ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Weather A Model Train Locomotive

Updated on July 24, 2012
As part of the renumbering, I added a UP logo to the back, which is not uncommon on the real deal.
As part of the renumbering, I added a UP logo to the back, which is not uncommon on the real deal.

Last Time Out

Last Hub, I talked about renumbering a couple of Lionel Southern Pacific locomotives to their post-merger Union Pacific numbers. This time out, I am going to take you through aging one of those locomotives with a dry powder weathering technique. Often, you will see locomotives that never made it to the paint shop after a merger or sale. It is less expensive for the railroad to get as much out of them with a simple renumbering or re-lettering as possible. Now that my ex-Southern Pacific SD70M has it's appropriate Union Pacific road number, it is time to make her a little, well, used.

Using weathering powder makes the project easy. Start with highlights and work up
Using weathering powder makes the project easy. Start with highlights and work up
Little bit of rust and dirt
Little bit of rust and dirt
The white brings out the edges
The white brings out the edges

Bottoms Up

There's no magic to weathering, and the dry powder technique is very easy. I use Doc O'Brien's Weathering Powder to do all of my weathering. The trick is to mimic the effects of weather and wear and tear on the locomotive without making it look like a load of dirt was dumped on top of it. Understated is far better than overdone. You can accomplish the same effects with powdered chalks available at many hobby and craft centers.

It is best to start at the bottom and work up, and start with a light color to catch the highlights. Slowly build up to darker colors, but remember, you don't need much to effectively simulate nature's work. I start with a little bit of white on a small paint brush, whisk the brush back and forth over raised areas to highlight edges and high points. Again, there's no science to this and you'll know it's done when you know it's done. After the highlights, I move on to a rust color. Rust forms in streaks and spots. Streaks run from the top of something to the bottom, spots can be anywhere. I like to limit the rust to the trucks and frame.

With the edges accented and the rust in place, it is time to add some dirt. I move to a reddish brown color for the dirt. Dirt happens anywhere, so application can be liberal, though less is more. I use the same whisking technique as with the white, but with a little more powder on my brush. When I am satisfied, I top the loco off with grimy black. I tend to be spotty in the application of black. Grease and grime accumulate in areas and are not always streaky. I accent the radiators and exhaust and fans with the black, and add some along the lower parts, walkways and steps for good measure.

As a last step, I spray on a very light coat of flat clear coat to seal in the powder. If you are using chalks, be careful to use an extra light spray and be a good distance from the loco when spraying so the chalk doesn't run. The weathering powder I use tends to stick very well to the surface, so running and pooling is not a problem.

The Dirtiest Train Wins

Weathering your locos is not about how dirty you can get them, it is about making them look more appealing on your layout. There's is nothing wrong with keeping them bright as the day they left the factory. I have several that will not be weathered because I don't want to take away from their appeal. I am more focused on operating my O Gauge trains than collecting them, so the decision to make these changes to the SP locos was easy. The Lionel Dash-9 probably won't see as much as the SD-70, mainly because it is already nicely decorated and aside from having her number changed, I don't want to take away from the factory detail.

Don't worry about achieving symmetry when weathering. You don't need to have all the sides match. This doesn't happen in the real world, so it doesn't need to happen on your model. Also, don't be afraid to do parts like couplers. Though, do be cautious, especially if you leave the shell on while weathering, not to drop lots of powder into the roof fans. Also, I suggest you tape the wheels and windows when adding the clear coat. Less cleanup afterward.

Railroads have maintenance and cleaning facilities and they do keep up with their equipment, so not everything has to be grimed up. If you take the less-is-more approach, you'll be satisfied with the results.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool that you got the road numbers right


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)