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Helping a friend and we are working on a layout using only 3-rail O-gauge K-line and RMT Super Snap Track...the track with a blackened center rail.


My question is whether to paint/weather the outside rails to a prototypical rust color. The roadbed will be ballasted but I do not know if a darkened/rust color painted is warranted.

Need help - suggestions or ideas.

PS: The layout will have alot of mainline track.

Any comments would be appreciated.




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I painted mine years ago. The majority of it with an airbrush as it had been down for a few years. I always weathered my structures and then started doing rolling stock an engines. The rails just had to be done as they really stood out being the only thing left shiny. Track changes that were made were painted outside with rattle cans. If you want to go down this road. Outside on a nice day before the track is laid is the way to go. If the track is already down. The airbrushing in place works but it helps to have a helper if it involves climbing on the layout. To either pass you fresh paint or to aid in the wiping off of the rails. Use an airbrush that will except a bottle so you don’t have to refill often. Paasche makes a good one that’s simple and user friendly. No need to mask anything off. It will all blend in.

As mentioned. Only worry about painting what you can see while viewing the trains run if your doing it with the track in place.

Walter, I'm only a small operator, but for O scale, I would never paint the rails. Visitors to my layout pay attention to the trains in motion, the scenery, and operating accessories, not necessarily the rails the trains run on. I think it would be a waste of time and effort. But again, I'm just a simple operator. 😉

Last edited by Yellowstone Special

I have not painted my O stuff, it has been shiny and silver since my first train set at age 4.  I did paint my HO rail though, mainly because I still have a lot of brass track and turnouts mixed in with nickel silver and it makes it more uniform.  It is  very old layout, some of the Atlas turnouts are from the 50's.  Paint the sides only of course, and only where they can be seen.  I recently cut it in half to get it up into another room, it is only 5X9, and still working out getting it seamlessly back together.

It depends on what your friend wants.  If the track is down then it'll be a little more difficult to paint individual rails, but can be done. airbrushing is a good idea . On a previous layout my tracks were down so I used a foam paintbrush and Rustoleum's rusty metal primer from a can. If you look at real railroad's track they're  not red but more brownish.

If the track is not down use Rustoleum's camouflage brown in a rattle can on the track.  If you're going to Ballast the track then it's a good idea to mask the ties first.  I used 1/2 inch cellophane tape between the rails and regular masking tape on the outside.  Reason,  diluted glue will puddle on top of painted ties and dry to  a phony sheen.  Unpainted ties will absorb the glue and look more realistic. It's easier find 1/2 inch cellophane at this time of year because of it being the holiday season.

Walter, if you have a scrap piece of track. I would mount it to a scrap piece of  wood and whatever your using for roadbed. Take it outside and hit it with some paint. Mask it off and even try a few different colors. Ballast it and you can even try a few different ones. Take it to the layout room and place it on the table and decide where you want to go with it. Often times colors painted outside may not look the same inside.

There have been a lot of photos posted on weathered trackage. Most are Gargraves, Atlas, or MTH with a flat rail top. The K-Line although it has ties is more in line with tubular track. That’s why I suggested doing a sample piece as you may not like the look.

Early on I painted the side of the rails a Poly Scale brown. Then I would give a thin mist of Grimy Black straight down from the top. Looked rusty and grungy when done. If you model more of the steam era. The rails weren’t a orangey rust. More of a light brown almost greenish look. I recently redid my yard trackage. You can see the difference between weathered and shiny.



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On our layout, I experimented and tried painting the sides of the Gargraves track we were using. Once I did that, the bright, shiny, silver look of the rail did not look as nice to our eyes. So we painted all the track. It is all a matter of what pleases each individual though. Enjoy the hobby!!!


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On my HO layouts, I spray all of the track (rails and ties) with flat black, or Rustoleum camo paint as a first layer. Then, I paint the rails brown and I paint individual ties various shades of brown, gray, and black to represent old, weathered ties. I would suggest spray painting all of your track flat black first, which makes the middle rail the same color as the outside ones. This simple step alone is better than just all-silver track with a black center rail (neither of which looks realistic). It also kills the shiny wood or shiny tinplate metal tie look

If you want to paint the outer rails, or all three rails, rust brown... that can be the next step.

No doubt that painting the rails is much easier and results are better when done prior to laying the track and ballasting.  It can be done afterwards, but it does get messy.

I've taken the latter route as I did not consider painting the rails beforehand.  I just painted a portion of the inner line, so wanted to show the contrast between painted and unpainted.  Atlas track is used here.



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Here is a novel idea! Why not just go to a rail yard, branch or main line and see what real track looks like!!!!!!!!!

It should depend on the era one is attempting to model. For layouts modeling the late stem era, i.e. prior to 1960, most of the freight equipment had oil lubricated plain bearing journals. Thus, the main line rails tended to be sort of "oil soaked" over time, and had an olive green tint to the sides.

If one os attempting to model the current "modern era", the rail sides tend to be a lighter dry coating of dust/grime from the freight equipment (all equipped with non-metallic composition brake shoes).

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