This section deals with weathering the
track.... If you have some questions about the methods used here,
please drop a mail to the author Kevin
Brady, or look in the FAQ which will come soon.....
Well, our first lesson in weathering is
track, K-track that is. But just because I'll be talking K-track doesn't
mean you can't apply these techniques to the new C, the good old M, or
other track from other manufacturers.
What we are trying to do is to make our rails look like the prototype.
So take a walk on a nice sunny day near some real railway tracks. Look
at the color of the rails, the ties and the ballast. Mainline, branch
line, an old abandoned siding. Take a few notes and some film in the
camera won't hurt! It becomes clear that model track is nowhere near
realistic in appearance. Even on a well maintained mainline, colors
K-track is code 100, which means it is
oversized to the prototype, so by weathering it (i.e. painting) we can
make it look smaller. It's simple fashion tip really, dark colors make
you... I mean the rails look smaller.
Tools & materials
Here's a list or tools and materials we'll need to weather our track.
A dark rust colored paint. I use Floquil's roof brown for the
rails. Real rail (steel) rusts to a dark brown. Also find a light grey (I
use Floquil's grime) and an earth color (this should be an earth color
you use for your scenery). Flat or matte finish, needed when you hand
paint your rails.
- Magic masker
This is an uncured latex
product that you use to 'mask' the third rail, it is available from e.
Micro-Mark - The Small
Tool Specialists and Walthers Model Railroad Mall
This is the best tool one can use for not only track, but
structures and many other uses around the layout. It's also the fastest
weather a whole lotta track!
- Paint brushes
Your going to need two types in this school, very good ones and some cheap
ones. The good ones for detailing
the track if you choose to dry brush or hand painting the rails. A few
ones for applying the magic masker (it's tough to clean off the brush)
- Extra "scrap" K-Track
A few short never to be used sections will be needed to connect to the
sections to be painted and mask not only the rail joiners but also the
tabs that serve as the 3rd rail connectors when airbrushing. It would
when hand brushing too.
- Cleaning tools
This includes thinner (for your paint
your using) Q-tips (or cotton ear cleaners, the name depends on where
you live :-)), to clean the rail heads after painting, and a cleaning block to
make sure the rails are clean.
Preparation of track
First thing we need
to do is prepare the track for painting. Start applying the 'Magic masker' to the top of the 3rd rail
studs. Use a small
cheap brush to cover the center rail of all the track to be painted. It will
take about 15 minutes to dry. With the first piece of track to be painted
connect your "scrap" track (I use odd sections of left over flex track)
Painting the track
Fire up the
airbrush with your rail paint, test and begin by painting from the sides, covering completely. Disconnect the
scrap rail and begin on the
piece. When the track is all painted, come back to the first piece and
little light grey (I use Floquil's grime) to your rail color. The ratio
important. Now from the top, looking down on the track, spray this color
side hitting a few ties here and there, doing all the track. Come back
again, now add an earth color to rail paint and again from the top hit
ties with it. When done clean your airbrush! This will give the paint
'tack' (start drying). Solvent based paint takes about 12 hour, but the
acrylics are much faster (10 minutes).
Now take some Q-tips of a rag damp with solvent for your paint and clean
rail head of paint. Get most of it off, the next day you can take a
block and really clean your rails.
My next step after the paint is very dry is to
dry-brush the ties with earth colored paint to bring those nice details, like
the wood grain and tie plates. How do you dry-brush ? Well, it's not as
one might imagine and is a technique we are going to use on every model
weather. Practice on some of that scrap track you used to mask the ends
your track. Take a brush and dip just the tips into the paint. Now on
newspaper wipe off most of the paint until only a trace of paint
is dry, hence the term "dry-brush". Use a light touch and just
hit the top most part of the
ties and tie plates, leaving only a hint of paint. Don't overdo it,
results. See how this brings out the detail? Now try it on your 'real'
track, don't do every tie, you're going to need time to actually build a
If you are going to
use Merkur road bed you can now remove the 'Magic masker', simply rub your
along the studs and it peels off. If you are going to use the loose
method, leave it on until after you have ballast. That way you only have
the rail heads.
Why did we do this?
Before we go on, let us review why we
did what we did. Remember your walk along
the tracks? You noticed the color of the rail (a brown rust color), you
took note of the ties and how some where dark, some light (the grey and
color) .You also were able to take notice of the way the sun hit the
grain and tie plates (dry-brushing, which could be called brushing on sunlight). This
painting makes our model track look like the prototype
brings out the detail to make them models in their own right.
Now wait a second, I
don't own an airbrush!!!
Can I still weather my track? Sure you can, it's
going to take a bit longer. Still use the 'Magic masker' on the center
and at least put some old rail joiners on the ends so clean up will be
easier. Use a good paint brush that is just
about the size of the rails (#1). Paint the rails with your rail color.
Getting some on the tie
and ties? Don't worry about that, tie plates would be the same color as
rails and gravity, rain would bring some rust on the ties too. When dry
dry-brushing with the light grey and earth on some of the ties.
amiss? Those ties you didn't dry-brush are a bit too shiny. Let's take
that. Get some flat (matte) finish in a spray can and coat those
unrealistic shiny ties! How is it looking now ? Good ?
Just a couple of
tips with hand painting.
You must be very careful when
doing turnouts not to get too much paint on the movable parts. Paint
especially water-based types are almost like glues and will stick
your points (turnouts). This not a problem with airbrushing as the paint
is almost dry when
it hits the track. Use care and move your switches right after you paint
so they don't stick! Also if you know where some track will go you can
get away with only painting one side.
Want to go a step
further with detailing your rails?
Here's a few tips I've come across: Whether you
use Merkur roadbed or loose ballast, you can add a thin black wash(1
paint to 6-10 parts thinner) and run this mixture down the middle of the
tracks. This would show the effects of grease and grime left by locos,
long grades where heavy trains struggle to climb, stations, etc. Thin
earth color paint along the outside of the rails, to show the dirt
by passing trains and settles back down.
Don't forget to also match your signal lanterns
and turnout motor covers to match your rails. Once you've weathered your
and have seen it's effects on your layout, you'll wonder how you ever
Good luck and