’t easily discover its location by flying over it either – remember it sits in a ravine, so from the air it doesn’t appear to be taller than its brethren.

FUN:Lets count those growth rings! First, make a tree trunk from a piece of redwood or cedar 2×2 (so its easy to carve and shape). For HO scale make it 52½ inches tall! Wow! And while you’re at it, make sure the base of the trunk measures at least 1½ inches in diameter. Don’t have that much room from the top of your benchwork to the ceiling? Not to worry – we’re going to chop it down! Next, carve, taper, texture, and paint the trunk. Add the foliage at the top leaving about 25½ inches of the trunk showing (Mendocino has 190 feet from the ground to its first branch) then snip all the foliage off one side so the tree will lie relatively flat when placed on its side. Then near the bottom of the trunk and on the same side where the foliage was trimmed off cut out a wedge. Now from the opposite side saw almost completely through to where the wedge was cut out (a bandsaw works well for this). Snap the tree apart at this point and you should have a tree and a stump with a ragged bit running across the top of the newly formed stump. Add some moss, figures of loggers with chainsaws, LOTS of sawdust and bark chips. Oh, yes, the final touch, using your finest brush paint on both the trunk AND the stump about 573 growth rings!

FACT #3:Locomotives are approximately 15 feet high – about 2″ in HO scale. Double that for O scale, and halve it for N scale. But tree sizes are deceiving because we continually see zillions of them from afar and they appear to be only a few inches tall. But up close they are huge – 70, 135, 180, or as we have seen in a previous Tree Fact 367 feet tall. Those measurements translate roughly to 9, 18, 24″ and up to 52″ in HO scale.

FUN:Big trees make our locomotives and rolling stock look like they fit in a real model world and the photos you take will be spectacular!