To Paint or Not To Paint?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by kf4jqd, Oct 17, 2006.


Should I paint or should I not to paint the rails?

Poll closed Nov 15, 2006.
  1. Yes to paint

    0 vote(s)
  2. No not to paint

    0 vote(s)
  1. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    If you paint the rails before laying them, you can run into a few issues:

    - if it is flex track, flexing it will cause one rail to slide, exposing relatively shiny dots of rail that was previously masked by the spikes

    - areas for solder joints will have to be cleaned of paint, and then repainted after

    I believe that rail like MicroEngineering's weathered rail avoids this problem, but it is more expensive.

  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I agree with Andrew, I would wait until the rails have been laid, wired and tested before I'd paint the tracks. I would also weather the ties at this point too. One thing that made no sense, but I was reading a recent aticle, I think in MR magazine, where they ballasted first then weathered the ties afterwards. That has to be tricky, avoiding the mess and keeping the paint off the ballast. If anyone can justify doing it that way, I'd like to hear their reasoning.:wave:
  3. ejen34

    ejen34 Member

    I couldn't, I laid my ballast first, then painted a month later, I am still touching up and going over my ballast now trying to cover up the Engine Black and Rail Brown paint shades I used. Looks OK if that was the ballast shades I used, however it wasn't :(
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    The ballast and then weather approach plays into the "melding" of the colours and general track gunk, as described by doctorwayne, above. In yard areas, it is often hard to distinguish between rail, ties, spikes, and ballast based on colour alone. It all seems to become a brownish-black sandy goopy mess after a while.

    That's the only advantage I can see to weathering/painting after...

  5. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Hmmmm.... I was going to paint the track off the layout. I did paint my HO track on the layout. At times, it was hard. But this layout has easy access too. :thumb: Here's another question. Should I add the ballast before or after the rails are painted. I am going to stop at the Hobby Lobby check on the paint Andrew mentioned. I have a 40% coupon to save some money.:thumb: :D


    My Sunrise Signals are on the way!:thumb:
  6. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, I agree, I've seen pictures of tracks where you can't really tell if there are any ties there at all. But, I would still weather the ties first, put the ballast down and then weather them all after that just to get some slight varations in color. That's just me though, I've not done my yard areas yet, so I'm just supposing what I'll do when I get to that point.
  7. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I painted mine too in Nscale using a 00 brush. Takes a while and plan on three coats of paint. I found taking a picture of the track using a flash exposes all the places you missed putting paint on. Choose any color you like and try it out. It takes a while since you'll be trying to be somewhat careful and the work is small. Get out your brightest light to see the rails, and put the paint in a wide mouth container to reduce your chances of spilling the small mouthed container with the brush. (Yeah...been there done that.) Check out my rails in the gallery pictures...
  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    It seems to me that the reason people don't like doing this task is that they're using the wrong tools and are trying to be too neat. You could airbrush if you wanted to, but unless your layout can be taken outdoors, you shouldn't be using solvent-based paints. That leaves water-based acrylics; not the most enjoyable stuff to spray and in my opinion, not as durable when thinned, nor do they offer coverage as opaque. On top of that, more work to clean the airbrush, and you'll have not only the problem of overspray, but also all of the air-borne dried paint will eventually settle on the rest of the layout. Turnouts should be even more of a treat.:rolleyes:
    If you're using a brush, pick one at least 1/4" wide, regardless of your modelling scale, with bristles that have some stiffness to them and that are not too long. Check out what's available at an art supply store, as most hobbyshop brushes are meant for finer painting. You need a brush that will hold a decent amount of paint, and that will allow you to work the paint in around the moulded spike heads and the various contours of the rail itself. I use PollyScale paints for this, as they cover well, dry to-the-touch quickly, and are very durable once fully cured. I also recommend that you paint before ballasting.
    I usually paint the turnouts first, as they require a bit more care: you don't want to seize-up the movement of the points with excess paint, nor do you want to block the electrical continuity, especially if you rely solely on the points for current distribution. Other than that, slop it on. As I mentioned, track without turnouts is a snap: try to keep the majority of the paint on the rails, even if it gets on the top, but don't sweat it if you get it on the ties. Paint with a back-and-forth motion, and let the brush do the work. The stiffer bristles will carry the paint around the spike heads, and the larger brush will ensure an adequate supply of paint, so you're not having to constantly dip back into the bottle. The first turnout might take 10 minutes to do, but you'll get faster as you go. Plain track shouldn't take more than a minute or so, for every 3' to 5'. When you've covered 15' or so, use a dry rag over your fingertip to wipe the excess paint from the top of the rail. A good thing to remember when painting turnouts is that the area around the points (the part that moves) is usually quite greasy on the prototype. If you paint the roadbed under this area with some shade of black, then when you ballast, use cinders instead of gravel, you can get away with using less ballasting material and glue, and thereby have less chance of gumming up the moving parts.
    Most of you have seen photos of my layout, so you have a rough idea of how much track is involved. I used less than three bottles of PollyScale paint to do the entire layout, and the time involved was an hour here and there: when it became tedious, I quit for the day. This is a good task to perform when you want to unwind after work, as it's both easy and mindless, plus you get almost instant results.:thumb:

  9. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    I agree with Wayne's general indications, except I found I get better "coverage" if I paint from the flange of the rail upwards. This creates a "glop" of paint at the bottom of the rail head which then oozes down to completely cover the joint of the web with the flange, which is very hard to get good coverage on (I'm using acrylics) if you paint along the rail. After gloping (this is kinda' like Sahygetz's "slathering") the rails, I work the ties (same paint color) by stipling the paint (poking it instead of brushing). This gives a nice random look to the ties, which once dry, look real nice...
    Please note: I got my new-found "expertise" after reading Shaygetz's earlier post. Thanks Shay...:D
  10. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    You're welcome, my bill is in the mail...:thumb:
  11. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Here's a sample picture of track I painted. What do you think?


    Attached Files:

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