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Weathering freight cars

New rail cars on the prototype don’t keep their pristine look very long after going into service. The effects of weather and road grime quickly appear on the car after only a few months. To make our models look more like the prototype they need to have weathering applied.

There are many methods to achieve the weathered look, from washes to weathering powders, each has their own benefit and limitations. The Weathering Shop website is an excellent site to be inspired and see the work of some amazing artists. Tips and weathering techniques can also be found on-line and in the hobby magazines. The best results can be achieved by looking at prototype photos of the cars you are planning to weather and replicating the look on the model. While my weathering techniques are not unique, I will explain the steps I took to achieve the results you see in the photos.

For the two bay cover hopper cars, the first step of the process is to spray the car with Dullcoat Flat or Clear Lusterless Flat paint. The weathering powders or PanPastels need a little “tooth” on the car for them to adhere well. Once the Dullcoat paint was dry I applied a light coat of PanPastel Raw Umber Shade to the car with a soft brush. Based on the prototype photos of the car type I was weathering and the year the photo was taken it was not heavily weathered as the cars were relatively new. The weld seams on the car were pronounced in the photo so I added a little more weathering on the seams to make them stand out. The front and back of each wheel, including the axles, were painted with raw umber acrylic craft paint. After the paint was dry the trucks and wheels were weathered with AIM weathering powders. I also added weathering on the undersides of the discharge chutes and car ends to replicate the wheel splatter kicked up onto the car from the roadbed.

The Southern box car needed to have the reflective safety striping added before I began the weathering. The FRA mandated safety stripes on all new cars constructed after May 31, 2005 and all cars are required to have safety stripes by May 31, 2015. If you are modeling the modern era most, if not all, of your cars should have the safety stripes applied. As I am modeling 2013, almost all of my cars will eventually have safety striping applied as I weather them. Microscale makes a Yellow Reflector Stripes decal set, MC-4389, 4”X18” stripes that meet the FRA standard. The stripes should be applied 42” above the rail height and not to exceed 12 feet between the stripes. The stripes at the ends of the car are required to be 36 inches long with the intermediate stripes being 18 inches long. Prototype photo are a great resource to determine where the stripes should be applied on each car type.

After the reflective stripes were added and sealed with Dullcoat, I began the weathering process. I followed the same steps outlined above with the exception of fading the white lettering. I used PanPastel Neutral Grey Tint to replicate the white letters fading and washing down the sides of the car. With a fine brush I added a small amount of the neutral grey on top of the lettering and then used a wide brush to pull the grey down the sides of the car. Be sure to check out my latest video, on YouTube that highlights my weathering project on the hopper cars and Southern box car.

Weathering cars is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or evening. Don’t be afraid to try new weathering techniques, if you are using powders or PanPastels they can be washed off the model if you don’t like the way it comes out. The only way to improve your weathering is to work on some cars and learn as you go. I am still learning with each weathering project I attempt.

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