How to Easily Make Trees for Your Model Railroad

I want to be clear that any links or referrals I include to experts in model railroading are an effort to be helpful and not a result of having any kind of sales affiliation with them.

Many helpful skills in model railroading can be learned by watching YouTube videos. Just about any question you have or any project you want to complete on your railroad can be found on YouTube. Such is the case with making trees for your model railroad.

My purpose in watching all kinds of model railroading videos was saving money, which I have been able to do. I do not consider myself an expert in the hobby, but I have been able to complete some pretty impressive scenes on the Maple Valley Short Line Railroad by getting help from other modelers. From placing foam risers, to making plaster rocks, to scratch building an incredible trestle and tower bridge, to building printable houses, to painting backdrops, and finally, to building wire trees, there are videos for all of it!

One of the best examples of expert advice, in my opinion, can be found on Luke Towan’s videos of the Boulder Creek Railroad. This guy is amazing! I followed his examples for building my bridges and digging out the Maple Valley River on my layout.

If you have a large layout, you’re going to need a lot of trees. You can purchase tree kits at your local hobby shop but they’re pretty expensive. I purchased a 250 ft. coil of 22 gauge floral wire at the store for less than $5.00. So far, I’ve made twenty trees and used about half the wire. That’s a huge savings!

I apologize for the dark background of these photos. You can find Luke Towan’s tutorial on making wire trees at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FNQTxX_jT4 but I finish my trees a little differently than Luke does in his video.

I have the most success using a smaller gauge wire. Be careful while you are making your trees, the ends of the wire are sharp and will draw blood! A lighter gauge wire is not so dangerous.

  1. Start by cutting 7 12-14 inch lengths of wire.

2. After cutting the wire lengths, fold them in half. Holding the folded end of the wires, twist the wires tightly 7-8 turns while keeping the two sections of wire apart. (Use more twists if you want a taller trunk.) Also, the number of wire strands you use will determine the thickness of your tree trunks. You will quickly discover the smaller gauge wire is much easier to twist.

3. Practice will make perfect as you learn to make wire trees. I suggest dividing each of the two bundles of wire in half. Combine the two inner bundles and tightly twist them together 4-5 times. Then tightly twist each of the remaining bundles 4-5 times.

4. Divide each of the bundles in half again and twist 3-4 times. Fold each of the bundles in half and twist them 3-4 times. The result will be a loop of 2-3 wires at the end of each bundle as you see in the photo.

5. This is where I finish the process differently than Luke Towan demonstrates. I clip off the top of the bundle loops so that the remaining “branches” each have 2-3 wires. To me, this is much simpler and provides a nice looking tree.

6. I am not going to set the trees in plaster and detail the roots. Rather than separating the loop at the bottom of the tree, I use pliers and twist the loop, then flatten the end. I use a piece of foam to hold the trees for the final steps.

7. Paint the entire tree with latex and allow it to dry. Put another coat of latex on the main trunk and large branches as necessary.

8. When you are happy with the trunk and branch latex covering, paint the entire tree with a brown acrylic paint. (Use a matte finish so you don’t have a glossy finish like this. I will rub a brown turf mixture on the trees to get rid of the shine.)

The final step is spraying the branches with adhesive, then rolling the tree in foliage mixture and pressing the material onto the branches. Shake the excess away. Luke Towan suggests sprinkling some turf mixture over the tree.

There you have it. This is the easiest way, in my opinion, to add as many trees as you want to your layout with very little expense.

I would love to read about your layout. Let me know what kind of techniques you’re using. I still have a lot to learn. Happy model railroading!

Scandal At Maple Valley – Episode 16

Stories are swirling in Maple Valley. This isn’t new to anyone who lives here. News in Maple Valley means people are talking about things that other people wouldn’t consider to be news at all. But because Maple Valley is such an important tourist destination for thousands every year, we tend to think things that happen in Maple Valley are more note-worthy than they actually are.

Such is the case with the Ladies Who Mean Well club that meets every Tuesday night in the basement of Maple Valley Church. The ladies held their annual election of officers last Tuesday. There was quite a bit of campaigning going on in the weeks before the vote. Wanita Havertons has been president and vice-president of Ladies Who Mean Well for nineteen years. In fact, Wanita started the club in her living room so she felt it was only right she should be the president and vice-president, positions she was honored to accept and continued to thank club members throughout the years even though she was essentially self-appointed.

Well, some members of the club, with a roster of eleven ladies, said it’s time for leadership change. Wanita heard of it and immediately started telling folks in town how important it is to have qualified and experienced officers in the club. The fact Wanita was talking to everyone including visitors to Maple Valley who came in on the train didn’t seem to bother her even though, according to the club bylaws she wrote, only club members can vote to elect officers. Wanita Havertons is no longer president and vice-president of Ladies Who Mean Well. An almost audible sigh of relief rose from the members after the election.

Everyone in Maple Valley is still basking in the glow of the amazing Founder’s Day Celebration. Buck Wills and the Wagoneers put on a great show and we’ll be talking about it for years to come. Folks could be heard singing, “Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup” for several days after the show. In fact, there is a rumor a young singer in Maple Valley wants to record it! How exciting for the home town folks to listen to one of their own on a real record! Nothing like this has ever happened in Maple Valley before!

