How to Weather Model Trains

Written by ellen dean
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How to Weather Model Trains
Real trains are not shiny and new, they are weathered, dusty and grimy. (Toy train on the track. image by J3TPhotos from

Weathering your toy trains is a creative way to depict realistic landscapes. Begin your project by looking up images of old trains on the Internet or in books. Take note of how rust and grime build up on the trains. Observe where black dirt has built up in the recessed areas of the trains and where shiny metal still protrudes on railings. Each model train car can be its own unique work of art with a little planning and the correct materials. This process takes practice. Be patient, and practice first on cheaper model cars.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Small paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paint in red, brown, tan and black
  • Leather dye, black and brown
  • Black ink
  • Eyedropper
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Paper towels
  • 2 small glass bottles

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  1. 1

    Mix alcohol and black ink in a small bottle.

  2. 2

    Use the eyedropper to drop this solution over your train car as a base rinse. It should seep into all the cracks and crevices of the train creating definition and depth. Blot with a paper town to lessen the effect of the black, or use additional ink to create darker areas. An uneven tone appears more realistic.

  3. 3

    Add a bit of brown leather dye to the alcohol and ink mixture to create the effect of rust. Dab this onto the edges of the train car using a stiff short-haired brush. Blot out the painting with a paper towel to experiment with various intensities and opaqueness of paint.

  4. 4

    Apply pale tan and white acrylic paints with a fine brush to highlight any train parts that stick out such as rivets, steps and roof walks. Apply black and dark grey paints to create darker areas that would normally be in shadows such as between the train wheels. Allow each layer of the paint to dry before applying more paint.

  5. 5

    Mix a small amount of leather dye in a jar with rubbing alcohol. Experiment to find the best ratio mixture to create your desired effect. Dip a stiff-bristle brush into the mixture and run it just under the roof line of the train car, allowing the dye to drip down to create dirt and grime.

  6. 6

    Soak up any excess paint that has puddled at the bottom of the train car with a cotton swab.

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