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Bringing Autumn to Your Railroad or Display Village

Most model railroads represent trains in summer, and most holiday villages represent winter, so there aren't many accessories to make your town or railroad look like it is experiencing in autumn. (Of course Hawthorne Village has mitigated that by having trains and towns both that "look like fall." But what if you want the setting (or base) for your trains and towns to "look like fall," too? Fortunately, two easy crafts will help you stir up "autumn joy" without spending more than a few dollars and a little time.

Dead Leaves

One of the strangest model railroad-related scenes in movie history is in Christopher Guests' A Mighty Wind. A psychotic aging folksinger who sees a model railroad explains that there should be tiny dead leaves everywhere. But there's nothing really wrong with fallen leaves on your model railroad or display village, if you want to give an autum look. Click for bigger photo.

In the summer of 2007, I spent some time shopping for autumn-colored leaf-shaped confetti a person could dump on a village or railroad. But the only stuff I could find was sparkly or shiny, which I didn't want. Then, in early fall, Shelia brought a leaf-shaped hole-punch home from Target that she had bought for a dollar.

The leaves are not much more than 1/4" across, which makes them a little oversized for most holiday village people, and even bigger compared to most holiday village houses. Still, they're still small enough and have enough detail to look okay in a pile.

These punches are made to survive light use with light card stock. Shelia tells me that you are supposed to punch holes in the paper so the background shows through, and the little leaf-shaped punchouts are just a "by-product." But I'm interested in the leaf-shaped punchouts. I plan to sprinkle them around my holiday village to give an autumn feelings. In some cases, I may even be able to camouflage the white globs on the roof of my "winter" buildings.

You don't need card stock to represent leaves on your holiday village, and you don't need to buy three packs of colored construction paper, either. I went to Staples and bought some red, orange, and yellow copy paper from their quick-printing center, for about .08 each. Besides being cheap, this 20-24lb stock is easier to punch than the 40 or 60lb stock that the punch is made to use, which means:

  • It will also be easier on you to turn out a bunch without repetitive motion injuries, and
  • Your punch will last longer than it would if you were using card stock or construction paper.

The cost of the whole leaf project was less than $2 ( or under $3 if I get the other stamp.) Of course, if you don't have a Target or other source of inexpensive leaf-shaped punches, you may wind up getting yours at a stampbooking place for $9. In that case, you have to reexamine whether the project is worth it to you.

By the end of Thanksgiving, the leaves were too dusty to reuse, so I pulled them up and put the paper punch and paper away until next year. (If you had a lot, and your "base" is pretty sound, you could do this in a hurry with a lint roller.) On the other hand, if you wanted to have a permanent base for an autumn diorama or such, there's no reason you couldn't glue them down and seal them with a clear satin or "flat" acrylic spray.

As always, your mileage will vary. Please let us know if you think of another use for these things, or if you have a photo you'd like to share.

Colorful Trees

Click for bigger photo.This is a tip that we remembered when it was time to trim our Hydrangea arborescens bushes (what Grandma called "Snowballs."). Hydrangea flower heads aren't real sturdy, so this is something that will last a few weeks, but it's easy enough to do it again next year. If you or someone close to you has Hydrangea bushes, or another flower head that dries out in October, cut a few heads off, bringing up to 18" of stem with each if you can.

The stems of Hydrangea arborescens are woody, so I use a Even Jack Skellington's neighborhood looks a little more cheerful with some fall foilage and leaves. Click for bigger photo.small pruner to cut the stems, and I always leave plenty of length, since I never know for sure what I'll be using them for. Don't seal the plant heads into anything until they are completely dry, though.

Buy a cheap can of orange (not flourescent orange) paint. Spray the heads lightly (they don't need to be solid orange - in fact they'll look more realistic if they are a little varigated). Then nip the stems off to the right "height" and install them near your village structures. In some cases you may even be able to camouflage "greenery" or roof snow splotches that are molded into your buildings, giving your whole village a warm autumn look.

Of course, adding a fall train or structures from Hawthorne Village won't hurt either

As always, your mileage will vary. Please let us know if you've come up with another autum idea that we can share with our readers next year.


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