East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

September 2008

A Procedure for Painting

I wanted to come up with a relatively simple, repeatable process for painting, lettering, and weathering my rolling stock. I purchased a supply of Bachmann ready to run boxcars and flatcars to practice on.

My goal was to give my freight cars a worn, but not worn out, look. The Bachmann cars were all factory painted oxide red. Basic black strikes me as being both more "eastern" and "industrial" looking than red, which always brings to my mind the Colorado narrow gauge lines.

I wanted to try to get acceptable results using cheap spray paint. I bought cans of Rustoleum rust colored, gray, and black primer.

I used gray primer to spray down on the top of the cars. I did not worry about overspray getting on the sides or ends.

Once the gray was dry, I flipped the car over and painted the bottom, sides, and ends black. I sprayed a light coat, not being too concerned about complete coverage.

The trucks got sprayed with rust colored primer, then touched up around the journal boxes and springs with grimy black.

The wheels got a bath in Blacken-It.

The decks of flatcars got brush painted with a variety of neutral colored acrylic washes. The roofs of boxcars got the roofwalk masked off, and then were sprayed again with light coats of rust and black.

The cars were lettered using stencils cut for me by Chris Jessee of KingMill Enterprises. Chris was able to cut such fine detail in the stencils that I actually had trouble getting paint to go through the tiny holes.

After trying several techniques, I settled on drybrushing antique white craft acrylic paint with an 0/10 brush. This yields a somewhat rough, "hand painted" look that took me a while to warm up to.

Once lettered, the cars were sprayed with a heavy coat of matte finish fixative.

While still wet and tacky, the car and trucks were dumped into soapstone powder and completely coated. I originally used rottenstone for this dusting technique. Rottenstone is actually better suited for it, but soapstone powder works reasonably well. My soapstone dust is very old and I collected it from the floor of an abandoned mill, so it is full of foreign material ... more "character"!

I used a stiff brush to knock almost all the soapstone powder off the car, then reassembled the model. Rust colored washes were brushed on the metal details, and the entire car got an alcohol and ink wash.

Over time, this procedure will get refined and revised, but for now I think it serves the purpose of giving a fleet of freight cars an acceptable appearance with minimal effort.