Members of the Maple Valley Railroad Trustee Committee met on the spur to talk about needed repairs. A great deal of money was paid to reapply ballast to the track and committee members are not happy with the work. They plan to force the company to return and complete the task to their satisfaction.

Members of the Maple Valley Railroad Trustee Committee are probably like a lot of other groups. There are a few who really work, and others who like being on the committee. In the photo you can see Don Shibberly using a shovel. Clint Blassiton leaning on his shovel. Barney Hergels with his hands in his pockets. Greyson Newrey reading a paper. Thankfully, Jefferson Glosterick showed up with coffee for everyone.

The railroad trustees really do important work. It’s not easy running a live steam railroad, even if it’s only twenty miles from one end of the line to the other. Many visitors ride the rails behind the Old General every year and Maple Valley folks are thrilled to be known for the railroad.

Certainly the biggest news of the week is Sheriff Pete Terkinberry decided to use a psychic to see if any clues to the whereabouts of Sylvia Meisner might be uncovered. The news met with varied response. Some folks were happy, others confused, some angry. Reverend Shermer of the Maple Valley Church felt obliged to say something negative about the decision, so he did. The truth is, a few members of the church told the Reverend he would be replaced if he didn’t object.

The evening Miss Wonderment (no kidding, that’s really the psychic lady’s name) came to Maple Valley, the scene was perfect. A storm was brewing behind dark clouds. Crows were seen circling over Maple Valley, which for the moment people said was strange even though crows fly over town every day. Lightening flashed as thunder rolled in the distance. Only the sheriff and two council members accompanied Miss Wonderment into Sylvia Meisner’s house.

The group stepped into the house carefully and Miss Wonderment tripped over the rug lying in front of the door. The men helped her up and she quickly regained her composure. “That is surely a sign,” she said.

They watched as Miss Wonderment moved slowly through the living room and into the kitchen. “I feel a strong sense of hunger,” she said softly. “Hunger and thirst, rising from the depths of my being. Yessss! Yesssss! I feel it very strongly!”

“Should I get her something to eat?” whispered Frank Klipton to Merv Wersher.

“No, you idiot! She’s not really hungry! She’s sensing something in the air! Just shut up and listen!” Merv yelled quietly.

Miss Wonderment climbed the stairs with the sheriff, Frank, and Merv following closely.

“Yesssss! Oh, yessss!” she screeched. All three men were ready to leave.

When the psychic entered the bathroom she screamed, “There it is!! There it is!! There it is!!” She didn’t offer an explanation.

Miss Wonderment led the group back downstairs and she insisted they all sit at the kitchen table and hold hands. Frank and Merv refused, but the sheriff convinced them they should, as representatives of the town council.

“Oh! Ohh! Ohhhhhh!!” Miss Wonderment howled in a kind of melodic chant. “Ohhhh, yessssssss!! No!!! No!!! No!!!”

At that moment, Miss Wonderment broke wind so loud it would have made an elephant proud.

The three men did everything they could to keep from laughing, but it was useless. First, Merv spewed through tightly pursed lips. Then Frank hooted with laughter. And finally, even Sheriff Terkinberry couldn’t take it anymore. Then trying not to laugh only made them laugh harder. The three men were crying before it was over.

Finally, they settled down. Miss Wonderment stared at them.

“You know,” she said, “I really don’t have anything. Nothing. Sheriff, that will be eighty-seven dollars.”

“Frank, write her a check and let’s get out of here.”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 15

This is just what the quiet little tourist town of Maple Valley needed. First, Sylvia Meisner disappears without a trace. Folks here are still in stir about it. Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is almost at his wits end, not to mention he’s still healing from a bad fall in Sylvia’s basement. There have been rumblings of replacing the sheriff with someone who can solve the case. I don’t know what else could be done at this point. There is no evidence leading anywhere!

Next, there was the effort to delay the start of tourist season which almost caused an uprising. Then it was discovered Randy Herbahl forgot to invite Buck Wills and the Wagoneers to the Founders Day Celebration. Lucky for Randy, the group was still able to come. I’m quite sure he would have been run out of town if the Happy Harmonettes became the entertainment for the event because of his mistake.

Now it seems we have another emergency.

Maple Valley folks were shocked this morning to discover a huge flying ship had landed over Wittington. The circumstances are similar to Sylvia’s disappearance, and they are equally disturbing. No one heard the ship land. No one knows where it came from. Folks were not even sure what it was until someone climbed up on the Maple Valley River Trestle and took a picture of it. It does indeed appear to be a flying ship of some kind.

The Maple Valley Council is in an uproar because Mayor Thrashborn activated the Gulliver Emergency Response Team without their approval. This is just not done in Maple Valley. No other mayor in the history of Maple Valley has dared to activate the emergency response team without council approval. There will definitely be an investigation after the emergency has been resolved.

The response team, which consists of several residents of Maple Valley, made its way to the site where the craft landed. So far, the team has done nothing except stand and watch. There does not appear to be any danger at this time.

