Monday, March 16, 2015

Making a New Freight Car Look...New

Over the last year or so, I've picked up a number of used freight cars at Tim Trains and Hobbies in Northern Kentucky ( Most of these cars are either Atlas or Athearn Genesis and the detail and craftsmanship is remarkable. Several of the cars are new for my era with build dates of 1975 or so. I want to keep a balance between the older, more weathered cars in the fleet and some recently built cars and these certainly fit the bill. The trick is to make them look like they've been in service for a brief period of time by removing the glossy "model" look.

The first step is to tone down the glossy finish and I gave each of these cars a coat of Testor's Dullcote first. Once that dried, I came back and slightly faded the paint with a very thin coat of Vallejo Model Air Aged Concrete. This color has become my new "go to" color for fading now that Floquil Grime is no longer available. Once the fade is dry, I gave them one last coat of Dullcote.

For the BN car, I added an ACI label based upon the prototype photo below that's on the Fallen Flags website (

The trucks and wheels were weathered using artist's acrylics and powders and the ends were given a light coat of a mixture of artist's acrylic ivory black and burnt umber.

The roof was given a little more of the Aged Concrete than the sides to show the reflection of sunlight. 

CWE 56827 was faded in the same manner as the BN covered hopper and the wheels and trucks were also weathered with artist's acrylics and powders.

This car has a build date of 9-75 so it wouldn't even be a year old in August of 1976. However, given that it's in pulpwood service, it's likely that the deck would have begun to show the effects repeated loading and unloading. I added rust spots using a cosmetic sponge and artist's acrylics. 

Last up is Raritan River 458. This car is an Athearn Genesis model and is spot on for the prototype. The Raritan River took delivery of 100 of these cars in 1975 and the build date on this one is 2-75. In addition to the paint fade, I weathered the wheels and trucks a little more heavily than the previous cars using only artist's acrylics.

For the roof, I applied a very thin wash of artist's acrylic ivory black with a tiny bit of burnt umber added. This wash helps highlight some of the detail and adds just a little bit of grime to the surface.

These cars were a quick and easy way to add a few more cars to the fleet. Now that all of John Miller's cars are in boxes, I'm going to have to go back to expanding the freight car roster the old fashioned way... by actually building them myself.


  1. Tom,

    Good comments. I also found Vallejo " smoke" to be good basic weathering color


    1. Thanks, Roger- I'll have to try the Vallejo smoke color.