Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Paint Realisic Track

From the helpful information I found from model railroading over the years, here are a few simple steps to help you create better track:

  1. Study photographs of tracks in books, model railroad magazines and online. Google search weathered tracks in sidings, main lines, old and new tracks, to achieve the look you want, based on the location of your section of the layout. Tracks from a quarry or an old siding might look very different from tracks from the main lines!
  2. Using track cleaning fluid, rub it on the tops of the rails using a paper towel wrapped around your fingers.
  3. Paint the track with primer paint. It might be useful to paint the primer by hand for delicate track work such as turnouts.
  4. When dry, carefully rub and scrub the primer off the top and edges of the rail. Make sure the edges of the ends of the track rails are covered with tape or a track clip when you paint the primer, so they remain clean to carry the electricity!
  5. Paint the ties, using mixed colors of gray or brown, making sure to paint the sides of the rails.
  6. When it dries, dry-brush lighter shades of your chosen color, light gray or either tan or light brown, to give depth to the wood.
  7. For older track, paint the sides of the rails and spikes using terracotta or nutmeg colors. Remember it doesn't always have to be orange rust. You can mix terracotta or tan with your chosen tie color, or a lighter shade of the tie color.
  8. Later, weather sections of the track with dust, or rust on the spikes.
If the track will be permanent, use white glue mixed with a little water to thin it, and spray it on the track using a spray bottle or and eye dropper. After it dries, you can use scraped chalks or pastel powder to add dust, or soot and oil where the engines stop at the stations, the yard, or a hill when the train is working hard and drops oil on the rails. If temporary, like my layouts are, stick with using paint, and practice making permanent scenes or dioramas to prepare for larger layouts!

Tips for Realistic Track: #1: Basic Painting

I was looking at a few pieces of track the other day, and I thought I would take my paints out and detail my track again. Today I thought I'd take a few pictures to post.

I realized that the knowledge I have gained from looking at layout tips and tricks was helping me make my track look better, and more realistic. I have done this for years, but I wanted to see if improvements could be made.

I wanted to just try and paint one piece in just one color, a weathered gray. In this photo, this ballasted piece had peen sprayed with just a gray primer. After it dried, I rubbed off the paint from the top of the rails using a rubber track cleaner and a paper towel wrapped around a finger, then I used a track liquid cleaner to wash the rail surface from any grime. 

It looked nice enough. I have painted my track using dark brown, plus the side of the rails. This would be effective in killing that "toy" look from the tracks on your layout. But here the gray looked a little dull to me. So next I tried to detail the next piece, and I think it looks so much better:

Here is the result. For this older look, I painted this piece using sage, a light greenish gray.  This color would be perfect for the quarry or mine, such as Bill and Ben's Brendam Clay Pits, where the wood of the ties is very dry, brittle from the sea air, the rust covering the ties and rails, and the quarry dust creates the light rail color.

Next I used terracotta to paint the sides of the rails and even the spikes. This looks nice because it created the illusion of rust. Compared to newly laid track, which is often a dark brown, and even track that is aging out on the main lines, they still look brown, fading in lighter shades. But as you can see, track can tell the viewer a lot about where it has been laid, in this case a quarry or an old siding, how old the track is, and whether or not it has grass or foliage creeping up from the ballast.

I feel these extra steps makes the track look so much more realistic. There are times when I look at some amazing layouts and dioramas, I notice for instance that the buildings and the scenery are very meticulous and beautifully modeled, and no consideration was taken at all to do the same with the track. They are a crucial part of the scenery. Lines have the power to direct the eye around your scene. Results to this idea offer pleasing curves in and out of valleys and trees, villages and yards, and mountains. Finally, studying from life really helps you to decide how to paint your track based on condition and location. 

Looks like some workman are checking this cattle wagon's brakes and chassis for repair! I set up this small mockup on my desk to test how these tracks look ballasted.  These are Code 100 Atlas track, not that very appealing, but you see what a huge difference it makes when consideration to weathering and detailing your track rewards you for a better-looking railway.