For now, the emergency response team will keep a close eye on the craft and report back to Mayor Thrashborn. The only comment made by anyone on the team is that the being inside the craft appears to be humanoid, and is rather good looking. “If he were the same size as other folks in Maple Valley, he might even be one of us” someone was heard to say.

My suspicion is a simple explanation will be discovered. Unlike the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner, this craft is tangible. It has shape and size. It appears to be somewhat familiar, even inviting. The very troubling thing at this point, is the craft is blocking the railroad lines. Freight and passengers will not be able to move until the craft is either moved, or leaves of its own accord, which is rather frightening. No contact has been made with the being in the craft. Although the being has a humanoid appearance, there is no indication of an attempt to communicate.

This episode could also have been titled, “This is What Happens When You Have One Too Many Hobbies.”

Model Railroad Progress on the Maple Valley Short Line

I am thrilled, excited, relieved, exhausted, and happy to report track on the entire Maple Valley Short Line Railroad is finished! Well, the track is all in place. Installing ballast is yet to come.

This model railroad is the largest layout I have ever built. I started with a blank canvas three years ago and today am very proud of my progress. I have never tried using latex molds for plaster rocks but I think they look terrific. I also have never painted backdrops before, but am very happy with the results. I am just getting started with ground cover, and I plan to use a ton of Woodlands Scenic weeds.

The long outside loop has been operational for several months. When I get tired of slow progress I run a train around the layout several times and I’m immediately enthused again. For a kid who loves trains, there is nothing like listening to the clicking sound of the wheels as they roll over the track, through turnouts, and over bridges.

This is also the first time I have ever tried making my own trees. A large layout, depending on the kinds of scenes desired, requires a lot of trees. I have several from previous layouts but not enough for this one. I followed Luke Towan’s tutorials with step-by-step instructions to build trees with floral wire. It’s very easy, but requires time and patience. I quickly discovered the clipped wire ends are very sharp! Luke Towan’s videos can be found on YouTube. There are many videos for just about everything necessary to build a beautiful layout.

There is still so much more to accomplish! I insulated several blocks throughout the layout, which means a lot of wiring. This is the first time I have not used a common rail, so I will use buss feeds throughout for DC power. I also plan to use Atlas Snap Relays for turnout signals. Several years ago I made my own two-light signals using plastic pre-fab, non-operating signals. I drilled out the red and green lenses and replaced them with real lights. I soldered resistors into the feed wire, through a two-way switch and wired them directly to my AC accessory power supply. They looked great, but were essentially non-operating because I didn’t use the snap relays. This time I will.

Since I used 1 1/2″ extruded foam for the base of the layout, I’ll have to drill through the foam and the plywood deck to provide wire access for feeds to the rails and turnouts. I had big plans to use under-the-table switch machines and linkage. The more I thought about it, the less bold I felt. I decided the resulting appearance on the layout wasn’t worth the potential headaches. I’m not purchasing all new fool-proof tortoise switch machines. I’m using my old Atlas machines that still work fine.

My next project is placing, rearranging, then rearranging again, then finally moving all the manufacturing and retail buildings I have. I plan to paint streets and lay gravel roads for rural areas and around factories. I love lighting the buildings so that will be another wiring project yet to come.

Writing “Scandal at Maple Valley” has delayed my progress on the actual railroad, but I don’t regret it! I’m fourteen episodes in and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. The most recent episode included lyrics to a song I made up just for the band, Buck Wills and the Wagoneers, called, “Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup.” I am thrilled to announce the song has now been set to music and recorded by one of my very talented daughters-in-law. I couldn’t believe it! It’s fantastic, if I do say so myself! So, one day, we will release the fictional song for real!

Here’s to many more years of progress on the Maple Valley Short Line Railroad. Happy model railroading everyone!

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 12

In case you haven’t been following the news in Maple Valley on a regular basis, I will fill you in. Sylvia Meisner disappeared nearly a month ago. Several people saw and spoke to her one day, she was gone the next. In fact, figuring out who the last person to speak to Sylvia actually was became a hot item of contention, sadly enough. Folks in Maple Valley always like to find a way into the spotlight. We are bothered by not being included.

In the photo, you can see what was left of her car. It was discovered under three tower bridge by two people who happened to be jogging by. They reported the car to Sheriff Pete Terkinberry who started an investigation and quickly confirmed it was Sylvia Meisner’s car. The sheriff demanded the car be left at the site to protect all the evidence, but he soon realized there wasn’t any. The wreck was finally taken to a garage where it was dismantled. Every piece of the car was examined, and nothing of any use to the investigation was found. The car was torched completely.

Who put the car under three tower bridge? No answers. Where was the car burned? It seems obvious the fire was not under the bridge because there are no burns on the timbers. And no one saw the fire even though the bridge is very close to Maple Valley. The car was wrecked and burned somewhere else. Was the driver Sylvia? If so, where is she? Did someone steal her car, wreck then burn it to cover evidence, then move the car to the bridge? That is a lot of difficult work when they could have left the car where it was destroyed. It makes no sense, unless there is some kind of message we are supposed to figure out. I don’t know. No one else does, either. At least, that’s the way it seems.

