Painting the rails

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Bywaterrailroad, Mar 4, 2002.

  1. Hi all,

    I know that this has most likely been discussed already, but being new at this I have gotten stuck with fear at painting my rails. The rails have been down and powered for almost 6 months and I am feeling good about the performance electically. Now the next big step is to paint them. I have painted one 3' section by hand with a brush in various tones of rust using craft paint. Looks good and works good however very labor intense and it was a straight section of rail that was painted prior to installation. What are some of the methods of painting the rails after they are attached and powered into the layout. I could use a good push to get past my fear that the trains will not run once i paint the rails. I have read many articles on the subject but I am still stalled. Any advise or techniques on this subject will be appreicated. I sure do admire the rails on shamus's layout. I enjoy the pics that you post..

  2. RI541

    RI541 Member


    I assume that when you say they are already powdered that you mean ballasted. But this shouldn't be to much of a problem.

    The paint brush technic will surely make you want to give up this hobbie real quick.The ideal tool is an airbrush,You could mask off the ties but thats kinda laborous I just use a piece of thin cardboard and put it up against the bottom of the rail and spray the edge of the rail,since your going to get paint on the top of the rail anyways ,I would only do a couple of feet at a time doing both rails, then take a rag and wipe the top of the rails, then after the paint has thoughly dried I take a bright boy and go over the top of the rails to clean up any left over residue.

    The only part of the rails that have to be completly free of paint is the top.I now paint mine before I lay it.

    hopefully some one else has an easier way to do this but this is how I did mine and it seemed to work out ok.My trains run fine over the painted rails.

  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    Nick - Whatever method you choose, just remember that it makes no sense to weather the sides of the rails that aren't visible. Unless you have a island-type layout, this means that you don't need to worry about the sides facing away from you!
  4. Catt

    Catt Guest

    I'm in total agreement billk.I brush paint mine once they are down exactly where I want them and before ballasting.But I only paint the side that you can see.:D Yeah,I know it's labor intencive but hey it works.Actually to me it's rather relaxing work.I just set there on my stool with my small brush and bottle of Poly-Scale and brush away.Gives you a chance to see the difference your making while your making it.:D :D :D
  5. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hi Nick!
    I get one of those spray cans of Floquil Roof Brown, & spray everything, rails, & ties. (I do cover the points, & throw bars of turnouts with masking tape)
    After this dries, I goback with some Polly Scale Grimey Black, or Oily Black, & touch up any spots I missed with the spray paint. This way I also get a representation of greasy, oily spots on the track.
    Next, I dry-brush the ties with Polly Scale Reefer White, to give them a kind of bleached look.
    When all this is done, I go over, & over(& over) the tops of the rails with a "brite boy" abrasive block, till they're clean & shiney.
    "You have nothing to fear but fear itself!" ;)
  6. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    weathering rails


    I weather my rails and sleepers after I have laid the track, but definitely before ballasting. I use el-cheapo water based artist paint. $5 for a 250ml tub. I use the natural earth colours (burnt umber and red oxide). Mix the burnt umber and red oxide to make a good rusty colour for the rails.
    Just slop the burnt umber all over the sleepers using a 25mm brush. No need to be delicate. Remember your ballast will cover all the slop marks. Then use a finer brush and run this along both sides of the rails, using the "rust" mix. (I have an island layout) It's not that time consuming, as you dont have to be that careful and accurate. Then rub the tops of the rails with wet/dry paper to bring the rail back to shiny and good for connectivity. Be vary careful around your turnouts though. Especially where the the turnout rail connects with the fixed outer rails, and getting paint in the switching/slide mechanism.

    Attached Files:

  7. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Most examples and the prototype I use for track is wooden sleeper, and the sleepers are never resting on the ballast, but are buried in it. I note with a lot of pics you guys post, that your sleepers are above the ballast. Australian track, the sleepers are typically buried in the ballast.

    Attached Files:

  8. RI541

    RI541 Member


    Those are some real nice pictures,What scale do you do?
  9. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Track Prototype

    Thanks Shane.:) Garahbara is HO.

    This is a pic of the track protype I try to create on Garahbara. It is at a place called Roto (mid west NSW) on the main standard gauge line from Sydney to Perth.

    Attached Files:

  10. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    When using flex track I airbrush the ties and rail with Floquil Polly S roof brown. I then ballast and when dry, finish by hand painting with a small brush rust tones on the web of the rails. At the same time, the brush hits the tops of the "spikes" molded on the ties. I also thin the rust colors somewhat and use it to represent the rust color you will often see in the ballast directly beneath and nearby the rails. A little tedius, yes, but the painting can be done in short stretches. It is the ballasting part I really hate.

  11. Thanks all for the helpful how to's. Armed with these tips I think I will make another attempt at rail painting. I will use the spray method masking out the points on the turnouts. One additional question, I have Atlas #6 manual turnouts used directly out of the package with no alterations. Is there an electrical connections where the points are touching the stock rail? That is to say do I need to keep the side of the stock rails clean of paint for an electrial contact with the point rails when thrown? I have no ballast on the track yet so that will help with painting. Again thanks for all the valuable rail painting instuructions.


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