Vegetation Comes to the Fern Valley Railway

Fern Valley Railway

A small area has been cleared of trees, the slash burnt and the lumber piled up ready for shipment

“I’ve been a model railroader for 55 years now and this is the first time I have ever had  a layout with scenery”.

This was Gord Bellamy’s comment last April as Bud Nelson and I reviewed the results of our efforts on Gord’s Fern Valley Railway.  We had taken on the Fern Valley part of the layout and subjected it to a full scenic treatment. 

In nature, terrain is not normally flat so we introduced some undulations into the areas surrounding the railway.  We used commercial scenic materials readily available as a base but were careful to vary them to ensure good variation of height, textures and colors.   But these materials only serve to produce a base and many additional techniques were used to produce variety and increase interest.  We created a number of visual blocks where the line is partially hidden from view while train runs from one scene to the next. In casting one’s eye across the scene we can pick out a number of mini-scenes that hold the interest.

Fern Valley Railway
The railway bridge is used for swimming and fishing.

- some grass seeds, when put together, provide good variation to the other grasses and weeds that infest the water-filled ditches beside the line.  A broom, purchased while on vacation in Paris, provided the basis for realistic-looking cattails.  The same grass seeds, with the addition of some colorful flowers create interesting vegetable garden plants.

- an area where trees have been cut down has been brought to life with some tree stumps, and a fire to burn the slash while fireweed is taking over.  A small forest fire has occurred and fireweed has also taken over here.

- people are swimming in a lake.  A figure in a bathing suit has been cut in half and cemented on to the water.  The bottom half shows a person diving in off a railway bridge while the upper part represents a person up to her waist in the lake.  The lake must be pretty deep as a boxcar has derailed and fallen in and is pretty much submerged.

Fern Valley Railway
Fern Valley Railway
Graffiti artists have been at work - notice the many hand made cattails or bulrushes.
The Manager's cottage with a vegetable garden on the side.  The outhouse is disguised by hollyhocks.
After a season on Fred Mills’ garden railway we were back in Gord’s basement a few weeks ago working on a different part of the railway.  This time, Gord’s two grandsons Brad and Tyler, together with their friend Mat, came along.  They quickly became interested in what we were doing and pretty soon were helping out.  It was amazing how quickly they understood what we wanted and the speed at which they worked was truly amazing.  They quickly got the hang of variations in scenery and texture and enjoyed planting the red and yellow weeds in the grass to give interest and bring the scene to life.  Brad took on a tricky piece of river bank which required concentration and dexterity to place scree slopes properly.  Tyler and Mat quickly got the hang of turning a head of dry grass into accent tall grass in a meadow.

I should add that Gord’s son-in-law, Gordie, came with his boys to continue his great ballasting job on one of the main yards.  We made good progress on the Fern Valley last winter and look forward to even greater progress this year with the assistance of Brad, Tyler and Mat.

Gord Bellamy is a member of HOTRAK and if you go to his HOTRAK page you can take a ride over the entire line on YouTube. Go to:

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders, The Interchange December 2009.

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