John Farmer-Scenics

Scenics Using Static Grasses

General Ground Cover

Static grass applicators have been around for some years now. They have proved to be transformative in the creation of landscapes. The first time that I encountered static grass was on a Bavarian P87 modular layout (Hölle) at a show in Utrecht around fifteen years ago. It was applied using a home constructed machine built before they became commercially available.

The first one that I bought was the original Noch Gras-master which has served me well over the years. Upon seeing an article by Martin Welberg, the noted Dutch professional scenics creator, I made contact and enquired what machine he would recommend. His work is just at another level that I couldn’t achieve (Figure 1)! He recommended the RTS ‘Greenkeeper’ machines. I chose to get a 35kV machine. The difference in ‘power output’ was notable when compared to the 12kV applicators normally sold.

Figure 1          Martin Welberg’s excellent work.

The amount of grass needed for Balcombe was considerable so a ‘production method’ was needed. This was achieved by using hanging basket liner glued down with PVA as a base (Figure 2). This is available by the square metre from eBay traders and from many other suppliers.

Figure 2          Hanging basket liner base

Once dry, it’s teased up with a cat (!) brush (Figure 3) to facilitate trimming with a cheap electric hair trimmer (Figure 4), available on Ebay for around £15. If only a small area is to be covered then scissors would suffice. The trimmings are worth keeping for further use!

Figure 3          Teasing hanging basket liner with cat brush
Figure 4          Trimming with cheap hair trimmer

A layer of 2mm basing grass (spring green in this case) is added (Figure 5), available from Polák (of Hungarian manufacture) and/or WWS.

Peco layering spray was used for this. WWS also sells the stuff.

Figure 5          Application of the 2mm basing fibres onto the trimmed basket liner

As an incidental, Polák does some superbly fine foliage meshes that I use in tree making (Figure 6).

Figure 6          Polák tree foliage mesh

The first layer of fibres is added. For rough (unkempt) grass I use 4mm ‘dead grass’ fibres and then finally some more 2mm or 1mm to give the effect in Figure 7. It really is all a question of experimentation and choice.

Figure 7          Initial development of rough grass

To avoid the ‘spiky’ look that occurs with longer fibres I finish off by adding fine ground foam using the static applicator (Figure 8).

Figure 8          Fine ground foam added

I favour the very fine 0.2mm > 0.7mm ‘Sponge Scatter’ from The ModelTreeShop.co.uk. This is much finer ground foam than that which is supplied from other sources (Figure 9).

Figure 9          Fine ‘sponge scatter’

Further layers can be added to create scrub growth and bushes (Figure 10).

Figure 10        Building up layers

Grassing trackwork

How this can look is very much down to personal taste. What I require for Parkend Marsh Sidings, my ‘lockdown project’, is a light, patchy covering, a halfway house so to speak as there have been five or six re-ballastings and some re-sleepering between the late 50s and the mid 70s before closure.

Firstly the rails and sleepers are masked prior to grassing with the static grass machine (Figure 11). I use a low tack decorators masking tape lightly stuck to a piece of wood and cut into 2mm (or thereabouts) strips with a scalpel. Adding fibres directly without masking can be done but I found cleaning of fibres from the sleepers to be a little tedious. Careful removal of the tape does give a crisp edge to exposed sleepers. It’s all a matter of personal experimentation.

Figure 11        Masking rails and sleepers

A base layer of 1mm spring green is followed by a light application of 2mm spring green and finally a dusting of 1mm dead grass which just takes off the brightness. In the past I’ve used just 4mm or 6mm which has never been really successful. The layering technique ensures avoiding that ‘spiky’ look with a sprinkling of very fine ground foam added to finish.

Figure 12        The final result after several removals and re-applications!
Figure 13        Some 4mm ‘dead grass’ added at the margins
Figure 14        A light touch at the yard entrance