M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weathering Track

This post is long overdue. I was finally motivated to write it because I found the pictures that I took of the subject matter.

In 2008 when I was installing the bridge over the Cheat River, I weathered the rails with Badger Rail Brown and was not happy with the results. Badger Rail Brown produces a very orange-looking, fresh rust color; not exactly the color of rails as seen in nature or in period photographs.

Aha! let me try some of this craft store color called "Red Oxide", looks like rust to me. Well red oxide was too red, and because it was craft store paint, it would not stick to the rails.

While at one of the train shows held at the Dulles Expo Center, I spied this color called Joe's Rusty Rail Painter Dark Brown paint. No doubt, this would do the trick! Applied to the rail, this color was too brown.

Not only were the colors not right to my eye, but each paint was just that - a monochromatic paint that was too even and showed no variation in color or tone.

While pondering the situation after the failure of Joe's color, and with all three colors next to the track, I got a flash of inspiration (it happens, but not often). I poured out a dab of each paint onto a paper plate, took my brush and dipped into each color in turn and applied the brush dripping with all three colors to the rails. On the rail I wiped it on and brushed the backstroke, but made no attempt to even out the color.

One was too orange, one was too red and one was too brown; but all three together were just right. The three colors blended to for a very pleasing rust color; better still, the colors did not mix completely leaving a very subtle mottled color on the rail.

The photo above shows the technique after I perfected it (I encourage you to click on the photo for a larger view). First the ties and rail are given a coat of Floquil Railroad Tie Brown. After this has dried thoroughly, I begin coloring the rails. I dip my brush into the red and the brown paint with every refill of paint, but the orange I use only every second or third dip; otherwise the color is too orange for my eye.

By varying the order in which you dip and how much you dip, you have a lot of control over how the final product looks. Do not brush the paint back and forth along the rail, but only just enough to cover the rail. This will produce the mottled look by not homogenizing the paint on the rail.

As I paint the rail I make no effort to confine the paint to the rail proper; in fact, as the brush runs low on paint I make an effort to bounce the brush along the spikes and tie plates to get some rust color on those parts. The next photo shows this effect.

I keep some Q-Tips wet with water handy and if I get a little too much paint on the tie plates, I take a wet Q-Tip and draw the extra paint out into a rust stain as you can see on the fifth tie from the left on the track in the foreground (click on the picture to enlarge to see this plainly).

This final photo is the finished product.

I let the track dry thoroughly before I clean the tops of the rail. I do this so that the paint has time to bond to the rail. I tried cleaning the rail soon after application and it caused the paint to crack and peel off of the rail sides. This is more work than cleaning the rail right away, however.

There is nothing special about the three colors that I chose for this technique. Try different colors in the dark reds, browns and oranges to find a combination that might work better for you.

Is this more work that spray-painting the rail, using rail color markers or one of the dedicated rail painting devices? Yes it is, but I think that the effect is worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Very realistic appearance! I would like to see it after ballasting.