If you walk by three tower bridge today, this is what you’ll see. Everything seems normal again. Appearances are deceiving. I don’t think anything in Maple Valley will be normal again. How can someone everybody knows disappear without a trace? Neighbors are going back to normal things and I’m afraid they’re going to forget.

Sylvia is a nice person. She was, is, or was neighborly. That’s what I mean. Even I am getting caught saying things like, “She was neighborly.” I don’t know if she is a was, or still is. It’s tough. She’s gone, but maybe she’s just gone for a while. Who knows? She made, or is making her own mark on Maple Valley. She is a talented artist, or is at least someone others might call an artist. She painted signs for businesses. They’re very colorful and attractive. The problem to some people is that the signs are for businesses that don’t exist. She painted and placed them in spots around town where they would be seen. Why would someone do that?

An odd thing happened today. People gathered where the car was found under three tower bridge, and the Reverend Shermer from Maple Valley Church said a few words. He is the one in the photo nearest the bridge tower. He asked for a time of silence so people could think about Sylvia and ask for her safe return. Then folks met at Sylvia’s house and did the same thing. Not everyone goes to church in Maple Valley, and there were people at the two gatherings who don’t attend Maple Valley Church. I suppose that’s a good thing, unless they were just there to watch.

There is still talk around town about having a psychic come in to try to find Sylvia. How would the sheriff decide which psychic to use? Would he have psychic auditions? There are lots of psychics around like palm readers, but who knows whether they could really help? Would the town council have to pay the psychic? Does the person get paid even if they can’t find Sylvia and she doesn’t return? I don’t know what to think of that idea.

On the brighter side of Maple Valley, the Annual Founder’s Day Celebration is just a week away. This is an important event in Maple Valley and has been celebrated ever since the first settlers came to the valley. At least that’s what the oldest residents of Maple Valley say.

Like the Independence Day Celebration and the start of tourist season in Maple Valley, lots of exciting attractions will keep everyone busy for the entire day. The highlight of the day will be the mincemeat pie eating contest in the middle of town, followed by the annual west side vs east side badminton game. Everyone who lives on the west side of 2nd Street is Team West, everyone living on the east side is Team East.

Plenty of first-aid supplies will be on hand with those who have volunteered to treat everyone who is injured during the badminton game. Maple Valley folks are serious about this game because of the bragging rights it gives to the winners. Everyone who wants to play is on the team, and everyone is on the court at the same time. Last year there were twenty-seven players on Team West, thirty-two on Team East. Several injuries occurred, the most serious being a gash suffered by Homer Gawlmand when Minnie Surrifin hit him in the face with her racket. Other minor injuries like welts on the head from being whacked by a racket are to be expected when close to sixty people are playing badminton on one court, all trying to keep six birdies in the air at the same time. It’s a favorite in Maple Valley!

Tourist season is off to a great start. So far, there haven’t been any issues with the Old General. Six round trips per day is a lot to ask from a steam locomotive that was built in the 1800s, but the Old General’s performance has made everyone proud. I even sneak a ride in the engine as often as I can. One of these days I’m going to sit in the engineer’s chair and take the throttle. That will be an exciting day in Maple Valley.

How I Painted Backdrops for My Model Railroad – Part 2

I can’t stress enough that you can do this. Believe me, if I can paint backdrops and have them turn out half-way decent, you can do it too.

In Part 1, I included a list of the paint colors most often used for painting backdrops. All of the paint is acrylic, which cleans up easily with water. When you start painting your backdrops, you will start by using light colors on the highest parts of your canvas (whatever your canvas material may be. I chose to use foam board.)

Obviously, not being an artist, I’m not including mixtures that will give you exact shades of colors for your backdrops. With me, it was trial and error. If you are an artist I don’t think you’ll be spending time reading this anyway.

In the photos you can see the mountainous look beginning to take shape. I used a mixture of blue and grey to paint mountains furthest away, the lightest blue is sky. The light shade of green below the blue is the first layer indicating the next mountain range.

The beautiful thing about painting in layers is that you can really mess up the first layer, (like I did many times fighting with my shaking hands), and totally fix and change it with the next layer. You don’t want perfect tree tops anyway. To me, a great amount of variation is best, just like you would see in a real photo or in person. Let your brush go and find your way as you dab the paint on.

I allowed each layer to dry before starting the next layer. If you lay wet paint on wet paint, the colors will begin to mix on the canvas and on your brush. Maybe that will work for you, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

With each layer of tree-covered mountains, the colors get darker, indicating the mountains are closer. In the middle photo is the beginning of a river, indicated by the white curved triangle, giving the appearance of the river coming toward you.

I definitely made mistakes, but was able to manage them pretty well. In the photo on the left, there is a light area that doesn’t look great, but I can live with it. I also left some large grassy-appearing areas in the foreground that I will make smaller by placing 3D trees on the layout in front of them. Placing trees on the layout is my next big project.

The section of backdrop in the photo on the left is my first attempt. It’s not great, and I changed it a little by painting pine trees in that appear closer, and adding rocks at the bottom. This one will again be doctored by placing trees and foliage in front of it. This one is on the right end of the layout, so it isn’t in a prominent spot. I’m happy with the other backdrops, and to me, there is an illusion of distance to the horizon. Structures, trees, and ground cover will blend the contrast between the rocky areas and the green backdrops.

