by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
NOCH produce a large variety of landscaping items principally intended for railway modelling use at HO and N scales. Many of them can of course be useful for diorama building in other modelling genres. Here we will look at some new fir trees in HO scale.
A quite large blister pack with a card backing contains six ready-made trees. Thereís no additional packing to hold the trees in place, but they are very lightweight and flexible so do not damage each other within the packet, although there is some evidence perhaps that the branches may become a little bent and distorted; more on that later.
The trees come in three sizes, a pair of each: 16cm, 18cm and 20cm (approximately 6, 7 and almost 8 inches) so these represent quite big trees; 20cm in 1:87 scale represents a tree of 17.4metres (57 feet), or in 1:72 scale thatís 14.4metres (47 feet).
The bases of the trees have a plastic planting pin under the trunk, and some brief instructions on the pack back state simply that a hole should be drilled in the base and the tree fixed in place with a hot glue gun.
I believe that the trees are probably closest in appearance to some type of Spruce, probably Norwegian, Black or Siberian.
In photos 1 Ė 3 we see pairs of trees by height: 20, 18 then 16cm, and in photo 4 we see how together they provide a realistic looking variation of sizes and appear agreeably non-uniform (also photo 5) as of course do real trees.
In photo 6 we can see an example of how, on removal of the trees from the pack, some of the branches are rather misshapen and bent. The branches themselves are plastic filaments that are firmly attached to the narrow stem, and they can withstand quite firm pulling without breaking off. I found the best way to reshape the branches and make them point in the direction you want, was to warm them with a hairdryer while pulling them straight with tweezers.
Looking more closely in photo 7 we can see how the boughs are covered in fine green flock, representing pine needles, glued on to the plastic filament branches. The plastic planting peg can be seen and also the base of the trunk, which has quite a decent shape to it. Close up it can be seen that above the point where the branches attach, the tree trunk is considerably thinner, so it would not be possible to remove any of the lower branches without needing to then build up the trunk thickness to a more realistic size with perhaps some modelling putty. I mention this as it is quite common for trees of this type to have the lower branches missing, displaying a considerable length of bare trunk.
Photo 8 shows a comparison between a tree straight from the packet on the left, and one which has had its branches reshaped using a hairdryer on the right. As you can see, a blob of Plasticine is useful to keep them upright when working on them. As well as straightening the branches I found myself disentangling some of them where they had become stuck together, presumably during the flocking process. This had a tendency to remove some of the flocking and leave the branch looking a bit bare. If you happen to have any flocking, then recovering bare patches is easy enough, using some PVA glue and sprinkling the flock on; you might even get enough loose flock out of the bottom of the packet to cover some of it.
I also tried painting some of the trees to see how it would take, and also to create a slightly darker, more blueish shade of green that was more matt. This was done with an airbrush, using various Vallejo greens, and a comparison can be seen in photo 9 Ė the painted tree on the left, the out of the box tree on the right. Note that I also painted the trunk a shade of greenish grey which seems more realistic for a tree viewed from a distance; while the paint adhered very well to the foliage, it didnít take too well to the trunk, which is some soft type of plastic and might benefit from some heavy duty primer prior to painting.
Finally, giving an impression of scale, we see the trees surrounding a 1:72 vehicle in photos 10 and 11. In the final photo you can see the three unpainted trees contrasting with the slight variation between the three painted examples.
Although Nochís intention is that these could be used straight from the box, a little work on straightening the branches improves their appearance, and I think that painting enhances them even more. When viewed very close up, one can see some shortcomings in terms of the filament ends of the branches and the thin trunk, but from normal viewing distances they have a pretty good appearance. I particularly like the differences in sizes and the irregularity of the foliage, so that when planted together they definitely appear as six different trees, and not six of the same tree.
They are also an impressive height, and although primarily intended for large model railway layouts, where they might occupy hills and valleys in some numbers, Iíve now found myself inspired to see how they will work all together in a relatively small diorama.
We thank NOCH for supplying this copse for review here at Armorama!