I’ve seen lots of photos of pine trees on model railroads, and many layouts in-person that feature them. But I’ve never seen this before—pine trees killed by the mountain pine beetle.
The scene is found on the Moose Jaw, SK Thunder Creek Model Railroad club layout. It shows, in model form, what is happening in real life across the western U.S. and Canada.
The beetle is a native insect that attacks pines in western North American forests. As of 2013, it had devastated forests in 19 western states and B.C. and Alberta in Canada.
Outbreaks have occurred since the 1930s-40s. But the current epidemic in western Canada goes back to the 1990s. In B.C., the insect has killed about 50% of the total volume of commercial lodgepole pine.
Normally, the beetle plays an important role in the life of a forest, attacking old or weakened trees, and speeding development of a younger forest.
But hot, dry summers and mild winters throughout the region during the last few years, along with many years of wildfire suppression—which has led to an abundance of mature trees—has seen increased destruction.
For those modelling the more modern era (1990s to present) in the western U.S. and Canada, it would seem necessary to have a few of these dead trees in the forest—unless, like those who model that era but who hate graffiti, they want to keep their forests, like their rolling stock, clean.
Learn more about the mountain pine beetle on the Natural Resources Canada website.