Weathering Your Track Like the Prototype Part 3: Rails and Finishing

Written by Shawn Branstetter, photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Bill of Materials

AK Interactive Chipping RustAK Interactive Track Wash
AK Interactive Old RustAK Interactive Earth
AK Interactive Medium Rust Pigment

In my final article on weathering rail, I will discuss the rails themselves and how we finish the overall look of the track. In part two, I showed you how to weather your ties. Once the ties are completely dry, it is time to move on to coloring your rail and details.

As we paint and add color to our model, it is important to keep in mind how they will be viewed. Most of our models or layouts are viewed indoors where it is much darker than natural light. Further, natural light is white and blue and lightbulbs are white and yellow. This difference in light will greatly change the way we should look at color on our models. I like to keep my colors lighter if possible so that details are a little easier to see when viewed indoors.

Painting the Rails

I begin by masking off the wood with painters tape. It's ok to get color on the ties, however, I want to keep it to a minimum at this point. Later I will be adding a lot of color to the entire structure.

Now I can begin spraying my base coat. For that, I am using Chipping Rust by AK Interactive. I use dark first so that when I spray my lighter rust on, I can create shadow areas to add more contrast.

Now, I load my lighter color, Old Rust, into my airbrush, spraying this more from the top than the sides. Remember from our first article, the tops of our details will be sun bleached in real life. I like to make sure there is more color on top than the sides.

When everything is dry, I remove the tape and then move on to the weathering.

Weathering the Structure

If you have never used pigments before, you're in for a treat. Pigments are finely ground powders that can be applied to your model to add layers to your weathering. I dust Dark Rust onto the rails and details and follow up by soaking a brush in mineral spirits and brushing the rails. This will allow the pigments to flow into the cracks and holes giving it a natural look.

As you can see, the rust has been applied and the mineral spirits is almost dry. The rust color as flowed onto the wooden ties.

To tone down the rust color, I use an extremely thin wash of Track Wash. This is a very dark color used to highlight tank tracks by military modelers. This color will tone down the overall color and darken the wood around the rails.

Next I create another extremely thin wash of Earth color. Brush and dab it onto the rail and ties. Allow this to dry and heavily dust the entire deck and rails with real dirt. The earth color will highlight details and the dirt will tie the entire thing together.

Finally, give the entire deck a coat of flat clear varnish. This will seal everything and give it a wonderful finish. If at anytime you find the color too dark on your ties, don't be afraid to lightly sand the area with a fine sandpaper.

I hope you fine this series useful and start looking at track as a model itself.

About the Author

Shawn Branstetter's picture

Shawn Branstetter

I am a graphic designer and front-end developer, creator of Shortline Modelers. I have been a life-long model railroader with a focus on California shortline and logging railroads.


eTraxx's picture

Ok. Count me impressed! :)

"I drank .. WHAT?"
--- Socrates

Shawn Branstetter's picture

Thank you Ed!

Shawn Branstetter