Painting Locomotives and Rolling stock

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by diburning, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. diburning

    diburning Member

    I was thinking about buying locomotives and repainting them in roads that don't come manufactured. Does anyone know how to paint locomotives? I want to know how to do it and what kind of paints to use and how much it can potentially cost me without the price of the locomotive as that can be variable.
  2. Dave1905

    Dave1905 Member

    If you are starting with a painted shell, then you will need to strip the factory paint. Scalecoat makes a hobby paint stripper, don't use the type of paint stripper you would use on woodwork or furniture, it will eat plastic. People also use brake fluid and alcohol to remove paint.

    Normally modelers use Floquil, Pollyscale, Accupaint or Scalecoat to paint models. To do a good job you will need an airbrush, which may mean a compressor or air tank. If you have a gas station nearby you can get a air tank made for refilling tires and charge it up at the gas station then use it to power the airbrush.

    To letter the engines, you will have to apply decals or dry transfers. Microscale and Champ are two of the biggest decal companies.

    Not counting the air brush ($25-100), the air compressor or tank ($30-150), the miscellaneous fittings ($10-50) that are one time, last you a "lifetime" costs, it will cost $5 a bottle for model paint and $4-6 a set for decals, about $10 a model to paint it. Figure on about $100 for a compressor and airbrush, but they will last decades. I have had mine for nearly 20 years and have painted literally hundreds of cars and buildings.

    Dave H.
  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Back before the days of plastic locomotives in a plethora of paint schemes, it was normal for an MR to paint his locomotives (or have them painted, if he didn't feel up to the task). For those who built from metal kits or totally from scratch, painting was an expected part of the experience.

    I hand painted a red cab roof on one of my plastic steamers as my first experiment.

    Normally, the shell is stripped of existing paint and decals first. This reduces paint build-up that would obscure fine details. Kato shell use a much more sensitive plastic than most, so be careful what stripper you use.

    An airbrush is the preferred way to paint a model. It is easier to get a very fine thin coat with an airbrush than with a paint brush. But I'm getting ahead of myself. After stripping, the model needs to be washed and dried to clean off any residues and oils. Only handle with gloves after this point in the process. Primer is highly recommended to make the color top coats look right. Decide what order you are going to paint the various colors/areas in and mask accordingly. Then you can paint. A glossy surface is needed for decal application. After decaling, Dull-Cote is used to make the paint flat again.

    That's the basics. Costs vary widely depending on paint used (usually way less than $10 per model), decals needed, and whether you count the cost of tools (like the airbrush and compressor).

    Nowadays, I figure adding $20 (usually comes out less) for trucks, couplers, extra details, paint, and decals for a craftsman model kit. Your mileage may vary. On a steam locomotive rebuild/kitbash, include remotoring and regearing, DCC and sound, and lots of extra/new details, the total can get up over $200 for everything used. But there's no other way to get an accurate model of a specific prototype. On the other hand, I've customized cheap Tyco steam locomotives for less than $50.

    yours in having fun
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Are you talking about steam locomotives or diesels? Generally, it's easier to paint ones that are undecorated, as, in most cases, factory-painted units should be stripped before repainting.
    If you're planning on painting units of only one or two roads, the your paint and lettering costs will be less than if you want to do many random roadnames.
    A decent quality airbrush is a good investment if you're planning on doing more than a few locos, and you'll need a suitable compressor, too. You should also consider the cost of a spray booth and a good-quality two-stage respirator. Depending on your experience, you may want to start on something less ambitious (and cheaper) than locos, too.
    If you want to add road-specific details to the locos before painting, your costs will go up accordingly. Are you looking at this as a commercial venture or merely as a hobby?

  5. diburning

    diburning Member

    As a hobby. I was thinking of soaking the shell of an athearn GP9 in rubbing alcohol to remove the paint, then use a paintbrush to paint on the colors for MBTA. I was thinking about modeling the switcher locomotives that MBTA uses.

