Weathering Track?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by RobertInOntario, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I recently bought a bottle of rust paint so I can weather my track. This is the first time I've attempted this. About a weak ago, I did a test by painting the track of a short siding in this rust colour, being careful only to paint the sides of the rails. (FYI, my track is Code 100 HO track -- it's a mixture of Peco and Atlas.)

    I'm fairly pleased with how this siding turned out. I have a tendency, however, to be heavy-handed and I might have over-painted the area a bit (I managed to get some of the rust paint onto the ties). This rusty appearance does look more realistic than having shiny, clean track.

    This is rather slow-going work requiring a lot of patience. It's going to take several hours to weather the track of my small 4x6' layout.

    At any rate, just wondering if anyone has any suggestions or advice on how to best weather track. I hope to eventually add other types of weathering as well, such as painting or darkening the track to show the effects of diesel and steam engines.

    I also hope I've placed this question in the best category -- if not, feel free to move it!

  2. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    A thought...

    ...that often rattles around in my head...

    The word homogenous- uniform colors that identify the terrain. The dust that would rise and settle from the trains rolling thru.

    Contrast- the dark, old rust on rails buried in sidings where corrosives have washed into or pools of things like milling coolants and such have collected. Even just low lying, not so well ballasted tracks bathe in stagnant runoff water.

    As far as heavy handedness- I have hands that can almost conceal a beer can. That's just a matter of developing your skills. I'd start where the weathered track wouldn't be as noticed so that as I went along and got the touch down- by the time you got to the showcase sections of your railroad- others will think Rembrandt was on the payroll.

    Good luck- post some pics.

  3. CRed

    CRed Member

  4. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    BTW, there is nothing wrong with painting the ties. Several shades of dark brown, dark gray, and black applied randomly to individual ties gives that slight variation in tie color that is very pleasing.

  5. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks for this feedback. I'll check out that website and eventually post some pics. I'll also try adding some different colours for added realism. I won't worry, then, about getting some paint on the ties because that too adds realism. Maybe I'll do some more track weathering this weekend then. Cheers, Rob
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Rob, painting the rails is the easiest and cheapest way to add realism to your layout at low cost. Some people have reported good results with low-cost craft paints: I've not used them, so am unable to comment on their application or ease of use. I've found that PollyScale water-based acrylics work well, and while not as cheap as craft paints, a bottle will go a long way. If I recall correctly, it took only three bottles to do my entire layout, which includes over 300' of track. While I prefer to use lacquer-based Floquil for airbrushing, the PollyScale finish is just as tough and has the advantage of being low odour. I recommend against airbrushing or using spray cans to paint rail, as spray cans waste a lot of paint and both methods produce too much paint dust, which will land everywhere on your layout and room, then eventually make its way to the rails, where you'll spend countless hours cleaning it to try to get your trains to run reliably.
    Use a 1/4" or 1/2" brush with stiff bristles to paint the rail - this will carry an ample amount of paint so that you won't have to dip so often, and the stiff bristles will allow you to easily work the paint around the moulded-on spike heads and other details. Don't worry about getting a little paint on either the ties or the tops of the rails. Small amounts on the ties, especially the tieplates, is completely prototypical, and even on the ties themselves, as the rust does wash off the rails and run onto the ties and surrounding area in real life. You should be able to paint about 10' or 12' of plain track in five minutes or so, then use a dry rag over your fingertips to wipe the dry but unhardened paint from the rails. Turnouts will require a little more time, especially to ensure that you don't cover or clog any parts required for electrical contact, or accidently paint the moveable points to the ties. Be sure to paint the entire guardrails, too, as the wheels do not run on their top surfaces. If you accidently get too much paint on a few ties, go back later and paint them with a suitable colour - prototype ties can vary in colour, and individual ties are often replaced as required, leading to many colour variations.
    Any "earth" colours will work for painting rail, and it's always good to check the prototype, too. Allow the paint to fully harden (at least 24 hours) before running trains or moving on to ballasting.
    Here is a few pictures of the prototype:



    And a couple of shots from my layout:



  7. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Wayne! This sounds good and I'll try to get a better brush to speed things up a little. The pix of the prototype are helpful too. I also want to darken the area between the rails to create diesel oil spills or the effects of smoke. Cheers, Rob
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Are you hand-brushing your rails? You may get better results if you thin your paint, and apply it in several washes, rather than all at one go. If you mix a little grimy black in with your rust, and change the amount you add between washes, you'll get a nice, varied colour between painted sections.

    Remember that sidings are rustier, and mainlines are darker.

    I'll have to take issue with Dr. Wayne on this point. I think airbrushing is the way to go for a few reasons.

    First, as far as wasting paint goes, if you hold the brush at a low angle to the track, you can paint both exposed faces of the rail in one pass. Since paint's thinned for airbrushing anyways, the amount of overspray is more thinner than paint anyways.

    Second, airbrushing will give you a much more uniform finish than brushing will, and will be a physically thinner coat.

    Third, airbrushing can (if you've already ballasted the track) blend your track and ballast together nicely. While real ballast looks fresh and new when it's first laid, it doesn't take long for it to become dull and dirty. Airbrushing takes the "new gravel" sheen off your ballast, and also makes it look a little less uniform, a little more realistic.

    Investing in an inexpensive airbrush can make a huge difference for you. It doesn't have to be fancy. Princess Auto often has a cheap Badger 350 knockoff for about $20. You don't need a compressor, either (although they are helpful), you can get an air-pig from Princess or WalMart or Crazy tire that you can fill up at a gas station and will hold enough air for lots of painting.
  9. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    The problem with airbrushing is that even a well-directed spray is bound to add some paint in places where you don't want it. You're right that it will use less paint than spray cans or brushing, but I wouldn't want my trackside structures or scenery "rusted". ;) I had considered using an airbrush to weather the track, but I don't like spraying water-based paints, as I find it difficult to get a consistent spray pattern and to keep the tip from clogging. Spraying lacquer-based paints could work, but not in a closed room with no means of ventilation. Actually, I think that washes would work even better for weathering ballast, and will try some when I finally get around to that stage. Airbrushing will weather the high spots, whereas the majority of the dirt naturally collects in the lower areas, between the individual stones.
    Another thing to keep in mind that if you airbrush, you'll be spraying the paint back towards yourself when you paint the far side of the rails. Even on an around-the-room layout, it's useful to paint both sides of the rails for those pictures which you'll want to take with the camera on the layout, facing the aisle. :-D:-D



    Like most things in model railroading, there are more than a few ways to accomplish a task: pick the one most suited to your talents and situation, and don't be afraid to improvise - you may develop a new method, and be able to offer your own advice on a subject.

  10. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    You're right Wayne: there's my way, and the wrong way! sign1

    You're right about the overspray, of course. That's why I try to weather the track before I add scenery and structures. If I do need to touch up areas after the scenery is in place, a piece of cardboard held against the track is usually enough to prevent anything from getting over-weathered.
  11. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    One effect I want to model I saw in a photo of Horseshoe Curve. Typically trains climbed uphill on one track and braked downhill on the other with the 2 middle tracks reserved for higher speed trains... 4 tracks in 3 colors... inside track was brakeshoe dust brown from downhill freights, next 2 tracks were rusty brown, the outside track was tan from all the uphill trains dropping sand for traction. Interestingly it seemed the ballast took on the same colors as the ties and rails. It looked really neat.
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, I've just done some weathering during the past few nights. I'll try to post some pics in a few days. I'm fairly pleased with the results, especially the rust effect. Rob

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