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Weathering coil cars


It’s time to get back to the work bench and weather some coil cars. The coil cars are from a few different manufactures, and I’ll cover the steps that I took to weather each type of car. The best results can be achieved by looking at prototype photos of the cars you are planning to weather. I located prototype photos of each car on the Railroad Pictures Archive website and used those photos to determine the amount of weathering for each car.


In the above photo the you can see the original factory paint on the ScaleTrains coil car hood, the car body has already has been weathered. While the car looks nice, the hood needs some weathering to look more realistic.


The first step of the project was to add reflective safety striping, 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 decals makes a Yellow Reflector Stripes decal set, MC-4389, 4”X18” stripes that meet the FRA standard. In addition, Smokebox Graphics makes self-adhesive reflector stripes that can be used. Prototype photos are a great resource to determine where the stripes should be applied on each car type. After the reflective stripes were added, I sprayed the cars, including the trucks, with Model Master Clear Lusterless Flat paint and allowed the paint to dry overnight. The lusterless flat paint gives a little “texture” for the weathering powders or PanPastels to adhere to the car, as well as provides a dull finish to the factory paint job.



For the ScaleTrains Thrall-Trinity 42’ coil steel cars, I used artist oil burnt umber to add rust spots on the car. After applying tiny dabs of oil paint, I used a brush dipped in Odorless Turpenoid to streak the paint down the sides of the hood. I also used a light wash of oil paint on the main body of the car to replicate light rust. After the oil paint dried, I used a soft makeup brush to lightly apply PanPastel #820.8 Neutral Grey Tint to fade the entire car. The wheels were painted with burnt umber acrylic paint using a microbrush. The trucks on these cars have the car identification stenciled on them, and I wanted to still see the numbers, so I did not want to paint them. I applied AIM weathering powders dark rust to weather the trucks. The weathering powders gave a nice rusty brown tone to the trucks, while still being able to read the identification numbers. As a final step, I used PanPastel #780.3 Raw Umber Shade to add some additional weathering to the car.



I used a slightly different technique to fade the paint on the Exact Rail Thrall 54’ coil car after the safety stripes were added. I made up a wash, a small amount of paint diluted in water, of inexpensive craft store burnt umber acrylic paint. Using a soft paint brush, I streaked it down the sides of the coil car hoods and the rest of the car. Once the wash dried, it really gave a nice faded dirty look to the car. I painted the wheels and used weathering powders on the trucks as I did on the other coil cars. For the final step, I added light applications of PanPastel Raw Umber Shade, Neutral Grey Tint, and Burnt Sienna to the car to replicate the weathering seen in the prototype photos. With a fine brush I added a small amount of PanPastels to help fade the lettering on the hood and car body.


Weathering cars is an art form, and the only way to get better is to practice. Don’t be afraid to try new weathering techniques, with each car you’ll learn and improve your skills. Be sure to check out my latest video on YouTube, Switching Georgia Metal Coaters, that highlights my weathering project on the coil cars. Until next time, take care and be safe.

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