How do you weather your rolling stock?

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Boy, that could be a whole book! But to make it short - I use two basic techniques. And remember, I love my airbrushes.

First, I'll give a light overspray of the basic under color of the car: Boxcar red, Tuscan red, Chinese red, Reefer yellow, etc. This tones down the overall intensity of the lettering, giving it a faded from the sun look. Then I use a "grunge" color, made up of the combined leftovers and brush cleanings. It constantly varies in color but is basically a muddy gray rusty brown. I'll spray the underside of the car and along the bottom edge of the sides to simulate kicked up dust. Depending on the roof color, it may or may not, get a coating of "dust". That's pretty much it. In my world, things are still prosperous enough that heavily weathered rusted out hulks have no place.


Active Member
Maybe not heavily rusted out; but, dirty and heavily weathered freight cars just mean they are too busy to be cleaned up on my railroad. My railroad must be more prosperous than yours, Kevin!


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Staff member
Chet's (montanan) method with an airbrush, otherwise known as the "Quick and Dirty" is probably the most effective to convey the message you are after.
Weathering essentials:

• M. Graham & Co. transparent iron-oxide oil paints (e.g., #186 orange) are high on my list for painting rust-streaks.
Quartet Alphacolor chalks, shaved with a razor, also make for highly realistic-looking rust.
• Acrylic craft paints, thinned with Testor's acrylic thinner (or even Windex) for washes.
PanPastels' weathering powders.
Cala make-up sponges, Sofft applicators, and Q-Tips.

I've accumulated a huge assortment of PanPastels' powders (many more than shown), including their super-neat metallic powders (not shown). Their Sofft foam-tipped applicators work really well. I also really like the Cala make-up sponges I got on Amazon. I use PanPastels a lot on structures and roadways as well:

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Active Member
Actually my starting this post was simply a method of moving the Freight Car Weathering Contest out of the Lime Light. I don't have an airbrush! I have a selection of weathering chalks: dust colored, black, gray, white and a couple of rusty colors. Then I use acrylics as washes. I'm happy with my results. Maybe we could show some photos of our best work.
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I took the thread as starting a helping hand for those new to weathering. We could each share some of the techniques we use and hopefully learn something new in the meantime.

I also have both Alphacolor and Pan chalks, but use them more for structures than rolling stock.

I'll see if I can find a spot to take some pictures and dig out a couple of examples. Right now all the rolling stock is boxed away while I focus on structures.
Quartet Alphacolor chalks:

Here's the Alphacolor chalks used for rust, as shown in Gary Christensen's photo from his Rust Bucket thread:

Below are the orange and black chalk sticks from my Quartet Alphacolor earth tones set. So, I believe the author used the color labeled simply as "orange" (and, of course, black) from the Alphacolor earth tones set.

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Using Alphacolor chalks to make roof-rust:

This is a re-post of my "extreme weathering" thread from another forum. As I've said before, I'm really liking this Gary Christensen technique of using the two Alphacolor chalks for rust-texture. His roof-rust technique is rather simple:

• Brush M. Graham & Co. transparent orange iron-oxide oil paint onto your car's roof (this Bachmann Railbox roof came factory-painted in galvanized-silver).
• Make some shavings from Alphacolor orange and brown pastel chalk sticks, available in Quartet's 12-color, earth-tone kit.
• Sprinkle shavings onto the wet paint.

Again, this is my resurrected, overly acrylic-painted car I first attempted, so it already had some espresso, brown, and gray Craftsmart acrylic paints underneath (some of which I removed after soaking the shell in ammonia for two days). I also applied a previous wash of M. Graham & Co. transparent yellow iron-oxide oil paint. But I think the general effect can be achieved with just the media described above.
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Active Member
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Photo #1 shows my New Your Central 40 foot box car. This is a Branchline Blue Print kit. I was trying to make this car appear like it has seen a lot of use and this use reflects it's overall weathered appearance.
Branchline Blue Print freight Cars are somewhat difficult to build, lots of small easily broken parts. However of the highly detailed kits that used to be available, Branchline Blue Print was my favorites!

Photo # 2 shows one of many of my Northern Pacific 40 and 50 foot box cars. I wanted this car to look fairly new and so the weathering is lighter on this car. This is an simple to build, Accurail Kit.

