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Modeling Sea Grass. Click for bigger photoReturn to Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer pageOn30 Display Trains
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Written by Howard Lamey
(with a little help from Paul Race) for Big Indoor TrainsTM
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Note from Editor: Glitterhouse designer/builder Howard Lamey created these "sea grass" clumps to go along with a lighthouse project we are working on. This is how he explained this fun and simple project to me.

Modeling Sea Grass

I know that this technique is not new, but it works, and Paul tells me it is worth explaining to our readers.

Along most beaches on the Atlantic coast, you'll see one species or another of "sea grass." It's no fun to walk on barefoot, but it is about the only thing that will grow in that environment, and its roots help protect the beach from being washed out to sea during rough weather. It also creates a habitat for a number of bird species you seldom see anywhere else.

Near your display village structures or on your indoor railroad, it adds inexpensive charm and texture to any seaside scene.


  • Several inches of hemp rope
  • Cardboard for the base
  • Fine wire, like florist's wire, for binding the rope bits at one end.
  • White glue like Elmer's
  • Acrylic paint in a neutral color like beige or light brown
  • Green spray paint (optional), acrylic green paint can be diluted and used instead, or you can choose to leave the rope its natural color.
  • Sand for gluing to the base. I used aquarium sand; you can use "play" sand, swimming pool filter sand, whatever looks right with the rest of your setting.
  • Sawdust

Making the Grass Clumps

  1. Cut the hemp rope into several 2-3" lengths.

  2. Bind one end of each piece of rope with the fine wire (like the end of a tiny broom) and squirt some glue in for extra holding.

  3. Untwist the strands of the rope, then "smush" it, crimp it, and trim it to a random shape

  4. Mist the "clump" with green spray paint. If you have green acrylic paint instead, dilute some into a quarter-cup of water and use it to "stain" the clumps. Or you could use another color or leave them a natural color if you wish.

  5. Make the bases out of irregular cardboard shapes. Thick cardboard like the back of a writing tablet is best. If you use corrugated cardboard, you'll have to make a point of gluing sand around the edges to cover up the holes.

  6. Paint the bases; then punch a hole in the middle of each piece to fit your "clumps."

  7. Glue the grass clumps into the bases.

  8. Click to see all three clumps in this project.When the assemblies have dried, glue sand over the bases.

  9. When the sand is dry, put dots of glue randomly on the tips of the rope strands, then dip the tops of the clumps into sawdust.

  10. When the sawdust is dry, if you wish, you may dab different colors of paint on the bits of sawdust to represent flowers.
Click for bigger photo.


Please let us know if you find this project useful - we especially appreciate photographs.

Return to the Sandy Shores page for more links to seaside projects.

Return to the What is a Glitterhouse page for links to more putz (vintage cardboard house) projects.

Return to the Big Indoor Trains Primer page for links to many more how-to and informative articles.

Return to the Big Indoor Trains Home page.

Many more links are shown below.

For other articles on making foilage for indoor trains and towns, check out:

Other Articles about Glitterhouse include:

Other Putz House Resources:

  •, Howard Lamey's own site about putz houses, featuring many he designed himself.
  • "Papa Ted's Place" Ted Althof's extensive resource about vintage pasteboard houses. Includes some history, many photos from other people's collections, and resources to help you build your own. The links below will take you right to the approprate page on "Papa" Ted's site. You'll find lots of other pages to look at while you're there, though.
    • Building from Scratch - "Papa" Ted Althof has collected tips and photos from other glitterhouse builders including Tom Hull and Ted Howard.
    • Repair and Restoration - "Papa" Ted Althof publishes Tom Hull's tips for restoring damaged antique glitterhouses.
    • Reproduction Parts - Ted offers authentic reproductions of just about every door and window that were used in glitterhouses over a 35-year period. These include celophane and paper "see-through" windows, as well as "stick-on" windows. If you don't know what sizes you need, you can order a template or sample pack. The page includes several photos showing how the replacement parts bring otherwise solid vintage glitterhouses "back to life."
    • Making "Flocked" Windows - Tom Hull's method for making "fuzzy" windowframes on celophane, with additional tips by author and glitterhouse collector Antoinette Stockenberg.
    • Repairing or Replacing Trees Tom's article about the "lufa" trees that were common on pre-war glitterhouses, and can be repaired or else replaced by new lufa carefully cut, soaked with dark green acrylic paint, and allowed to dry before gluing and applying white paint for "snow."
  • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

To Return to the BIG Indoor Trains(tm) Primer Page, click here.Return to Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer page

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