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Practical BRM - Weathering Steam Locomotives

30 May 2012

  Practical BRM

Regular RMweb contributor Graham Muspratt describes his method for weathering steam locomotives.  The principles however can also be applied to diesel and electric locomotives and of course coaches and wagons. 

There are a number of methods used by modellers to weather rolling stock ranging from the use of enamels (as described here), acrylics and weathering powders. Application methods include dry brushing, thinned washes and airbrush. Although I use enamel paints for all stages, weathering powders and/or acrylics can also be used.

The method below is not the only way, just my way:

I break my process into a number of stages:

1)    Observation / research

2)    Dry brush base colours of brake dust, rusts and water streaks etc

3)    A dirty wash from the top down using a highly thinned dirty mix

4)    Track / dirt colour is finally lightly airbrushed from the bottom upwards.

Weathered locos on the author's layout - Fisherton Sarum

Stage 1 – Observation / Research

       Weathered locos on the author's layout -
Fisherton Sarum
I would always recommend obtaining pictures of the effect that you are looking for on the real thing and working to that. Generally the prototype when viewed from a distance any weathering often appears almost uniform in colour, yet the closer you get; the complexity, depth and range of colours become visible. My method tries to replicate that effect by the staged approach.
Weathered locos on the author's layout - Fisherton Sarum
Weathered locos

Stage 2 – Dry brushing base colours

I dry brush a number of base colours to highlight various chassis details, sand pipes and boxes, rivets, corners and crevices etc. The colours I use are Phoenix Precision paints P963 brake dust, followed by P951 Dark Rust, then P950 light rust. The dark rust should be used first with the light rust on top. Matt white is used to create water streaks etc. around tender and tank filler caps, safety vales, whistles, boiler washout plugs and where water from water cranes has streaked down the tank or tender sides as they have been swung back out of the way.

For points of wear that is a burnished steel effect, Humbrol Metalcote gun metal is particularly effective.

Do not worry that the colours look too bright at this stage as they will be toned down by the following two stages.
Weathered locos
Weathered locos

Stage 3 – Dirty wash

This involves a dirty wash of highly thinned dirt colour for which I use a mixture of Phoenix Precision Paints P982 Weathering (sooty deposits) and other colours such as dirty black and leather. I also use dirty thinners from my brush washing jar (but this depends on what main colours I have used recently, although it usually ends up a dirty grey colour once it’s all mixed up)

Apply using a large soft brush from the top down to create streaks on tank sides etc. I also dab off excess with a chisel shaped piece of foam and cotton buds which results in the wash colour remaining in the corners or raised edges and crevices etc. Very often with weathering it’s almost more about what you remove than what you leave on. A stipple effect is also used on the boiler tops to create the effect of soot deposits etc from the chimney.

For black locos I add an extra part to the stage by giving an initial dusting spray using an airbrush of Precision Paints P981 dirty black from the top. This nicely results in a greyish tinge to the black especially when used lightly over a satin or gloss black original finish.

Weathered locos
Weathered locos

Stage 4 – Track dirt

I spray the track dirt effect from the bottom upwards with a brownish grey track colour. The basis for the colour is a quite heavily thinned mix of browns, greys and sleeper grime colours. I keep the mixed pot between weathering sessions and just add to it each time.

When spraying over the wheels and motion I apply a small drop of oil to the motion and connecting rod joints etc prior to spraying this ensures that the paint does not seize up any joints. I give a very light coat then rotate the wheels before a second light coat is added, this ensures no area of the wheels and motion etc is missed by the spray being blocked by the connecting rods etc.

The front and rear of the locos are also lightly sprayed and I also make sure that front faces of items like the cylinders and tank fronts are also included.

Weathered locos   Weathered locos
Weathered locos
  An alternative to the airbrush is to use an aerosol spray can and bounce spray it (Halfords Vauxhall Brazil Brown is an ideal colour).   This technique is simply bouncing the spray off a scrap piece of wood or card placed directly in front of the model, practice first, with each spray can you use as the spray can be different from each one.  
Weathered locos on the author's layout - Fisherton Sarum
Weathered locos on the author's layout - Fisherton Sarum   Weathered locos on the author's layout - Fisherton Sarum

Graham Muspratt

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