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.

January 30, 2011

Going back to your roots

No Roots on the trees - OH NO!

Supertree embellished with modeling
putty on the trunk.

One of the comments my brother made about the model trees on the layout was that the trees did not have realistic roots, or nebari as the bonsai people say. So this weekend I decided to do something about it. While I was at it, I started adding some final scenery. Yeah!

I got out my modeling putty. I mentioned this in previous blogs as I used in in figure modeling. But it was ideal to sculpt the roots for the trees. I used Magic Sculpt, but any of the three types in the photo would work.  Without heating, the putty cures rock hard in about 2 hours, but can be worked that whole time if needed. You can speed it up by heating it. 
Different types of modeling epoxy. They all
basically work the same.

The first tree I tried to use the putty on was actually a bare Supertree. The trunks of the Supertrees are too thin as they come in the bag. So I used the putty to build up the trunk and add roots. I did this using a piece of cardboard to help shape the roots, but I immediately realized that it is better to sculpt the roots in the spot where you intend to use the tree.

 The photo below shows some of the trees with roots added.  Since this was so simple to do. I decided to add a bunch of stumps. I had painted stumps on the back drop in this area, so I put some 3D stumps in the foreground to link the scenes together. I realized it is a lot easier to make a stump than a tree. Looks like we'll be doing a lot more stumps, which is totally prototypical because the soldiers cut down so many trees for fire wood and construction.
Roots on the trees, plus lots of stumps.

Here are yellow pine trees with roots in place behind Falmouth turntable. I like how the modeled trees 
blend with the trees painted on the backdrop.

With the roots installed, I decided  to finish the scenery around Clairborne bridge scene.  Wow, after two years I will finally have a "finished" scene to look at. Here is a shot while the scenery is drying,  It should lighten up a bit as it dries.
PVT McGuirk on sentry duty at the rifle pit over looking the bridge. Note the detail in the roots on the tree at the left.


  1. Excellent. They look much better.

    Don't forget the nebari (Japanese for surface roots) on the backdrop too.

    RoboRob - Bonsai Master

  2. It's always a joy to see you get real work from PVT McGuirk :-)