Knowing how to weather your model train tracks for realism is a skill in and of itself, but if it’s one that you can get good at, it’ll really help tie your whole layout together! There’s nothing that ties together a train yard like having some old, rusted rails that show just how long it’s been around for.
Although, it’s not just your train tracks you should be considering; Being able to weather your model train is also worth knowing how to do!
There are a bunch of different ways you can weather your model train track, from airbrushing to oils, so we’ll take a look at a bunch of them in this article!
Why Should You Weather Your Train Tracks?
When it comes to model railways, we all tend to spend a lot of time and effort trying to replicate the actual architecture of a real railway track so that the layout seems as authentic as possible. But the one big thing that can take a person out of it, is just how real it looks.
There’s no point in having an authentic Santa Fe Flyer rolling around a layout on a piece of track that looks like a toy. It just takes you out of the experience.
As a result, weathering your model train tracks is an essential step in the modelling process.
Should You Buy Pre-weathered Tracks or Do it Yourself?
So, it really depends on just how much time and patience you have for working on your layouts.
If you can, it’s great if you weather the train tracks yourself. While weathering, you can use your own methods and personalize the details to suit the layout.
If you are just looking for some pre-made weathered track, you honestly might struggle to find some in your size. Not a lot of manufacturers make pre-weathered tracks. However, the group over at Micro-Engineering do have a really nice weathered HO track that comes in a variety of lengths.
Methods You Can Use Weather Train Tracks
There are several methods you can use to weather your model train tracks. Some of the most popular methods are given below:
This method is handy for drawing attention to elevated areas. However, the technique is not ideal for creating fading effects over a broad region because it’s difficult to achieve a consistent result.
For this method, all you need is a paintbrush and paint – To begin the process, dip a brush into your preferred model railway weathering paint (or even just some rust coloured acrylic paint). Then, using a paper towel, wipe off most of the paint from the brush. Then, quickly flick the brush across the top of the surfaces you’re looking to weather. This will help create highlights on all your raised components.
Paint washes require you to add thin layers of paint to create transparent effects and fill in gaps. It is an excellent method to use in collaboration with dry brushing.
For this method, make sure the model is free of any dust or little bits of debris. To do that, you can brush the dust off or wash the set with a light detergent. If you’re weathering something with edges like your model train, don’t forget to mask off any areas where you don’t want it, because this can be a pretty messy process!
to make this work, you basically just need a black/rust red/brown coloured acrylic paint that you water down, and then take a brush and apply liberally. The paint is going to run and end up in the cracks and crevices of your model track, and help to accentuate those dark pockets and make it look like dirt and grime as accumulated.
The quantity to add will require some trial and error, but the more layers you do, the bigger the impact! Always consider that you may need to apply another layer after it has dried and like we always say – its easier to add more, than take subtract!
The big thing to consider when using this, is that if your track is already attacked to your board, the paint is going to run onto the below landscape, and potentially stain your train track ballast.
This is a fantastic method to apply stains to help imitate exhaust, dirt and dust for weathering your model train tracks and add some overall grunginess to engines and vehicles.
Before you begin, you need to make sure that you’re working with a pretty clean surface.
If the model has been touched a lot or has a lot of dust, it may be essential to wash it with water and a light detergent, otherwise the paint will just fall off with the dust and dirt. If you want to keep it there, you can just use some watered down pva and an eyedropper to help stick it in place.
You can get experimental with your airbrush on a piece of cardboard first to achieve the desired appearance, and make sure that the colour and air pressure is right before you commit to weathing your model train layout.
Then, once you are happy with the texture, lightly spray the model, concentrating on the places you would anticipate the most mud or exhaust.
For the exhaust stains, use black or earth colors. For the dust and mud along tracks and blast, if you’re really gentle with your airbrush trigger, you can sometimes get it to ‘splutter’ to give you a mud splatter effect.
You can use the oil paint method to add rust patches or streaks to model train tracks. You can use burnt sienna or burned umber and raw umber for bigger streaked regions for dark rust patches. After you have placed the full-strength colors where you want them, streak the rust paint along the side of the automobile with a brush dipped in mineral spirits. You may be as subtle as you want or as bold as you want with this effect. Remember that the model will need to dry for around 2 days before you can do anything further with it.
Using chalks gives you an excellent finish, but this is a rather layered process. You must first spray a fresh glossy plastic model with a clear flat finish, either using an airbrush holding Polly Scale or with a Model Master Clear Flat spray can, before applying chalk.
You need to prepare the chalk by scraping the artist’s pastel chalk stick onto a sheet of paper with a knife to make a powder. Then, apply the chalk on the model with a hog-bristle brush in fast, short strokes. You will need to start with a small amount for a steady build-up. The most accessible material to use is the artist’s pastel chalks, but you can also use oil pastel chalks for a more noticeable or darker impact. To make the powder using oil pastels, you will need sandpaper.
You must seal the dust onto the model after applying the chalk powder. Finally, spray a thin coat of clear semi-gloss lacquer once the paint has dried up.
Tips and Tricks for Weathering Your Tracks
You can use the original black with a thin flat grey overspray for lighting and flattening the tracks of your model train. This will also allow the tracks to be detailed in the darkness. To apply matte or filthy black to exhaust stacks, use chalks, crayons, or dry brushing. These methods can also add a slight smear to the cab roof. You can also apply a little coat of brown wash to the bottoms of the front and sides to resemble dust or grime.
Weathering your model train tracks is one of the most exciting things for a collector. This article will help you understand the methods and to help you get creative with the materials. Give a realistic, vintage touch to your model train track with proper weathering!
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.