When it comes to weathering, many model railroaders have firm ideas. Many, especially collectors, feel that changing their rolling stock in any way compromises it's integrity and value. Others, looking to add some true realism to their collection, try to make their trains looks more like
what's really rolling down the tracks. Even though they may have just purchased a shiny, new Pennsy it should still look like it's seen better days in the last 50 years. To achieve this result takes a lot of effort and skill but with a little perseverance you can have some incredibly realistic-looking pieces.

Anyone who has ever seen a train can tell you that none of them are pristine, unless they've just rolled off the assembly line. As a matter of fact, most of them are pretty banged up. Weather, neglect and everyday wear and tear will have their effects on train cars, so why shouldn't the miniature version in your basement reflect the same conditions? I'm not suggesting grabbing up your expensive collectables and deliberately damaging them so they look worn in. I'm talking about taking some of your less expensive rolling stock and making it look a little more like the real thing.

model_train6I recommend starting out with the cheapest cars you can find and start from there. Finding some unwanted boxcars or hoppers is pretty easy to do. If you mess things up with these, you'll only be out a few dollars but the lessons will be invaluable. On the other hand, you could wind up with some truly choice cars. I'm not going to get into airbrushing because it's a big mess, even though some have found terrific results from it. Instead I'll concentrate on hand painting for more depth and realism. The first step is to get rid of that glossy shine. There are a number of companies producing dull-coat sprays. Find a product you like and lightly spray your rolling stock to dull things down a bit. Do this in a well-ventilated area or you'll find yourself getting a little dopey from the fumes.

Gather up plenty of pictures of real trains to get a feel how different types of cars weather. Notice how some areas tend to rust out more than others? Or how certain cars seem to have more damage from forklifts? Randomly weathering your stock is ok, but true realism calls for some research. Even better, if you can get some photos of the full-sized versions of your collection, you can practically duplicate them.
Weathering requires finesse, so you'll need to pick up some items before continuing. You'll want a few small paintbrushes, with short, stiff bristles. Grab some water based acrylic paints in colors in the red, brown, black and white ranges. You're going to need these for creating rust. Pick up some black and brown leather dye, black ink, an eyedropper, Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, a soft bristled brush and some paper towels, as well.

Make a mixture of alcohol and ink in a small bottle and use the eyedropper to rinse your stock. Allow the mixture to seep into all the corners and cracks of your cars. This will add some definition and depth as it draws out the details. You can also use this concoction to create streaking effects to great result. Experiment with the mixture to find the right level of blackness to fit your needs. Adding a dash of brown will give the effect of rust, so use this where appropriate, too.

As you go over your stock, remember to put rust on exposed metal areas. Create water streaks; add some dirt and grime, especially on the lower areas of the cars. Highlight parts that stick out (such as rivets, roof walks and steps) with light colors, like pale tan or while. Darken areas that would normally be shadowed on real trains, like in between the wheels. After each application, allow your piece to dry thoroughly before adding second coats.

I mentioned adding some dirt and grime to your stock; this is where the leather dye comes in handy. Mix up some of your leather dye in a jar with rubbing alcohol. There isn't an exact ratio to use, whatever suites your eye will work fine. Using one of your stiff-bristled brushes, dip the brush into your jar and run it under the roofline of your car, letting it simply drip down. Use a Q-tip to soak up any excess at the bottom. You can do this as many times as you need to get the results you want. Just remember to allow each application to dry before applying the next one.

These are just some basic techniques. With a little experimenting, you'll be able to use them to create some impressive results. Don't give up if it seems like you're results aren't what you want; a little practice will get you there. If you think you're ready for some advanced techniques, there are some great resources at the library and on the Internet. A fellow named John Allen wrote some great stuff on the subject back in the mid-1950s. It may sound a little dated, but the information he laid out then is just as relevant today. In any case, just have fun, experiment and create a layout that you'll enjoy.

-- Mark Murphy

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