Modelling Lineside Vegetation: Adding Thistles & Bracken To Your Model Railway

Modelling Lineside Vegetation: Adding Thistles & Bracken To Your Model Railway

Railway Linesides are havens for wildlife and vegetation, with embankments and cuttings providing the perfect habitat for rabbits, badgers and foxes. From grass to overgrown vegetation, trees to bushes, these make great scenes to replicate on a model railway or diorama. These habitats can be found not only just in rural areas but also in urban locations as well. The photo below shows an example of line-side vegetation on the disused Scarborough to Whitby line, now a walking & cycle trail, known locally as the Cinder Trail.

In the photo above notice the bracken & fern plants growing wild on the cutting bank side. So in this tutorial, we'll look at an easy way of adding scenes like these to your layout. This a quick & easy project which is perfect for an evening modelling session. The kit of course is the LX432-OO Bracken / Fern Plants which is available in Autumn Brown and also in Summer Green.

What Tools Will I Need? 

You'll need the following tools…

What comes supplied in the kit?

The OO Scale kit comes supplied with an instruction sheet and a pre-coloured laser-cut parts sheet. The parts sheet contains 32 laser-cut Brecken/Ferns. Shown below are both the summer and autumn bracken versions of the LX432-OO kit.

Let's get started...

The bracken/ferns are precision laser-cut items, so a little care is required when cutting & releasing them from the parts sheet. Each laser-cut bracken/fern is held to the parts sheet by two tiny pips, highlighted in the photo below.

Place the laser-cut parts sheet on a cutting mat. To release the parts from the parts sheet, carefully cut through the two tiny pips to release them. Use a craft knife with a new blade to cut and release the parts. Avoid using a blunt blade which could snag, drag and break the bracken/fern. 

Using a pair of fine-pointed tweezers, hold the laser-cut part on its centre base section as shown in the photo below.

Carefully fold up each of the four sides using your fingertips as shown in the photo below.

Add further variation by bending the leaf sections inwards, upwards  & towards each other. Like the real thing they don't have to be perfectly the same. The more random you fold & bend them, the more natural they'll look when on the layout/diorama.

Planting time - Adding the bracken to your layout

To plant the bracken/ferns, use a pair of fine-pointed tweezers to hold the laser-cut part near its centre section. Decant a small amount of glue onto some scrap material or use a fine-tipped applicator to apply a small drop of glue exactly where you wish to plant the bracken. In the photo below we've decanted a small amount of glue (We're using UHU Glue in this example) onto the clear packet material that the kit comes supplied in. Lightly dip the bracken/fern into the glue so that only a small amount is applied to its base. Alternatively, apply glue onto the end of a cocktail stick, then use the cocktail stick to apply the glue onto the bottom of the base of the bracken/fern.

Plant the bracken/fern onto your lineside scene. In this example, we’re planting them on the lower slope of a railway cutting bank side on our layout. Repeat the process as required to suit.

Bracken/ferns, tend to grow in groups. Typical locations include areas such as forests, heathland, and edge of moorlands, on slopes. These locations can contain quite a widespread amount of ferns and bracken. In other locations like beside a railway, they can be seen in both large and small groups. In the photo below, we've planted them randomly in various small groups to give the scene a natural look.


To add even further variety, the bracken/fern can be weathered by dry brushing a little brown or green paint after planting them on your layout. Or alternatively, apply a little brown or green weathering powder. 

Mix it up

During late summer or early autumn, bracken and ferns start to die off and turn brown. Mixing both the summer and autumn versions allows for the replication of late summer/early autumn. This also adds further scenic interest to a layout. The photo below showcases this time period applied to our railway cutting scene.


Thistles are another common item found on railway line sides. Found in small & also large groups, Modelling them like the bracken is easy with our FB014-OO Thistle packs. Each pack contains approximately 52 tufts, so there is plenty to get you started with your lineside detailing. Thankfully ours are much friendlier to handle than real thistles!

Planting the thistles

To plant the thistles, simply peel them off the backing sheet. Each thistle tuft has a self-adhesive base. So for planting, it's just a case of sticking them down to the desired location on your layout. Use a pair of Tweezers to hold & and position them onto your layout. They can be further enhanced with the addition of some fine purple scatter to represent flowering thistles.

The example shown below showcases a wild patch of thistles growing alongside the railway using our FB014-OO Thistles.

In the scene below, an area containing both ferns/bracken & thistles has been planted lineside in our railway cutting scene.

In Conclusion

Look at the embankments next time you visit a railway. Make notes of how and where the thistles and bracken grow. Using the aforementioned kits, you can quickly create Realistically Better scenes on your layout or diorama. Perfect for a quiet evening…

Happy Modelling


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