23 September 2022
How to make model railway hedges for your layout, tips on modelling different hedge types, and a guide on who makes what.
Hedges are everywhere in the British landscape, whether well-manicured or shabby and natural. Here's how to model them for your model railway.
What are the different types of hedges?
Hedging has been a common and longstanding feature of the British landscape since we stopped being hunter-gatherers and started to fence land in. It used to be more prevalent in agricultural areas, but the introduction of the combine harvester and the subsequent move to larger field sizes since WWII meant that many were removed, a process known as 'grubbing out'. Consider the era you're modelling before you start a build.
Hedges are still a common – and important – feature in the countryside and are also an important consideration for your model railway for realism.
Private hedges often border many roads and these are clipped regularly, but less so when used as field boundaries. The age of a countryside hedgerow can be ascertained by looking at the number of species growing in it. The more there are, often, the older the hedgerow.
In urban areas, hedges tend to be monocultural and regularly clipped to maintain their shape, usually in the autumn. Often, they form a dividing line between properties, and each side is maintained by a different neighbour. Clipping often happens at different times, or not at all, and this imbalance can create interesting features to model.
When modelling hedges for your model railway, it's best to model an overall effect as a mass of different greens and textures, with just a few signature species that typify the location and time of year you're modelling.
Where can I buy model railway hedges?
There are many suppliers available that offer ready-made hedges that, aside from some subtle alterations to make them look more authentic, are almost completely ready to go. Manufacturers and suppliers such as Woodland Scenics, Hornby, Jarvis, War World Scenics and Howard Scenic Supplies have a variety of options available. Depending on the type of hedge you want to model, most suppliers offer model railway hedges for urban, agricultural, or countryside and cater for a variety of seasons, too.
It is always worth buying flock, or scatter material, to add to your hedges, which adds volume and colour variation.
How to make a model railway hedge
There are different ways of making a hedge for your model railway – here's a video guide of some of the simplest options available:
What should I model first – grass or bushes?
Usually grass. When applying static grass, it has a habit of getting everywhere, which can make a mess of the perfectly manicured hedge you’ve just put in-situ. Also, applying the grass first and placing your hedges on top, stops the baseboard being seen through the hedge branches.
Budget model railway hedges
You may decide to model your own hedges, which many modellers opt for, using a variety of materials like rubberized horse hair, pipe cleaners, wire wool, or hanging basket liner. You could even use static grass and build it up in clumps, spraying adhesive and building the flock up.
There are many advantages to modelling your own hedges, like creative enjoyment and making something unique, but there are obvious cost savings, too. The materials mentioned above are usually cheaper than ready-to-plant options.
What to model in hedgerows?
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t model your hedgerows as a mass of greenery, as long as you add variety by using different shades of green, a variety of textures, vegetation height and growth habits. There are a few hedgerow plants that are common and can be markers for the time of year, principally because of their flowers or berries/fruit. The dates are approximate as seasons can be early or late and the flower colours are in brackets:
- May: fruit trees; crab apple, apple and pear (white), gorse (yellow), hawthorn (white), blackthorn (white)
- June: elderflower (white), briars (pink/white), rowan (white), wayfaring tree (white)
- September, October: red berries on rowan, wayfaring tree hawthorn. Black berries on elderflower, blackthorn. Fruit on apples and pear trees.
Hedges for your model railway: top tips
- Arrange the hedge so that you have as much variety as possible between height, colour, texture and width. Don’t have long stretches of the same plant. Have a dry run before gluing in place with contact adhesive or scenic PVA
- Spray the hedge with laying glue and add a scatter of your choice. You can use a mix of leaf textures and colours. Hedges often contain mixed plants in a garden environment
- If you want to portray any of the hedge as unclipped, spray that section with layering spray to add adhesive and use your static grass applicator to add fibres of your choice
- When installing the hedge, cut it up into smaller pieces to represent the individual plants that make up a real hedge. When 'planted', they will be slightly misaligned and the hedge will look more realistic for it
- If you want to portray a newly-clipped hedge with the clippings still extant, simply create the clippings on scrap card, remove with scissors and fix to the ground with scenic glue. A hedge in the act of being trimmed makes for a good cameo
Looking to model seasons? See the below guides to help you capture the look.
Looking for more advice on adding lineside variety to your model railway? - our guide explains all.
If you're thinking of tackling water on your layout? Our guide on how to model water here should be your first port of call.
Need more advice? Take a look at the BRM Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.
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