Rolling Realism

Weathered Cominco Hopper

According to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), “Weathering railroad rolling stock is a subtle way of adding a bit of realism to your model trains.”

Rarely do we see real freight cars with that “fresh from the factory” look. Most cars show signs of accumulated dust, dirt, rust, oil, and spilled cargo. Older cars and cars that have seen severe use may exhibit peeling paint, faded lettering and paint, physical damage, and (depending on the era) graffiti.

One of my most favorite sources of inspiration is the Weathering with Mike Confalone series available from Trainmasters TV, but there are numerous free articles and videos available as well. With so many good resources on weathering available to modelers, I am not going to dwell on the details of how I weather my cars here, except to say that I use a variety of common techniques to weather my models. Most models start with the application of Testor’s Dullcoat or an equivalent clear matte finish as a base coat. Sometimes (but not always), an additional coat of matte finish is applied to the model once the weathering is complete. I rarely use an airbrush for weathering most locomotives and rolling stock.

Here’s a general list of products I might select from for the actual weathering.

  • a combination of oil washes (I typically use Winsor & Newton Oil Colors – esp. black and burnt sienna – each diluted in odorless Turpenoid)
  • Colorfin PanPastel Ultra Soft Artist Pastels (start with their 7 piece Rust/Earth Weathering Set)
  • Additional Pan Pastels: white, black, raw umber extra dark, and neutral gray
  • Weathering Powder Pigments (from various manufacturers)
  • Water-based acrylic hobby paints
  • Assorted artist brushes of various sizes and shapes
  • Colored pencils (black, brown, grey)
  • Skewer (for applying tiny dabs of oil paint)

This gallery showcases some of my weathered locomotives and rolling stock…


Mike enjoys family, friends, music, art, model railroading, trains, travel, craft beer, fine food and wine.

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