Shading is an important part of painting backdrops. In any scene, whether in a photograph or a painting of landscapes, there is a source of light so there are light and shaded areas. As you can see on the painted pines, the left side is lighter, indicating light coming from the left. It also appears to give the tree a rounded shape. I used a small paint brush to blot the pine trees into existence. The individual pine trees in the center photo were made with a fan brush. The important thing to remember about indicating a light source is that it must be consistent throughout your backdrop paintings. You don’t want some areas appearing as if the sun is on the left, and others on the right.

Including roads and rivers in a backdrop is another challenge because, somehow, you have to make them appear they are coming toward you. This is accomplished by the use of a magical vanishing point. Perspective in drawing or painting is how objects are made to appear closer or more distant and still remain in proper size relation with each other. A road, for example, seems to disappear at the vanishing point, (which is why it’s called a vanishing point!), and comes toward you where it is widest, closest to you. You are looking at a flat painting, yet you see a road or river coming toward you. Magic!

I used perspective to paint a small cabin and a shed on the backdrop section in the left and center photos. The shed is smaller than the cabin. Vanishing points and shades of color were used on both structures, so instead of looking like flat squares, they appear to be 3D structures. Painting a curved road is a little tricky. You’re still moving it toward the vanishing point but adding a curve while still creating the illusion of distance away from you.

I didn’t want the Maple Valley river to end at the backdrop, so I had to paint the river, allowing it to vanish somewhere in the distance. For a rank amateur, I think it turned out pretty well! The wooden bridge nearest the backdrop will be a road connecting industries on either side of the river.

When all the painting was finished, the foam boards curved as a result of the paint drying and constricting. Ughhh! I didn’t want to just glue them on the wall because I was afraid they would come loose. So, lacking any other solution, I held each foam board, painted/curved toward me, put pressure on the back side and pushed until the foam board buckled. I did that about every two inches the entire length of the board. Result? The foam board was straight and the paint did not crack, miraculously. I was at the point of either total disaster, or breakthrough results. Luckily, the end result was great. I used hot glue to fasten the foam boards to the cinder block wall, and they are secured tightly.

Finally, as I mentioned in Part 1, there are several YouTube videos demonstrating backdrop painting that were very helpful. I am including a list, and I encourage you to watch them if you are considering painting your own backdrops.

How To Paint Model Railroad Backdrops with Rob Spangler – YouTube

Model Railroad Adventures with Bill E103 – The Joys of Painting (A Backdrop 😄) by Request – YouTube

Painting a Model Railroad Backdrop – YouTube

Learn How to Paint Mountains – Acrylic Painting Lesson by JM Lisondra – YouTube

Paint Basic Rocks by Stream – YouTube (I watched this one over and over again!)

If you search “Painting Model Railroad Backdrops” you will find dozens of examples.

I wish you luck in your efforts to paint your own model railroad backdrops!

Scandal At Maple Valley Episode 11

Quintin O’Dillmotte’s alarm clock screams at 4:30 a.m. He wants to be the first one up, the first one on the streets, making sure everything is ready for the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. He is very proud to be the chairperson of the planning committee for this great event. Overcoming the crape paper disaster of last year has been no small feat. Plenty of people are very happy to remind him what a horrible idea it was to string crape paper over the entire town. No one remembers that until it started to rain, everyone thought the colorful decorations were beautiful. And no one recalls that not a single person said, “Hey, what if it rains? What will happen to the crape paper?”

This year Quintin has taken a step further to make sure everyone knows how crucial he is to the success of the celebration. He printed thousands of fliers with his name and portrait on the front. No one will miss “Quintin O’Dillmotte, Chair of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration Committee.” On the back is a list of all his accomplishments this year. At the bottom is a phone number where folks can call to tell Quintin what a great job he did and how they look forward to him continuing as the chairperson for next year’s Independence Day Celebration. I actually think Quintin is preparing to run for mayor in next year’s election.

I do have to admit, the Independence Day Celebration actually was an incredible success. Reverend Shermer’s message, “Finding Your Mirror-Self,” was exactly seventeen minutes long for which the weekly collection may have been a little more than usual. The attendees were out on the street for the parade in plenty of time. There was a slight problem with the loud speaker for master bird-caller Derwood Finster. They couldn’t keep the generator running on the trailer. Someone found a bullhorn for Finster to use so he held it up to his mouth while doing his bird calls. There was also a problem with the bullhorn and it sometimes let out this screeching siren sound that scared Finster half to death. It was impossible to hear the Happy Harmonettes as they sang in the back of a pickup truck, so no harm done there. The Walking Band played one song called, “March With Joy,” over and over. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

To everyone’s surprise, especially Quintin O’Dillmottee’s, WREK-TV showed up with their camera to film the parade. News anchor, Marty Kue, did a live interview with Quintin on the flatbed trailer Derwood Finster used. I’m quite sure O’Dillmotte has never been on TV before. He kept looking at the camera but he only talked when he was looking at Marty Kue. So Kue kept trying to coax Quintin to only look at him. It was pretty funny.