Photo # 3 shows a simple to build Athearn wood sided roof load bunker Bill Board reefer. It's likely these Bill Board Reefers where no longer in use by my 1953 time period. I don't care if they were no longer in use, because I simply like them! In 1953 these cars would have been pretty old and I have weathered it to appear so.
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Whiskey Merchant
I try to weather every locomotive and piece of rolling stock before putting it on the layout, but I do not normally heavily weather many cars. Modeling the transition era, I'll use black chalk to try to simulate sooty water dripping down the sides of a freight car. After that, I'll get the sir brush out and very lightly spray "mud" color along the bottom of the cars and the trucks.

These were done probably around 30 years ago. The started off as undecorated Athearn blue box kits. After painting and applying decals, I would wait until I had about a dozen of them and would set u an assembly line and could do a dozen in about a half an hour including an over spray of Dull Coat. Most all of them are still in regular service today.

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Quick and easy and they don't look too bad.
I love trying, mixing and using various techniques. The loco was strictly airbrushed, the 3 covered hoppers were weathered using oil paints. The two boxcars wood sheathed boxcars were weathered using PanPastelsas was the CP boxcar. The Canpotex hopper was being weathered with oils. .I’ve also been practising using the techniques demonstrated by Gary Christensen... 8BDE82B1-7F6B-482D-9C0B-4E13868895E9.jpeg 3F50E4B1-45E8-4288-9B55-44B571961989.jpeg I 92D10472-E50D-4AA6-A477-FB71EB427DDD.jpg E9380824-CA1E-470E-9FAA-920C0AFA3F2B.jpg 7D6CA6AB-DF19-46A6-B57A-29B581B9FC3C.jpg 9FA187C8-A80B-4F28-8347-018AE8347544.jpg A5543D9A-5617-456D-9866-6EAF0D538BC7.jpg 7D6CA6AB-DF19-46A6-B57A-29B581B9FC3C.jpg 9FA187C8-A80B-4F28-8347-018AE8347544.jpg A5543D9A-5617-456D-9866-6EAF0D538BC7.jpg
Pretty much the way I weather all my stuff - leave it on the layout and let it weather naturally.
I had almost all of my rolling stock out on the sections of layout that got moved from one house to my present one. But the layout never got put back together...for about 20 years! Dust and dirt provided a good deal of weathering. All I had to do was be careful when handling the cars after I built my present layout. With some of my diesels and steam locomotives, I utilized very light applications of Floquil rust, dust, mud, grimy black (for exhaust residue on my diesels). Mostly I used nearly dry brushes. I don't overdo it, as the Burlington Route kept their rolling stock pretty clean, especially passenger cars.


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Passenger equipment represented the railroad to the public and was kept pretty clean. I also live along side what was the Northern Pacific, then Burlington Northern and is what is now the Big New Santa Fe, although the tracks are about 30 miles from my location, I have spent countless hours driving along side them. I never noticed B.N. freight equipment being kept very clean. In fact I saw no difference between B.N. equipment and the rest of the rolling stock running in the trains I saw. However, this makes no difference to me, if you want clean rolling stock, that is your prerogative. Similar to my wanting every type of weathering imaginable: heavily, moderately; or, lightly weathered. To me, unweathered rolling stock looks as realistic as pure white plaster scenery! Other things that you might think important to realism, may not mean anything to me and I will fight to the death your right to model your layout the way you want it!!
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Active Member
Funny thing here, at buy & sells, I've heard buyers say of weathered stuff "That looks old" and pass it by.
How true! Freight equipment in revenue service was for producing revenue, beyond that I don't think the railroad companies which owned it. paid much attention to it's outside appearance! Yes, they would once every irregular amount of time pull it into the shop for general maintenance restoration and service, to keep it in sound working condition. Within a few months of this service, it would start to look pretty weathered, again.

My stuff which I've attempted to sell on Ebay, which is fairly weathered, just doesn't seem to sell.


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Staff member
Weathering of anything is a personal choice. Some people like to keep their rolling stock/engines in "pristine straight out of the paint shop" clean. Others like to add a bit of realism as they perceive it. Those who like pristine stuff wont buy weathered stuff and those who like weathered stuff possibly prefer to do their own.

That could be one of the reasons pre weathered cars aren't as popular as non weathered cars? is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to