Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Painting and weathering track

I’ve been experimenting with track painting a few times over the past years since I started using code 83 track. In the early 2000s, I would handpaint the rails with floquil roof brown… it was tiring. I even tried doing this using Floquil Rust on Atlas Code 100 (the old one with blobs instead of spikes)… no comment!

A few years ago, I decided to spray paint the track with Krylon Brown Primer then individually paint each ties with craft acrylic paint, varying the colors of the ties. It was also mandatory to apply a coat of dark brown on the rail to tone down the reddish primer. The result wasn’t half bad, but something was lacking.

Down: the test track; Up: QSSR module layout.

Recently, on my Quebec South Shore Railway module layout, I tried something similar to Mike Confalone’s technic. In fact, Mike’s technic is almost the same as mine, but instead, he use a more realistic dark brown paint. Thus, I painted the track using Krylon Camouflage Brown as a basecoat then applied light washes of acrylics over each ties. The result was good, but not that great. Color variation looked overdone to me. Also, the ties looked greyish, not brownish, like the real thing.

Last weekend, I decided to try another well-known method to mimick old wood: a light color basecoat followed by a dark wash. Most people using this technic are using Micro Engineering track. Supposedly, the detail is superior. But I’m using Peco 83, which isn’t bad at all, and was curious to see if things would be looking good.

First, I sprayed a basecoat of Krylon Camouflage Beige. This is a nice flat and neutral color that may represent a lot of material. It also handle well washes and can be spray without hiding details if not oversprayed.

I let it dry for about 24 hours and then covered everything with a wash of burnt amber oil paint and mineral spirit. I started with a wash with the consistency of a weak tea and quickly found out it wasn’t strong enough. My wash was almost opaque and at some point, I added small blobs of paint directly on the ties then washed them away with the thinned down mix. In retrospect, looking at my prototype picture, I must admit the ties are particularly bleached and a weak tea wash consistency would yield better results. The current experiment is better suited for turnout ties, which are always greasy.

I let it dry for a few hours then masked the ties and sprayed a coat of Krylon Camouflage brown over the plates and rails.

When dry, I ballasted it with natural rock from an abandoned quarry nearby.

Finally, I lightly weathered the rails using rust-colored chalk powder.

First, I remember Lance Mindheim recommended waiting about 4 days before using the oil paint washes and also waiting to let it dry again before applying masking tape for the last painting step. He was definitely right. At some place, paint peeled off. Also, when I applied the washes, the basecoat started to dissolve and exposed the shiny bare plastic. It also happened when I removed the masking tape. On some places, it was minimal and gave a realistic look, but on worst case scenario, nothing was left. I don’t know if ME track hold paint better than Peco 83, but it definitely a case of nothing stick to Delrin. I remember Atlas Code 83 was standard brittle plastic and handled paint better.

 Anyway, am I interested to go this way on the layout. Seriously, the former technic is easier to do and give great results. I’m not sure about coloration, but it’s just a matter of using the right color oil washes. Unfortunately, this technic would need three  work session to be done, including drying time. Other technics are faster, but also more tiring. They may even look artificial at some point if wrongly done. Anyway, there’s no easy way out. I think, I can do the oil washes technic without problems. Working sessions on the layout are short and once per week. Also, turnouts could be “pre-weathered” prior to installation. That would ensure a better application of paint and possibility to troubleshoot any electrical issues on the desk.
The new layout is devoid of any complex trackage, only a single main line, its industrial sidings and neutral surroundings. Thus, I feel track must be done with extreme care in this particular case because each little piece of track will be under scrutiny.
And now, I have to find ballast matching better the prototype. The one I used is too bluish to look good.

Feel free to comment!


  1. Hello the track looks awesome! I'm interrested in the grayish ties the 4th picture from the bottom what colors did you use? Thank you