Mayor Thrashborn gave a rousing rendition of his annual speech, “We Are Maple Valley.” It was quite inspiring, and everyone clapped for two minutes when he was finished. It might have been better if WREK-TV had broadcasted the mayor’s speech instead of the interview with Quintin O’Dillmotte.

The parade ended at the corner of Maple and Railroad Streets as planned. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins were quickly sold out as they are every year. You might think she would make more than the previous year, but she always makes the same number. Maybe Marge doesn’t understand how business works.

The Old General made six trips to and from Maple Valley throughout the day, and each time it was filled to capacity. Visitors walked along the streets of Maple Valley, went into each of the shops, saw all the houses where residents live, and all wished they could live here too. In fact, I overheard a couple walking along together and one said, “I really love this little town, it’s so cozy! Wouldn’t it be fun to live here?!” I thought to myself, “Yup, just like I said. Maple Valley is the kind of place you want to stay if you’re ever here.”

Maybe the biggest winners of the day were Shorty and Hannah Cloverton, owners of “Ya’ll Sit Cafe.” They were busy all day long, and there were people waiting in line outside almost the entire time. Hannah’s hash, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast made with her amazing homemade bread were a favorite. Shorty said he must have poured a thousand cups of coffee. The Ya’ll Sit Cafe is the only restaurant in town so folks always plan to stop in when they visit Maple Valley.

I have always loved Maple Valley and I was reminded again today how special it is to live here. I know I take it for granted.

The one person who was absent today was probably only missed, if they happened to think about him, by the ones who live here. Sheriff Terkinberry is consumed by his desire to find Sylvia Meisner. All the work the detectives did on the car revealed nothing. They were right, however, that the car was purposely torched in several places, almost as if the one who did it was making sure no finger prints could every be found. The door handles were all severely damaged. The trunk latch was gone. The entire inside of the trunk was burned to the point of metal beginning to melt, which would require a very high temperature. It’s hard to explain. It seems the more the sheriff tries to discover answers, the more distant they become.

The happiness felt today by almost everyone visiting Maple Valley was different than what residents felt. No matter how excited we may be about events we experience each year, this one is different. Sylvia is still missing.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 9

Quintin O’Dillmotte has been working very hard to bring our town to complete readiness in anticipation of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. Erasing all potential reminders of the crape paper disaster of last year is more important to him than planning for this year. So far, talk about a repeat has been minimal.

Everyone is looking forward to the parade that begins at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. One of the main attractions every year is the Maple Valley Walking Band, directed by Mileta Kottser. She is the director because the idea of creating the band was hers. Maple Valley doesn’t have a school band, so Mileta thought she could start one. Mileta doesn’t actually play an instrument but everyone else does. The nine-member walking band is always looking for new members.

The Retired Equine Services Organization had to withdraw from the parade this year because two of the remaining three riders are ill. Of course, the Happy Harmonettes, the quartet of eighty-year-old women who have been trying to sing together since high school will be moved up in the procession because of the missing horses.

Probably the most anticipated feature in the parade this year is special guest, Derwood Finster, the master bird-caller. Quintin was able to acquire a trailer and a loud-speaker so everyone along the parade route will be able to hear Derwood Finster’s bird calls. The only challenge is the noise from the generator required to give power to the loud-speaker. It should be alright.

Bird calling is very popular in Maple Valley. Unfortunately, the Winged Callers Club lost its charter last year because of dues that were left unpaid to the Regional Association of Birdcall Clubs. The club met weekly at the old trader’s barn and after a brief business meeting, the members went out into the valley to call birds. Stan Munshim was the treasurer of the club, Emil Leverdom was the president. Both still enjoy calling birds, neither of them is very good at it.

The Independence Day Celebration landing on Sunday this year has required an additional level of responsibility for O’Dillmotte and his committee. The Reverend Shermer, pastor of Maple Valley Church, expects everyone to be in attendance at service before the parade. The service is usually at 11:15, but the Reverend is sure folks will not come to service after the parade, so he moved it to 8:15, just for this special day. Maple Valley Church is the only one in town so the ones who go to church go there. The Reverend expects Quintin to persuade everyone in Maple Valley to attend services before the parade.

The parade will begin at the end of Maple Street, move along to First Street, turn left and go to the end of the street and turn left again. Finally, turning left on Railroad Street the parade will continue until it reaches Maple Street again where it will end. Once the parade has moved past people sitting along the route, they will gather at the intersection of Maple and Railroad, to congratulate everyone and tell them what a fine job they did in the parade.

The end of the parade route is also where the community vendors gather to sell their homemade baked goods and handicrafts. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins with goat-milk cream frosting is a favorite to everyone. She spends two days before the parade making the muffins with her two granddaughters, Susan and Sandy.

This is an exciting time in Maple Valley. Today is the beginning of tourist season, which almost went unnoticed except for the crowds of people who came into town on The Old General this morning. All the stores were ready and waiting for happy visitors. Many people just walk along the streets of Maple Valley and don’t buy anything at all. They enjoy seeing the old buildings and walking on the wooden porches.

