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9/24/23 - It finally came time to do a task I have been putting off......weathering the O gauge track. I knew it had to be done but was not looking forward to it. In my opinion, weathering track is one of those details that is really not noticed until you take a closeup photo of the finished layout. Then the shiny side rails just look out of place. Weathering your track makes a big difference.

My initial plan was to use the Rustoleum camo paint that a lot of modelers use nowadays. I bought some and tried it on a test piece of track. While it looked good, I was concerned about the amount of over spray in my finished basement/railroadiana room. I decided that maybe the airbrush would be the better way to go. The last time I used my airbrushes, solvent based paint was ready available. Since that is now hard to find, I would have to rely on acrylic paint.

I bought some rail brown and tie brown from Tru-Color. I first tried my Badger single action airbrush, but it was acting up a bit. I then switched to my Iwata double action model and painted the test track. The first issue is that it appeared it would take a long time to weather all the track with an airbrush. The second issue was that the rail brown came out more like orange that brown. Here is a shot of the test piece. In person it shows up even more red that in the photo. I didn't like it.


I decided to go back to the rattle can method. I bought a bunch of lightweight plastic drop cloths and basically created a sealed room around the work area. It looked like I was prepping for a murder scene.


This is the paint I used. The earth brown gets sprayed at a low angle to coat both sides of the rails. The weathered wood is then sprayed from directly above the track to give the ties some additional color.


It took about 3 hours to do all the spraying. I'm happy with the results. I don't think I would like to do it again, but it's done. Anyway, on to the results. Here are some before and after shots.


And some overall pictures.



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Last edited by NJCJOE

The before and after photos show the great job you did.  Some of the other photos (test piece of track, the paint you ended up using, etc.) did not show up for me.  I see a total of 6 "image not found" boxes.

Lots of layout owners spend the time to create realistic scenery, but leave the track shiny.  To me, it ruins the scene.  You'll be VERY glad that you spent the 3 hours plus prep and cleanup time to get great-looking track.  


This has been a pleasure to watch. You haven't missed showing us every step you have made with the layout. This thread, in itself, could be a tutorial on building a layout. One test of a good painter is how much he/she does not need to mask off things or how much they do mask off things. In many model railroader's cases it would be the latter, so A+ to you. In some cases, the masking can take longer than the actual painting. I know you didn't mask things off to create crisp lines, etc. but putting all of the "barriers" up was to contain the overspray, etc. Kind sorta masking. It's my comparison and I'm sticking to it!

Secondly, the angles you show in your photos shows how very well done your track work is. Very straight lines and no kinks...A+ again. Please continue showing us your journey. This is wonderful.


So, the respirator story ..........

When I was in my early 20's, my friend asked me to paint his Mustang. I had painted another car and my Dad's truck bed previously, so I told him I would do it. I did not own a respirator at the time, so my friend said he would get one for me. We tarped off his parents carport and I proceeded to paint the car.

By the time I was done painting I was flying high and had a pounding headache. I couldn't figure out why. I used the respirator. Well, I finally noticed that the respirator did not have any charcoal cartridges or cotton filters in the mask. We never noticed it. So I basically painted the car with no filter protection.

I still have the same respirator, some 30+ years later. I figured I was going to need it again for when I weathered my track. I pulled it out to inspect it and make sure I had filters to use. Well, the new cartridges I had were dated 1986. I figured it was time to order a new supply.

When the filters came in I went to screw them into the respirator but they did not fit. Apparently, the standard design was changed sometime over the past 30 years. Hate when that happens. At this point I decided to go to Home Depot and buy a whole new respirator. Of course the one I needed for paint fumes was the most expensive, but better to be safe.

On Saturday I got all my supplies ready to go, paint, rags, mineral spirits and respirator. It took me about 3 hours to do all the painting. Every once in a while a would smell some paint fumes. However, since I have a beard the mask does not fully seal around my face, so I didn't think this was unusual.

I got done painting and took a break to get some fresh air and allow the over spray to settle. Later that day I went down and removed all the drop cloths and cleaned my track one more time. As I was putting stuff away in my workshop, I looked over at the respirator sitting on my workbench. I couldn't believe what I saw! The new charcoal cartridges and cotton filters were still sitting sealed in the respirator package. I never put them in. I did it again!!!! Amazingly, I did not get a headache this time.

