Monday, June 4, 2018

A New Life For Old Decals & Weathering Tricks

Right: Old weathering; Left: Weathering removed with Tamiya Airbrush Cleaner

I'm in the process of weathering a 20-plus grain hopper fleet circa 2008 for Jérôme's layout. While working on an Intermountain Superior Co-op Elevator hopper, I had to device a few trick to make the project move forward switftly. The first challenge was removing the old botched oil paint weathering and dullcote. This was achieved by cleaning the surface with a cotton swab loaded with Tamiya airbrush cleaner. This solvent is quite strong and remove the weathering in just a few seconds. However, one must stay alert to no overdo it since it could also erase the lettering, which isn't a wanted side effect.

Cleaning weathering can also be a good option to bring back some data obscured by dirt. In my case, it appears some warning lettering was wipe out at some point to make it readable again. Just like in real life, I weathered the car, then using isopropyl alcohol and a stiff brush, I removed the excess dirt. The result is far better than masking the lettering prior to weathering

Next, is how to create the various paint patches and conspicuous stripes typical on modern freight cars... It was just a matter of giving a new life to old stuff in my drawers.

We all have old decal sheets in our stash, most of them remnants from previous projects that we keep “just in case”. Maybe this bit of lettering will be useful, maybe a few numbers too or a symbol. However, many pieces of decal seem to no longer have a purpose and I’d like to discuss to reuse them in a creative way.

Old zebra stripes decal sheet

If you model Canadian National zebra stripes era motive power, you probably have many stripe remnants that seem useless. However, you can cut them into pieces to create paint patches on modern rolling stock. If the color isn’t right, just spray over with paint. Also, these stripes generally come printed on large expenses of decal film. Thus, even if the stripe are small, if you paint the overall area, you can create quite large chunk of colored patches.

Reflective stripes are common on modern railroad equipment, particularly since 2005. Many older models didn’t come with them. Once again, if you have decal sheets with yellow stripes, they can be repurposed into reflective stripes by cutting them to size. In my case, I reuse CN locomotive long yellow stripes usually applied on the running board sides. Any decals in the right color and size could do the job.

Finally, if you are like me, you can’t print white decals because you don’t have access to an ALPS printer.  Over the years I developed a technique inspired by image editing software Photoshop. If the background color is black, I create an artwork on which white lettering is superimposed over a black background. When printing, the white parts stay transparent.

Patch done with a black paint marker

Patches done with a white paint marker

A layer of white (or any other color) is then applied on the model where the lettering is supposed to be and the decal is set over the paint. To speed up the process, I experimented with oil-paint markers from the craft stores. Not only they are easy to use to apply a thin layer of paint, but they dry quickly and provide a gloss surface perfect for decaling. No need for long and complicated procedures. I’ll certainly continue to experiment with these paint markers since I can already see a good number of places where they can speed up the process, particularly when painting rails prior to final weathering.

Black decals over white patches and other patches
While I still need to add a last layer of weathering, the overall look is now closer to the modern prototype I'm basing my work on. And yes, Superior Co-op Elevator have a weird tendency to accumulate dirt and grime.


  1. Really nicely done! That's very realistic.

  2. Nice tips on weathering, and your covered hopper looks great! I like that you've left the ribs cleaner than the panels.

    Jim over at

    1. Thank you Jim. Cleaning the ribs really make them pop and brings life to the model. The weathered models you share on your blog are beautiful! I particularly like the way you fade the colors!