I think weathering any model is largely a matter of personal preference. For me, I like a more restrained approach. I will lean more towards something plain – I think this enhances plausibility and the chances of acceptance by the viewer.
My preference is more of what I would call a grimy/oily look.
Pre-war, the New York Central Railroad maintained their locomotives in very good condition. There certainly was no rust or heavily weathered areas. Color photos from that time (my favourite are from Emery Gulash and from NYC Company Photographer Ed Nowak) show this, so I think my mild weathering treatment is prototypically appropriate.
Fillmore is set in June of 1942. For America, the hardship of World War II was only six months old. As wartime traffic demands increased, maintaining locomotive appearance became of much less importance. NYC locomotive photos from 1944 and 1945 show this deterioration to be quite significant, even on the highly regarded streamlined Dreyfuss Hudsons.
Additionally, I weather all the locomotives the same way to create a more harmonized look. I do make some small variations like adding spilled water on a tender deck, or applying more or less sand residues on the sand domes.
I don’t use a lot of different materials in the process. Here is a list:
- Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear lacquer spray (for making gloss decal coats go absolutely dull).
- Testors Model-Master acrylic paint (for airbrushing): Engine Black, Grimy Black, Oily Black (this color is no longer available – I think mixing Engine Black with Roof Brown and a little Olive Drab until an oily appearance is achieved could work).
- Testors Model-Master acrylic Clear Gloss (mixed 50/50 with max 70% strength rubbing alcohol) for water spillage effect on a tender deck.
- Testors Model-Master enamel Dark Gull Gray for dry-brushing; I find enamels dry-brush better as they stay “wet” on the brush longer.
- Bragdon Powders: Weathered Brown, Grimy Gray, Sand.
- Woodland Scenics: Mine Run Coal.
- To clean paint from wheel treads, I use lacquer thinner and Q-tips. I also use this to clean the airbrush and hand brushes.
I don’t spend a lot of time on weathering. Is that a lack of patience?
For what its worth, here is what I do to achieve the weathering effect on my steam locomotives…
Good dry-brushing is a very subtle effect. It looks best, in my opinion, when the highlighting is just barely noticeable. To help with subtly, using an appropriate color helps. In dry-brushing black surfaces, I use a medium gray color. This is more forgiving if I am a bit heavy as opposed to using a light gray which would stand out more.
I use Tamiya flat brushes for the dry-brushing. Any soft flat brush would do – say one about 3/16″ wide. I load some paint on the bristles, then rub the paint off onto a paper towel until I can barely see it, then I rub some more. With a freshly “rubbed” brush, I go in on a discreet area of the model and very, very lightly brush the bristles over raised details to see how it looks. If too much is applied, dry-brushing the base color on top can tone down the offending area. As whatever little paint is being used up, one can brush with more pressure. This technique goes pretty quickly with experience: for a steam locomotive I typically load the brush about three times and twice for the tender.
I don’t seal-in the powders with a flat clear afterwards: often the powders get absorbed by the clear so that they disappear. Also, the powders, particularly the main Weathered Brown one, are applied on horizontal surfaces and are not affected by normal handling. On the rare occasion that I use a flat clear, I mist it on in many light passes.