A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

September 24, 2009

Southern Yellow Pine Trees

One of the advantages of having a brother who is a world renowned expert in the art of bonsai trees is having him help you make trees for your layout.

My twin brother Rob lives in Melbourne Florida. He is a member of several bonsai tree organizations and is an officer in the International Bonsai Society. A few years back he won the North American Bonsai Championship that granted him an expense paid trip to see the Japanese emperor's private bonsai collection in Tokyo. He has had several other international awards for bonsai tree excellence. He has traveled all over the world to lecture on bonsai tree art. He also wrote a book on bonsai trees. What better guy to have help build model trees?He has a blog with more info about his bonsai hobby.Mahogany Row Studios

He is on a business trip this week to Virginia, so I put him to work making model trees for the layout. He made two yellow pines. One an immature tree to match the trees on the backdrop. The other a larger specimen.

Yellow Pine is a term for several closely related species of pine with yellow tinted wood, including the Southern Yellow Pines (Loblolly Pine, Slash Pine, Shortleaf Pine, etc.), and the non-Southern yellow pines (Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, etc.) and several others. More than one of these species may occur at any one site, with the term 'yellow pine forests' typically used in forestry and ecology to describe such forests or stands that contain more than one of these species. In the area of Virginia I am modeling Shortleaf and Loblolly Pine are quite common.

The models use carved wood trunks from either balsa or basswood. The trunks should taper toward the top, with a bulge for nebari at the base. Nebari means exposed roots in Japanese. We will add the roots once the trees are installed on the layout. The trunk gets textured with a rasp to create the bark. Yellow pines can have a tall thin trunks with a crown of limbs at the top. The lower branches self prune.

The branches are pieces of caspia that are inserted in holes drilled in the trunks. We use CAA to hold the branches. Some wood putty is useful in shaping the branches. The jin are the dead branches at the lower section of the tree. The jin have a detectable tapper.

Once the branches are in place, we insert a nail in the bottom to act as a means to secure the tree to the scenery. They they get a spray coat of black and flat brown paint. Once the spray paint is dry, we dry-brush the trunks with a medium gray with some brown mixed in.

The needles are static grass applied with hairspray. Multiple coats does the trick.

The final step is to paint the needles with a light spray of conifer green.


  1. Bernie,
    I'm SOOOOOOO JEALOUS! I need probably several dozen southern yellow pines (masquarading as loblollies mostly) for my n-scale layout. I'd love to be able to duplicate Robs methods, but I don't think they will scale. great method though.

    Has he considered going into the tree business as his next career?

  2. For N Scale Southern Yellow Pines I'd go the bottle brush technique.