Weathering ballast wagons

This post will cover my first serious attempt at weathering rolling stock. I’ve had a few goes in the past, and whilst I learned something each time, I was never really happy with the results. Having recently watched Everard Junction’s video on weathering wagons, and seeing as I also have a set of seacows that could do with being weathered, I decided to give it a proper go.

I’ll be using weathering powders for the first time, specifically a couple of sets of powders from DCC Concepts (their full range can be found here) that I picked up a show recently. I chose the “Shades of Grey” and “Locos and Wagons” sets, as this gives me a wide range of colours to work with.

Two packs of weathering powders. You get a good selection of brushes with each set.

The wagons I’ll be working on are a set of six Bachmann ex-Sealion Seacows in EWS maroon that I’ve had for a few years now.

A Bachmann Seacow in out-of-the-box condition. A great model, but there’s a lot we can do to tone it down.

One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past is not looking at photos of the real thing when working on the model. So I’ve done some digging and found a selection of photos of Seacows in service.

These photos show a common base colour, but with a wide variation of interesting effects on top. There’s the usual mix of rust spots and patches on the body and a layer of brake dust wash on the bogies and underframe, and also patches on the body where it looks like paint has been applied, along with various hand-drawn markings. I’ll be trying to replicate some of these effects on my models.

Painting the wheels and inside

Before any weathering can be done, I need to paint some parts of the model. The wheels are bright silver-grey, so they need to be done, and judging by the photographs of the prototype, the inside of the wagon is not correct either. For both of these tasks I’ll be using a mix of brown and black Revell acrylic paint – specifically a 5:1 mix of Leather Brown to Black from their excellent Aqua-Color range.

Painting the wheels is easy – apply a reasonable amount of paint to a fine brush, place it on the wheel, and rotate the wheelset with your thumb several times.
The same process goes for the backs of the wheels.
The wheelsets and Kadee coupling painted. Be careful when painting the Kadee to avoid getting paint on the jaw pivot or on the surfaces that come into contact when two vehicles are coupled together.
The inside of the wagon after painting. I’ve also done the top edges as well, as they’re equally dark and rusty in real life.

The wheels and wagon inside each took two coats to get a good finish. Even after this, there’s still some slight variations in colour, but I want that variation – it will add to the overall effect. I’m really pleased with the improvement painting the wheels and inside has made. The wagon now looks much more like a “working wagon” and much less like a model.

I’d say that even if you’re not planning on weathering your rolling stock, simply painting the wheels makes a massive difference to the overall appearance. In my opinion it’s the best “bang for the buck” upgrade you can give your vehicles.

Applying a base layer

Now onto the weathering! I’ll be starting by applying a wash of black powder and water along the tops and down the side panel ribs, as well as around the ends. I’ll then take an old bristly brush and use it to work the wash down the body, using only downward strokes. After that I’ll take one of the make-up brushes supplied with the DCC Concepts powders and work the powder around into all the little corners as it dries. This wash technique is actually borrowed from the Everard Junction video linked above.

The powder wash applied to one side of the model.
The wash has now been roughly worked down the sides. Don’t worry if it appears too dark – the next step will soften the effect significantly!

After a bit of experimentation, I found that a ratio of about 10 parts water to 1 part powder worked well.

The model after smoothing the effect with a fine brush. I used a mix of vertical strokes in each panel and horizontal strokes along the entire length. This helps work the powder into the corners and edges, just as dirt builds up on obstacles on the real thing.
The same approach was taken with the ends. A generous amount of powder mix was worked into all the nooks and crannies to give the ends a darker feel than the rest of the model.

Colour variation

In the photos of the prototype you can see a great deal of variation in colour. Some panels seems to be redder and darker than others, some are almost yellow, and some areas seem to have been painted or treated in some way. There are markings and rust patches everywhere.

Applying an extra bit of powder mix to the rivets on one end of the model. This will help them stand out a bit more. I used a finger to smooth it out once applied, which gives a nice highlight effect around the rivets themselves, whilst leaving the smooth open areas of panel slightly cleaner and brighter.
Here I’ve applied a small amount of “Yellow clay” powder over the top of the base layer. This was applied dry with a fine brush, so as not to disturb the base layer. After adding the yellow, I then applied a small mount of “Rich old rust” in places, before finally rubbing the model gently down with a finger to smooth everything out. I’ve also added a little “Brake dust” to the bogies, steps and wheels.
Another wagon I’ve been working on – this one has yellow patches as seen in one of the prototype photos. In this photo you can also see I’ve applied “Rich old rust” to the inside of the wagon, turning the uniform satin brown finish into a really nice matt rusty effect that looks just like old rusty steel.

As I’ve worked through the set of six wagons, I’ve really tried to weather each one slightly differently. In reality, no two wagons look exactly the same so it makes sense to do this.

The nearly-finished set

This wagon has had an extra layer of “Yellow clay” applied over the top. I have also dropped some real granite ballast into the hopper a few times – this has left realistic looking white streaking effect on the inside which I think looks good.
On this one, I experimented with dabbing on some grey and brown paint with a piece of spare foam. I think the effect is quite interesting, although I perhaps overdid the grey a bit!
Here I’ve removed a bit more of the black base layer using a finger. I found that as long as I used a single stroke per panel, and kept going until my finger was off the bottom, no fingerprints would be left.
This wagon has just had a base coat and the odd patch of “Rich old rust” applied.
Another example with a bit more “Yellow clay”.
This wagon has had some pure white powder brushed over some areas on the side panels to represent dust from ballast being loaded.

These wagons are not finished yet – they still need spraying with matt varnish to keep the powders in place and granite ballast loads fitting, but they’ve turned out rather well. I can wholeheartedly recommend the DCC Concepts weathering powders, they’re so fine that they really do stick to the model once applied.

Once the wagons are completely finished, I think I might turn my attention to weathering a loco to pull them, most likely my ViTrains 37. This will require quite a bit of research, as locomotives have more effects that need to be captured when weathering. Watch this space!