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Monday, September 26, 2016

Plant an Orchard on your Layout

The following article and layouts by George Riley, Railroad Model Craftsman
Plant an Orchard on your Layout

Properly modeled, orchards can enhance a model railroad's scenery as well as providing a potential source of traffic. Several packs of JTT Orange Trees were used to create this orange grove scene; nearly any type of orchard can be modeled by planting the proper trees. Add a processing or packing plant nearby and your railroad can have a new customer in no time!

From their earliest years in operation, the railroads played a crucial role in feeding the nation’s growing cities. Food stuffs and agricultural products were among some of the first consigned revenue producing lading to ply the rails. Fruit and nuts from recently planted orchards shared space with the vegetables, grain and livestock that funneled into the rapidly expanding eastern and Midwestern cities during the first half of the nineteenth century.

While orchards were not a uniquely European enterprise, the Native Americans had originally planted orchards in the pre-Columbian era; they spread from coast to coast during the westward expansion of these immigrants. From the citrus groves of California and Florida; to the apple orchards of the Mid Atlantic and Midwestern States and the peach orchards of Georgia and the Carolinas, fruit production and processing plays an important part in the country’s economy and provides an important seasonal revue stream to many railroads.

Properly modeled, orchards can enhance a model railroad's scenery as well as providing a potential source of traffic. With a little research and by carefully observing the scientific practices of fruit production one can present a realistic model of this common agricultural enterprise.


Begin by laying out the area that will be planted on the layout or as is the case of our orange grove, a piece of birch plywood that will later be added to the layout. Orchards are arranged so that a tree will produce the maximum yield in the minimum of space while allowing access for cultivation and harvesting. Holes were drilled in rows two inches apart with three inches between each row to accommodate a service path and still leave space between the trees. Another ‘trick’ used to make the orchard look larger was to lay out the rows on a curve. This fools the eye since while we can easily measure by eye the distance of a straight line while a curved line’s length is much more difficult to determine.


After the holes for the trees were drilled the board was sealed overall and the surface was primed and painted. This step not only helps stabilize the board and limits the effects of seasonal humidity, but also prevents the plywood from warping and the plys from separating when using water based glues and water to apply the ground cover.

A coat of 75% white glue or matt medium mixed with 25% water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid is applied over the entire surface to hold a thin layer of dirt onto the base. Water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid or denatured alcohol is then sprayed over the earth cover. Lightly wetting the dirt allows the adhesive to wick up through the ground cover to lock the earth in
place. Too much water will often cause the earth layer to crack which in many situations makes for added realism. Allow the dirt layer to completely dry before proceeding with the application of grass.
Leaving a roughly on inch earthen path between each row, apply a coat of the glue/water mixture over the earth ground cover. Add your choice of grass material to the glue and over spay with a light mist of the "wet" water. Allow the ground cover to dry completely. Once the grass layer is completely dry remove any excess material and give the entire area a light overspray of hairspray from a pump spay bottle. Inexpensive non-scented hairspray in pump bottles is readily available a most dollar stores.

Short static grass was used on the orange grove model to good effect. One does not necessary need to use a static grass applicator for this step since inexpensive squeeze bottles are available that yield good results when working with small areas.
Give the base an over all dry bushing with a light tan paint to accent the ground cover and add highlights. Plant the fruit trees in the predrilled holes. Hold them in place with a clear drying PVA glue such a Aleene’s Tacky Glue or Woodland Scenics Scenic Accents Glue. Several packs of JTT Orange Trees (Item #0592121) were used to assemble our orange grove scene. Nearly any type of orchard can be modeled by planting the proper representative fruit trees. Add a processing or packing plant nearby and your railroad can have a new customer.
*A version of this article was published on Railroad Model Craftsman Extra Board - March 2013. All photos are taken by the author George Riley. 

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