Sunday, 17 August 2014

You can't invent a tree...

I have been having a "comments" conversation with a chap about model trees.  I maintain that George Stokes' trees were the best I've ever seen.  Gordon Gravett and Tony Hill have written on the subject and are very good.  This chap speaks of the Pendlebury Group and Bob Barlow, of whom I can find no trace.  And Barry Norman, whose "vegetable concentration camps " on his Lydham Heath didn't impress me even though I saw the actual layout at some show.  Unexpectedly, the best generally seem to be made by a couple of model tree companies, though heaven knows what a decent 12" example costs.
And, significantly, they were made by George Stokes' method of twisted wire.  Now, I'm sure we can't now get hold of Tiger Moth flying wires, or more correctly, control cables, but any nice wad of wires will do. Fine ones, so that you slowly unravel to get to the last fine bits of twiggery, having gone through trunk, split trunk, limbs and secondary limb groups finally to get busy little groups of fine twigs to which the foliage, if you really MUST have it, is attached.
Stokes modelled winter. Dark skeletons being stifled by creepers.  I have seen very few summer trees with a convincing foliage.  In fact, to this day, I have seen very few really good trees on model layouts. Most, if compared to a loco or wagon, would be as a tank loco with no underframe detail and a big old motor in the cab driving solid wheels or a wagon with no brakes and and a bogus livery.  Nobody, even the R-T-R mob would dare do that these days, yet trees are still blobby green and brown lollipops, often, calamity of calamity, made of lichen!  An instantly recognisable awfulness of nature which is suitable for nothing scenically.  Surely people can see that at a glance.
Here are some trees on a typical modern model railway:-
Lollipops and bog brushes.  But I bet all those locos are bang on.

This what a model tree should look like:-
Note the crows' nests are high?  A good winter to come.
It was George who said "you can't invent a tree".  He went out and sketched the tree he wanted to depict in scale, measured it, photographed it and made it as accurate as most people make a loco.

George, we miss you still.


  1. I have to agree with you, most model trees look horrid, especially the cheep ready to plant ones. I've not tried making any using twisted wire although I think that will be much approach in 4mm when I get around to building the layout rather than locomotives. In 2mm scale I found that some shrub roots made reasonably convincing trees (if viewed from a distance through half closed eyes); at least the branching structure was natural!

  2. Mark, some of the newly discovered plants are better than a lollipop tree, but are still generic. Wire can always be found these days because electrical appliances are so short lived and unreliable!

  3. I shy away from making model trees, or rather my customers do on my behalf once I tell them how much they are going to cost :-) Yes, while the nice Mr Gravett is a scenic genius and no doubt about that, I, too, still miss old George. What would he be achieving with today's materials, eh?

  4. I haven't made one for a long time, Iain, so I'm going to have a go at a silver birch I was looking at on the Well Creek river bank last night. A slightly weeping silver birch. Must be mad!
    I think George might have got the hang of Foamex by now.

  5. Hi Martin

    Every tree that I ever made fit into the ''green lollypop'' category--actually, a much better fit into the rubbish bin..

    But have a look at We have a poster that makes some dang nice trees IMHO, Nice enough that I made a ''sticky'' out of the series of posts.

    Hope that you and Chris are enjoying good health. Ever hear from the new owner of the Belle?

    Herb Kephart