So, I guess I didn't learn from my mistakes. Moral of the story.......if you're going to use a respirator make sure the filters are in place.

Great job, Joe!  I sprayed all my track, well most of it, outside and never regretted that.  I didn't use a respirator which falls into the "do as I say, not as I do' category.  I agree with all the comments about how important painting the rails and ties are.  I use the analogy that it is like a beautiful picture without a good frame, it ruins the overall effect.  Same is true with our track, it show cases our trains.

Great job and thanks for sharing, it will inspire many to do something similar and that is a good thing in my view.


Joe, it could happen to any of us, especially those of us like you who do very little spray painting.

Your story is a good example for me if I decide to copy your method.  If I do, now is the time as the layout is in about the same phase of construction as yours.  My respirator and filters are about as old as your old ones.  I gave up on painting with the airbrush in the mid ‘80s.  Now our older daughter has it.  

I will certainly look into new filters or a whole new respirator.

11/21/23 - I decided I wanted to construct a mountain/tunnel along the back wall on the O gauge portion of the layout. First, this would provide a sort of backdrop to this area of the layout and secondly, it would help break up the long straight-a-way on this part of the layout.

My plan was to carve the tunnel/mountain out of 2" foam board just like I did for the river rock work. I used nearly two 4'x8' sheets of the foam board for this project. The tunnel/mountain is 10' long by 32" high. It was built in four sections so I could create it on my workbench and also so I could remove it for layout maintenance if required.

Here are the first steps of construction. The basic shape was created using a hot wire foam cutter. The various layers were glued together.


Next came the carving of the foam. I used a fillet knife and a pocket knife for most of the carving. It took many hours to carve all four sections. I almost abandoned the project a few times just because I was tired of carving. It's a slow, repetitious process. This is one section after the carving was finished.


After all four sections were carved into rock, I caulked most of the joints to help blend them better. Once the caulk was dry I cut through the section joints with a razor knife.


The next step is to completely cover the piece with a coat of flat latex tan paint. I also brush on some water to dilute the paint and help it flow into the nooks and crannies. Once this is done everything is set aside to dry.


The rock work is then painted with diluted flat gray paint, similar to how the tan paint was applied. And once again, allowed to dry.


Next comes the washing with diluted flat black paint. The coat is allowed to run and cover the entire piece. I vary the paint coverage so nothing looks too uniform. The real deep cuts get a less diluted coat of paint to create more shadows. It's best to start off with a lighter coat, as you can always go back and add more paint. You can also just add more water to an area and work it in with your brush to light up an area.

I also add some spots of brown and raw sienna to help vary the color of the rock. These spots get blended in with water washes as well.

During this step you may get discouraged because the coloring does not look realistic. However, just trust the process it will get better by the end.


I let the pieces completely dry for a couple of days. Then comes the final step of dry brushing some white paint to bring out the highlights of the rock.

I dip a paint brush in flat white paint. I then dab the brush repeatedly on a dry paper towel to remove most of the paint. I take the brush and very lightly brush along the high points of the rock surface. It takes some practice to use just the right amount of paint and pressure. If you do put on too much paint, just dab the area with a wet paper towel to remove some paint and blend everything together.

You can also add some of this highlighting to recessed areas to help them blend better. I do this in the deep crevices as well.

This is my favorite part of the process. This step really makes the colors all blend together creating a very realistic look.

In these next two photos you can see the difference the white dry brushing makes. The first photo is before the dry brushing and the second is after it is completed.


Here are some photos of the completed structure in place on the layout. I still have to make the tunnel portals and I also want to add some light vegetation to the mountain at some point, but so far I'm happy with the result.


This last photo shows the river rock work I created previously with the mountain in the background. Eventually, I will also have a matching rock face with tunnel portals for the standard gauge to go under the O gauge portion of the layout. This way the river rock, Standard gauge tunnel area and the O gauge mountain will have a cohesive look.



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Last edited by NJCJOE

12/2/23 - I added portals to each end of the tunnel along with some rock wing walls. These items were also carved from foam like the mountain. This helps finish off the look at the end of the tunnel/mountain. Some finer detail will come later on down the road, but for now it's time to start another project.



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Last edited by NJCJOE

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