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Add a third dimension to your putz or Christmas village with an easy and inexpensive scenery project. Click for bigger photo
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Learn about using Cricuts, Silhouettes, and similar devices to create accessories for your model railroading, war games, putz house, or other hobby.

Written by Howard Lamey
(with a little help from Paul Race) for Big Indoor TrainsTM
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Free Scenery "Set Pieces"

Here's a way to add a vertical dimension to your temporary railroad or display village for little or no money. You need:
    Click for larger photo.
  • A hunk or three of styrofoam packaging or insulation
  • Pieces of bark mulch (or rocks)
  • Bits of cast-off artificial Christmas tree or garland with a wire core
  • White glue (such as Elmer's)
  • Clear glitter (Sulyn is the brand I like)
  • Sticks for fence (optional)

Making the Base

  • When you're satisfied that the "footprint" of your base looks "organic," carve or rub off the top edges to smooth it out.
  • Paint it with a white paint that doesn't make it dissolve (interior Latex room paint or ceiling paint is usually good).

Making the Trees

    Click for larger photo.
  • Each "tree" should have a 1/2"-3/4" "trunk" that can go into the base. Add that amount to how tall you want your first tree to be, and cut it to the total length.
  • Trim all of the "foilage" from the "trunk.
  • Trim the remaining foilage at an angle to reveal a cone shape.
  • Brush white glue on the foilage and sprinkle with the clear glitter.

Click for bigger photo.

Arrange and Install

    Click for bigger photo.
  • Try your "rocks," "trees," and "fences" out in several different configurations.
  • When you get it the way you want it, glue the rocks down.
  • Use an awl, shish-kabob skewer or some such to poke "starter holes," through the paint for the "fence posts" and "trees." If you decide later you need to "move" a hole, you can fill it with glue to smooth it out and top it off with paint or glitter later.
  • Spread white glue over the "rocks" one at a time and apply the clear glitter. If you want to put glitter all over the base, too, you may, but work only on a few square inches at a time. The white glue will dry clear, so don't be disappointed if things look a little silly at first.
  • When the glue on the base is dry enough to handle, insert each tree and fence post, putting a little glue in the hole first.
  • When that's all dry, add any accessories you please.
Click for bigger photo.


Hopefully this article gives you ideas for many other projects you can use to dress up your temporary railroad or village display. Also, there is no reason your base has to represent snow - you could leave off the glitter and use sawdust with green or orange highlights to represent grass or autumn leaves, for example.

For other article on making scenery trees for indoor trains and towns, check out the Click to see articlefollowing links.

Other Articles about Glitterhouses and temporary railroads and display villages 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."
  • Aimee Gomberg's original putz houses - unique collections for sale.

Other Articles that Discuss Putzes and Christmas Villages of the mid-20th Century:

  • About Nativities - Describes how German-American Nativity displays (the original "putzes") grew into communities and landscapes that included pastboard, glittered houses and even electric trains.
  • What Do Trains Have to Do With Christmas - Describes how electric trains contributed to the communities many families set up at Christmas, with some details about the elaborate "Christmas Gardens" of the Baltimore/DC area.
  • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

To Return to the BIG Christmas Trains(tm) Primer Page, click here.

Click to see the Internet's largest buyers' guide of trains that are just the right size for indoor displays.

Click to visit Family Christmas Online(tm)

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Just for Christmas - Collectible Decorations and Gifts - Visit any of the links below
to see quality collectible Christmas gifts and decorations that have been popular with our
readers. Many are designed by Thomas Kinkade and other world-class artists and designers.

Click to see collectible table-top trees, including animated ceramic trees from Thomas Kinkade(r) and other world-class designers. Click to see collectible Christmas wreaths designed by world-known artists. Click to see classic nativity sets, including collections from world-known designers. Click to see collectible Christmas ornaments by world-known designers. Click to see Christmas collectibles with railroad themes - designs by Thomas Kinkade(r).