In spite of the scandal swirling in Maple Valley, Anabel Wizzleby was finally able to get enough choir members together to practice her original musical score. Anabel spent the entire off-season working on her song, “My Maple Valley, You’re Really Something.” Her greatest challenge was coming up with a word that even remotely rhymes with “something.” As it turns out, the crowd was so noisy after getting off the General, no one could hear the words of the song anyway. Anabel smiled proudly and the choir took a bow. Everyone knew the song was over and they clapped.

Sheriff Terkinberry has been absent from most of the proceedings so far. He is very busy with the detectives working diligently to find something, anything, on what is left of Sylvia Meisner’s car. They took the car to Fillton’s Service Station and put it in the garage. They are in the process of taking the car completely apart in the search for clues. So far, nothing.

The sheriff’s decision to move the car away from three tower bridge couldn’t have come too soon. People were beginning to stir up even more trouble, complaining that the sheriff was not doing his job. Mayor Alvin Thrashborn paid a visit to the sheriff’s office, which is Pete Terkinberry’s kitchen, to give him an update on the overall attitude in Maple Valley. The mayor wasn’t really trying to cause trouble for the sheriff, he was just letting him know that more trouble was brewing.

It’s good to see all of our neighbors out and about after a very long and cold winter. The flowers are beautiful, the trees are covered with leaves, the birds are singing, although not as a result of any bird callers in Maple Valley. Hopefully, there will soon be some good news in the search for Sylvia Meisner.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 8

There are eight very exciting days in the Maple Valley calendar year. It goes without saying that the residents of our small town each have our own favorite, but we celebrate them all as one big family.

The Hands-On Father’s Day Project is a happily anticipated event. Mother’s Day is celebrated with equal fanfare with the treat of the day being the bran-pistachio-raisin cupcakes every family bakes. Mandel Creighton Day is difficult to describe, but the excitement is amazing. Wooden Spatula Day begins with each Maple Valleyan going out on our front porch, waving our wooden spatula (which all residents receive when they settle in Maple Valley) and loudly singing “I’m a hap-hap-happy Maple Valleyan, Maple Valleyan, Maple Valleyan, I’m a hap-hap-happy Maple Valleyan, and here I’m gonna stay!” There are seven verses but we only sing four on Wooden Spatula Day.

Derby Dan Day is a commemoration of the life and times of Derby Dan Herkelour. Dan built the now famous Maple Valley water tower.

Of course the Maple Valley Independence and Founder’s Day Celebrations are almost here, but the happiest of all official celebrations is the first day of tourist season.

A very special day enjoyed by everyone but not on the official calendar, is the day The Old General steams into town for the first time. The minute we hear the whistle, we all run to the middle of town to catch sight of The General as it chugs toward town, throwing fluffy clouds of smoke and steam high into the air.

No matter what’s happening in Maple Valley, the sound of The General’s whistle seems to say everything is going to be alright.

The General spends the off-season in Watkinsburg in an engine house for maintenance. Several people faithfully work to restore the locomotive to full operation every year. It’s extremely important for the work to be done carefully. Last year, somehow, when the smoke stack funnel was replaced on the engine, it wasn’t fastened. As the engine rolled into Maple Valley, the funnel fell from the top of the engine and hit the fence behind Ya’ll Sit Cafe, knocking it down. Shorty Cloverton was using a large charcoal grill behind the fence that tipped over and the fence caught fire. Luckily, when the fire crew arrived the fire was easily brought under control, but the fence and grill were destroyed. The engine maintenance crew actually took what was left of the grill back to the engine house to use as a reminder.

Speaking of Ya’ll Sit Cafe, Ira Thibbers, the man who was hit by glass when Shorty slammed the front door of the restaurant after arguing with Hannah about who waited on Sylvia last, has decided not to sue Shorty. He threatened to take the restaurant from the Clovertons in court. He found out it was a little more difficult than he thought. When Ira met with Attorney Wilken Silvers, he asked if Ira had hospital records from the emergency room.

“I didn’t go to the emergency room,” Ira said.

“I thought you were injured by the flying glass,” Silvers said.

“I was.

“If you were injured, why didn’t you go to the emergency room?”

“I just went home and Erlana put a band-aid on my cheek,” Ira said.

“When you say you were injured, what exactly do you mean?” the attorney asked.

“Well, I was sitting in the restaurant eating. Shorty and Hannah started arguing in the kitchen. They kept yelling until Shorty left and slammed the door. The glass in the door shattered and a piece of the glass hit me on my cheek. It started bleeding, and I told Shorty I was going to sue him,” Ira said.

“Was your only injury on your cheek?”

“Yes.”

The attorney told Ira he didn’t have a case and suggested he let it go and save his money. Shorty apologized to Ira, they shook hands and that was the end of it.

Law suits are not something that usually happen in Maple Valley. People threaten to sue, quite often as a matter of fact. When people live in a small community and spend a lot of time together, sometimes things happen and tempers get riled, and they say things they don’t really mean. Then it becomes a matter of pride when someone says they’re going to sue, they almost have to follow through with it just because they said they would. They wouldn’t want the other person to know they don’t mean it right from the start. Law suits are not something people in Maple Valley joke about. The good thing about it is they don’t usually last very long.

