Weathering: First Contact

Weathering of rolling stock is yet another aspect of this hobby which interests me.  But putting a brush to these beautiful looking cars and locos also terrifies me!  Nevertheless, the amazing results that you can see of weathered rolling stock have motivated me to give it a try.

This forum is quite inspirational.  Some really breathtaking realism is on display there.  The below video is one of the finest tutorials on weathering I've yet seen.
So I designated some Roco hopper cars for my first victims that are:
  1. relatively cheap,
  2. markings from Era 3 or so, and 
  3. look way too clean for both their purpose and age 

Here is a 'before' shot (taken a couple of years ago, but its the best photo I have of the cars before I started weathering them):
And here's a shot of the same hoppers (in the same location), after the weathering.
Okay, a little hard to tell given the different lighting between the two photos, but scroll below for some better shots.

Overall, I would rate the result and experience a 6 out of 10.  I didn't necessarily follow all the steps and advice (and there's a lot of different methods to weather, so it can be a bit overwhelming) but used what I had read or watched along with the materials I had on hand to try out some techniques and do the best job I could.

The first step was to apply a lighter shade of the 'red-brown' of the cars to give the paint that aged and sun-faded look.  This is such a common feature of rolling stock and locos that it was something I was very curious to test.  I mixed some Tamiya Red Brown's with some Tamiya Buff to get a color that was similar to the cars.  I then mixed a bit of Tamiya's Clear Gloss with the mixed color.  The reason for this was to dilute the amount of pigment in the paint with the clear gloss so that when I sprayed the color it would give a nice even, yet somewhat transparent, tone.

After applying this coat with my airbrush, I then used some rust powders to rust some of the parts where rust would occur.  I then attempted to use Testor's Dullcoat to lock in the powders and remove the glossy sheen from the previous airbrush coats.

This is where things did not go as well as I would have liked.  I'm not clear on what happened, but the Testor's Dullcoat did at least two things that I did not like:
  • It seemed to have caused the earlier Tamiya colors to fade and run.
  • Even worse, it would not cover the cars evenly.  I tried to apply with several light coats, but I consistently would get 'pock marks' of areas where the Dullcoat did not adhere and the glossy undercoat was still visible.  Not a good look at all.  You can see this 'pockmark' effect on the right side of the car below.
I'm blaming the Dullcoat at this point, but I do suspect that there may have been an issue with applying the Dullcoat (laquuer?) over the Tamiya acrylics (particularly the Tamiya 'clear gloss') that may be the culprit.

Fortunately, this is 'weathering' so there is a bit more tolerance for these sort of glitches than in any other type of finish application!

From this point, it was part 'damage control' and part experimentation.   My primary media at this pont was rusting powder, which I used to rub into any of the pockmark or pits in the laquer, and a wash of Burnt Umber, Brown, and dark Grey (oil paints with lighter fluid was my wash solution).   I continually applied various combinations to try and get a look that appeared right. 
When I was satisfied with the look, I applied a final coat (I hoped) of flat acrylic paint.  THIS time I used Mr. Hobby "Mr. Super Clear" flat acrylic.  I'm not sure if Testors was the problem in the original coat of clear acrylic, but Mr. Hobby did a great job and I'll be coming back to this brand again (not as easy to find as the ubiquitous Testors brand, although I'm seeing it more often in some local hobby shops).
Finally, I used my airbrush to add a bit of 'brake dust' at the bottom of the cars.  I expected the airbrushing of the brake dust to be fairly straightforward and problem free - just a matter of ensuring not to apply too heavy of a coat! Unfortunately, I neglected to properly dilute my paint before painting (and didn't paint in the best of light!) so I got a few 'dots' where there should have been a nice even gradation! Arghhh!!!!
Fortunately, these were easily cleaned off with a bit of acrylic thinner and a cotton swab.  Taking off just the poor airbrushing was simplified due to the application of the Mr Hobby flat coat prior to airbrushing!

The final result, taken outside, is below.
So, I learned a few things - but also have more questions and much to learn!  The result turned out better than the process, so I'm pleased.   I was also probably a bit lucky as well!  The rule about using this with relatively cheap pieces of equipment is a good one however, and I'll continue to 'test' out some weathering before moving on to the much more expensive locos!


  1. The good thing about weathering, is that it's hard to get it wrong to a point where the cars become unusable. The state of cars (especially freight) in the prototype varies greatly.

    Good quality paint and clear coat is important, and you need to make sure you get the correct type as well (solvent based vs. acrylic, and gloss vs. semi gloss vs. flat.. They all behave differently.)

    Another option is to use (pastel) chalk. Just turn it into a powder using sanding paper, and then use a soft brush to apply it. It works especially nice for a sand/dust look, and for rust/brake dust on bogies. If you're not happy with the result, you can just wipe it off again, and if it looks good, seal it with a clear coat. Just make sure to clean the car well before trying the chalk, things like fingerprints become very visible :)

    Also, try and find some Gundam building tutorials, there's a lot of tutorials about shading and weathering those, and the techniques used are usable on trains as well.

  2. Thanks Martjin! Since this was my first real experience with either paint or poweders, I agree...the powders were a lot easier to use! I'll check out some Gundam tutorials as well, they sound interesting!

  3. Thanks for the post Jerry. Have my own "browm walls" in N and H0 and need to do a little weathering on those. Been a while since I've done any, so thank you for the link to Model Trains Weathered - new to me.


  4. Nice weathering. I've never been able to bring myself to "dirty" a nice model, even though I think a good weathering job makes a car look better. Now that I've switched from North American freight to Japanese passenger trains I can at least claim some prototype justification.

  5. Thanks Ken! Yeah, its really hard to put a 'brush' on these nice new cars! Your absolutely correct about the cleanliness of Japanese trains, however, it would be unprototypical to weather them at all (practically!)! :-)