Virtually all of the models produced by us here at the weathering shop are super-detailed, whether by us or the manufacturer. These cars start out expensive, or end up that way by virtue of kitbashing, additional parts, and time. Yet for us, the weathering we apply to those cars is what makes them great; the model is just the canvas on which to paint. A while back I weathered this car to be a “filler” ; looks great in a train or sitting on a layout but it isn’t going to have all of the details that a higher-end & more time consuming model would. That’s fine by me and most modelers would agree with using a car like this here & there. So how was this car created?
I started off with a Model Die Casting 50’ “hi-cube” boxcar lettered for Central Vermont. Some research online quickly led me to the realization that the railroad never had these particular boxcars. Not surprising at all but there were some photos showing similar paint schemes, with the yellow door indicating the car’s use in paper service. Seems like these cars didn’t turn into all out rustbuckets, but there were plenty of signs of wear & age.
First step was to use 1500 grit sandpaper soaked in water for a couple hours to gently rub away at the logo and factory-applied lettering. Take your time here, a little too much pressure can completely erase the artwork, just a little pressure will fade the edges of the lettering and imply the paint slowly eroding off the side of the car. Paint fades while it gets dirty on the prototypes. So, after rinsing the model off and letting it dry, I airbrushed on a gentle coat of dirty white paint, with a touch of the oxide red added, about a 10:1 ratio. Again, take your time, as the goal isn’t to truly change the color of the model entirely, just to end up with a lighter tone of the original. If you feel so inclined, a light mist of a muddy brown color along the sills works quite nicely too. After drying overnight, I sealed the car with Dullcote and let it sit another day.
From here, it is all about adding streaks – using a mix of watercolors, guache, and oils, I started applying heavier paint at the top of the sides and then using a wide brush dipped in water to bring down the color. Not working from a prototype is very liberating here – you can let the paint do what it will, and as long as you have the streaks nice & straight, then you’re in good shape. If not, then add more water to wash the color all the way down and repeat the process. Don’t look at any mistakes made here as problems though, as the continued building of layers can lead to some striking effects in the end. Typical points of origin for a streak are the roof, door tracks & door stops, ladder brackets, grabs…anything where 2 surfaces meet. On this particular car, however, I was going for a minimalist approach, so I only made a couple from the roof, with an emphasis on the door stops & tracks.
Up on the roof, there’s a lot of real estate to cover. And with this car being a flat roof, it is usually a place where you’d see a pretty crusty coating of rust, if there were numerous deep streaks on the side. I held back here again, and instead went for what would be a dirty and thinner rust, using a lot of black & grime colors as opposed to brighter rust colors. Brown cars are very easy to over-do because we don’t see the rust showing up as much – instead the rust reads more towards the darker side of the spectrum. While looking down on the car, don’t forget the door tracks – they get just as grimed up.
Getting to the end(s) of things, with this type of end-panel you might see a few streaks at the top, but not much else. Most of the ends would just be dirty and covered in grime. A decent wash of black ( use water, windex, mouthwash, dishwater, or whatever you’d like ) will instantly give you that look. Apply it thinly, and in layers to keep the best control possible. The molded on end platforms wouldn’t normally be the carbody color, so I’ve found that some concrete gray is a good starting point for those, especially mixed with a touch of your black wash.
At this point, I decided to add a couple small details, such as a scratch-built cut bar ( using a Tichy eye-bolt, a bit of styrene, and some .010 wire ) and a Cal-scale air hose. These details only take me about 5 minutes per car end, and make a tremendous visual impact. Some touch up with oxide red paint on the bar, and grimy black on the hose with silver on the hardware and we’re done. I usually clip off the trip pin on any couplers as well and install them on the carbody.
The trucks were left as the standard old Athearn blue box models that MDC included with their kits. The simple treatment here was to use burnt umber oils thinned down with the same black wash as above, and then brushed on. While wet, I used a makeup sponge to blot at the trucks to create texture, as well as a less consistent color. The wheels & couplers were painted inside and out with a special mix of acrylic paints ( don’t ask me which ones, I couldn’t tell you ) that gives a muddy brown color.
After re-assembling the car, we’re on to the powders. I use AIM powders because, well, I like them the best. Bragdon, Bar Mills, and others make decent powers too. Beware of home-ground chalk though – at this point, one mistake can ruin the model, and a “slightly too big” piece of chalk will make a nice line down your model, instead of the subtle effects created with milled powders. They’re worth the price, trust me. I used soot black, applied lightly on the doors, and on the ends to show wheel splatter. I also added some of this color on the roof sparingly. Delta dirt was next, used on the trucks, and the lower portion of the car ends, along with the door tracks and cut bars. Lastly, brown & rust tones highlight the sides and add depth on the roof. One last inspection, and then a couple lightly misted coats of Dullcote finish off the model. I say lightly misted, because a heavier spray would seem to make sense, to seal everything in. However, too much spray right over the powers will get you a “hammered” effect that isn’t too prototypical of anything – use 2 or more light coats from 8” – 12” back and let them dry in between. Your patience will be rewarded.
While it might seem to a lot of folks to be a lot of steps to go through for a single car, all in all this only took about 3 hours of work from kit to finish, spread out over almost a week. With that in mind, work in batches with these filler cars and work a few at a time. If you’ve never tried getting this in depth with weathering before, pick up an old kit and give it a try. Remember to be attentive to how the car “should” look, take your time with each step, and go the extra mile on the details. A car like this will at the very least make for good filler amongst others that are more detailed, but also a great starting point for developing weathering skills. Have fun!