Model Train Water Grasses: Making Cattails for Your Lakes

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If you’re fortunate enough to be finished with trackwork and basic scenery and are looking to add super-details to your layout, here’s a tip for a little-modeled aspect that your visitors will love to discover – cattails! They’re perfect for model train water or marshy areas adjacent to tracks and roads – and they’re easy to make even while you’re watching TV!

Learn from NMRA Master Model Railroader, Gerry Leone, how quickly these fine-detail aspects for model railroad scenery water can be constructed. Here are the items he prepares ahead of time: Plastruct .00010 rod (perfect for HO scale), brown nail polish, medium green acrylic paint, rust or beige acrylic paints (depending on the time of year you are modeling), hobby knife, tweezers, a 4-inch square of pink insulation foam scrap, and a sticky Post-It note.

Making realistic cattails for your model railroad

Cut the plastic rod into 6 scale foot-lengths (your scale may require thicker or thinner rod); make a lot of them at one time because they tend to get lost in your scenery. With a pointed object, poke multiple holes in the pink board which will serve as holding platform while your cattails dry.

Using the tweezers, dip each rod in the medium-green paint and place in a hole in the foam board to dry. Then cut out small sections along the edge of a Post-It note, and stick an uncut edge on the foam. Dip the cut-outs in the brown nail polish and place a glob on the tabs left on the Post-It edge. Allow the polish to thicken up just a bit. Then, using your fingers, take a rod and roll it in the glob of polish about 6-scale inches from the painted end, and place aside to dry.

Then, using tweezers, dip the end 6” into either rust (early Fall) or beige (late-Fall) acrylic paint.

When fully dry. Glue the finished cattails in to high grasses near your model train water scenery.

Since they tend to be a hard-to-see item, plant several in proximity to each other. You’ll find this quick-and-easy to model detail will be one which your visitors will enjoying “discovering” when they visit your layout! And you might find adding lily pads to your model railroad water helps complete the scene.