    Can Kato shells be soaked in rubbing alcohol too? I was thinking about repainting a Kato F40PH to MBTA colors. (I know walthers makes them, but I wanted something thats more reliable)

    An airbrush seems to be quite a hassle for me. I think I'll try buying some railroad paint and painting some pieces of plastic to practice. Once I can get the coating right, I'll try it on a locomotive.

    How do the microscale decals work? How are they applied? I will probably buy a sheet of them when I repaint an engine. (they make MBTA decals)

    Is it possible to print my own decals? Can decals be applied to "glass" (the plastic part of models that are made to look like glass)? I have a Boeing LRV that I want to make rollsigns for.

    Also, are railings painted the same way?
  6. Dave1905

    Dave1905 Member

    You can brush paint the shells, just use a very high quality brush to minimize brush marks. If the paint is not a high gloss, then spray it with a can of gloss coat or buy some Future acrylic floor polish and paint a coat of that over the paint to make it glossy and smooth. The decals are "waterslide" decals, you cut them out of the sheet, dip them in water and when the glue disolves, slide them off the paper backing onto the model. You can use a setting solution (Solvaset or Microsol) to make the decal "snuggle" down in crevices and around bumps. After the decals dry really well, give the model a coat of flat finish (Dullcoat) to seal the decals and remove the high gloss.

    Dave H.
  7. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    If you don't have a airbrush(like me), you can try spray painting from a can. Scale Coat does have a few railroad colors in the spray cans. I have had good results with Krylon Fusion spray paints(especially white and yellow), though they don't offer any railroad colors, some are close.
    Its always good to primer your project(especially with white and yellow). Spray a couple of light coats, letting fully dry between coats,instead of one heavy coat.
    I've attatched a crude diagram on the method that I use with good results.
    I've also attatched a pic of two locos that were painted completely with spray can paints, decaled with Micro-Scale decals. The SD70, was a factory paint(CSX Dark Future), that I painted without stripping. The BNSF SD70 was too cool a paint job to repaint, so its on loan to my road.

    Attached Files:

  8. diburning

    diburning Member

    Do I have to use a model railroad paint? Can I get a can of spraypaint at home depot and use that instead?

    Also, should I cover the spots that I need to cover with masking tape?

    And if th railings should be the same color as the body, should I just leave the railings on and spraypaint it along with the body?
  9. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Though Scale-Coat spray paint is designed specifically for model railroaders, You can get spray paint from Home Depot(or your other favorite store(Wal-Mart, Target, Ace), and the large cans are econimical, especially when doing "unit" or a lot of rolling stock the same color but railroad colors are limited, though you may find something passable. Also try a hobby store, and it doesen't have to be one with trains. Testors, Pactra and others will work, and have more colors to choose from and may have closer railroad colors. The green on the bay window caboose in my picture is actually Testors Forest Green and is a military color.

    You should paint handrails, and other small details that will be applied later seperate from the main portion of your project. This will prevent "Shadowing". Smaller details should be hand painted. If its going to be the same color as that main part of your project, you can spray a little into the spray can's cap. This is also good for touch-ups.

    You know...I think I have an article for the next E-Mag.
  10. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    I must note, if you use cans from Home depot, or Wal*mart, ect, some of the brands spray really heavy, so you may need to stand farther back.

    I bought $.96 cent black cans from HD for a picture frame project, and I'd never aim them at a train, thick coats was the name of the game there, no matter how I tried, I went on thicker then you'd want for a model.

    However, I LOVE Wal*Mart's cheap primer, and white.
  11. diburning

    diburning Member

    Ok, If I do decide to buy from HD or Target (no Walmarts near me) I'll try spraying a piece of carboard first to see how thick it is.

    I've never actually tried totake the railings off a locomotive before though. Are they removable? The ones I am buying will have the railings preassembled.
  12. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Its best to use a piece of scrap plastic, or an old beat up rolling stock to practice on.

    If you buy an undecorated loco, they will ,or should come off easier. Even the pre-painted ones are being shipped with handrails and grab irons seperate, which should even make painting over a factory paint easier.
  13. diburning

    diburning Member

    Yes, but not the Athearn GP9s. I KNOW that those come with the handrails already assembled.

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