Thursday, November 18, 2021

Weathering Experiments

I'm making some modifications to one of the Rapido X31a box cars that recently arrived. Since I'm going through that process, I want to complete the car, weathering and all. To that end, I've grabbed a spare body (I removed the roof for another project) to attempt to develop a basic process.

Because the X31a cars were built 1934-6 and still in their delivery scheme, I'm using several of Jack Delano's excellent photos as inspiration. I believe these photos are c1942. I also found that there's a book of his railroad pictures, which I immediately added to my Christmas list.

The late '40s/early '50s is still the steam era, so the cars will still weather in a similar manner, so I think these are a good reference for any car that is still in the same paint scheme in my era.

While all of these are useful, I'm focusing on the Pennsy cars, like the X29 in the front.

There are two X31a box cars in this photo.

There's an X29 in the back row, left.

Key Observations

  • The cars in this era don't show a lot of heavy areas of rust like modern cars do.
  • There is a fairly consistent coating of dirt/soot on the dirty cars.
  • There is a range of "dirty." The density of the coating of soot likely has to do with how many months/years a car has gone without a repaint.
  • The roofs tend to be darker.
  • Some of the roofs show paint failure.
  • Some of the wood roofs and running boards show repairs.
  • A few cars (very few) show "chalking" or streaking of the lettering, like the X29 in the third photo.
  • Reefers tend to be cleaner. I know that PFE washed their cars, presumably others did as well.

Base Weathering with Oil Paints

Using this as a guideline, I started with painting along the rivets and other raised elements (including the door) with burnt umber oil paint. I really like working with this medium, and expect that it will form the base of most of my weathering. These photos show the process of working the oils.

You can apply it fairly heavily, since it's easy to remove.

After drying, I was seeing more streaks than I wanted.

I found that removing the excess on the panels with a paper towel was more consistent than a brush.

Here's a few photos on the layout after it had dried.

I tried a number of approaches, all of which worked pretty well. Wetting with (odorless) mineral spirits first, or not. Applying as a wash vs. a thicker application and taking away/thinning with a brush and mineral spirits, and similar variations.

I did find that I preferred upstrokes (from the bottom of the car) with fairly thick paint to apply the color, and down strokes with a damp brush to remove it. This was basically a brush that had been cleaned with mineral spirits and then dried with a paper towel.

I wanted there to be more dirt under the rivets than on top. I used a very fine brush to work on other fine details to ensure they received as much dirt as I wanted. Thinned paint, but not to the point of a wash, on a very fine brush worked well for along the panel lines.

A generous wash in large depressions, such as the door corrugations, did a nice job of providing a random application or dirt. Once dry I used a brush or paper towel to remove excess on the corrugations themselves, particularly along the top.

I wanted a very thin coating to dull the bright white of the lettering.

So far I'm quite happy with the approach, and I can see how it would be easy to do a number of cars at once time. 

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