With the excitement of The General coming back to town, it was almost possible for us to forget a mystery still hangs over Maple Valley. The investigation into the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner is moving slowly. Sheriff Terkinberry asked detectives from Tandleville to join him at the burned car to search it again this morning. He hopes that some piece of evidence, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will help in some way.

They spent hours combing over the wreck and found exactly nothing. The fire damage was complete. It’s almost as if every inch of the car was torched, not just burned as a fire would normally search for something to eat. The sheriff decided it’s time to move the car to a proper place to be taken apart. He’s beyond desperate to find answers.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 7

The folks in Maple Valley are working in preparation for the start of tourist season one week from Friday. The last few repairs on the railroad line are finished and inspections led to full certification for passengers on the General. Officials from the National Railroad Safety Association left town this morning and everyone is breathing a little easier.

The petition to postpone the start of tourist season circulated by Beulah Filden fell flat. Beulah bit off more than she could chew. She was only able to secure twenty-one signatures, not a majority of the fine citizens of Maple Valley. She was headed off at the pass by Stew Hanmin, the chair of the town council. When he heard about the petition, he called the other members of the council who each called the remaining citizens who hadn’t already signed the petition. No more problem.

Beulah has a reputation as a trouble-maker who opposes just about everything. Two years ago she decided the annual town picnic had served its purpose and it was time to stop it. She started a rumor the state health department was coming in on the day of the picnic to shut it down. A few people helped stir things up and the picnic was almost cancelled. When Mayor Thrashborn called the state and discovered there were no concerns, he was furious. He called Mrs. Filden into his office for a meeting with the sheriff and a couple town council members. He also had the town’s attorney, Hardin Sievers, there just for effect. It worked. Beulah left the meeting looking as if she had been taken to the woodshed, which she was.

The woodshed experience didn’t last long with Beulah. She left the meeting and found her friend, Lulane Hilvertosh, and told her everything. Lulane and Beulah love being in the middle of things. Since Lulane’s meeting with the state police about Sylvia Meisner’s burned car didn’t go anywhere, she is now looking for something new to fill her time.

Plans for the Maple Valley Founders’ Day Celebration are well under way. One minor, or maybe major hiccup concerns the main entertainment group, “Buck Wills & The Wagoneers,” the famous country stars. Randy Herbdahl, the chairman of the entertainment committee had the responsibility of contacting and scheduling the band, which he thought he did. Last week, his wife, Nora, found the letter he thought he mailed six months ago inviting Buck Wills & The Wagoneers to Maple Valley for the Founders’ Day Celebration. Tickets have already been sold for $20.00 each, and the concert was sold out within three weeks. If it turns out the Buck Wills group can’t come, the Happy Harmonettes will have to fill in. Randy Herbdahl is scrambling to make sure Buck Wills & The Wagoneers come to Maple Valley. He’ll have a hard time explaining what happened if they don’t. He sure doesn’t want the problem to be discovered by the town gossips.

As if an additional problem was needed by the folks of Maple Valley, a box car in the morning freight train from Hogantown headed to Watkinsburg derailed in the tunnel near three tower bridge. Officials from Santa Fe Railroad arrived within two hours and a crane was brought in to put the car back on the tracks. It is unknown at this time whether the track was damaged.

The investigation into the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner continues. Sheriff Terkinberry demanded the burned car remain where it is. There were several people who complained about it, supposedly for concerns of visitors to Maple Valley seeing the car. The sheriff continues to insist the car stays put.

News of Sylvia Meisner’s disappearance has finally gone beyond Maple Valley. Even though the story promotion by Lulane Hilvertosh with WREK-TV didn’t go anywhere, strangers showing up in Maple Valley are asking questions. Two men in suits were walking through town and talked to a couple of people. Someone called Sheriff Terkinberry and he caught up with them. It turns out the two men were agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Wow. FBI agents in Maple Valley! The sheriff asked them why they hadn’t contacted him before talking to citizens of Maple Valley. They explained that because Maple Valley is a nationally recognized tourist destination the jurisdiction over the town reaches the federal level. The sheriff told them it was baloney and warned the two agents not to return to Maple Valley without contacting him first. Pete Terkinberry didn’t actually know whether what the agents told him was true or not. He just didn’t like the idea of anyone digging into his missing persons case without him knowing about it.

It’s quite odd that the celebration planners of Maple Valley did not separate the beginning of tourist season from the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration by more than two days. Seven to ten days would have been much better. Quintin O’Dillmotte continues dropping hints to remind everyone just how great a job he is doing in preparation for the celebration. Virginia Nodderway asked Quintin if the celebration was going to include crape paper. She asked loud enough for plenty of others to hear and they laughed, giving Virginia exactly what she wanted.

Some work is being done on Sylvia Meisner’s house. The roof needs repair and the deck boards are being fastened securely again. With Sylvia missing and having no solid clues of her whereabouts, neighbors are working together with hopes that doing some helpful work for Sylvia will also help bring her home.

Maple Valley is a fascinating place. Perhaps every good and bad thing one might find in any other small town can be found here. Hopefully, more good than bad.