Crusty, peeling paint

Simple techniques to give your On30 critters a crusty, rusty, blistered and peeling paint job ... because some of us just can't resist that worn out look!

"CRITTERS" (noun / slang) -- Internal combustion railway locomotives, the appearance of which causes great agony to die-hard steam fans and gives great joy to those who like boxy, grumbly locos.  Many in this latter category seem to enjoy a well-used appearance to their critter locomotives -- often to the point that the loco looks utterly abused and/or neglected by the maintenance department.

"CRUSTY CRITTERS" (noun / slang) -- What you can get by building BVM critter kits and using the techniques presented here.  Have fun!

As MUCH or as little weathering as you like ...

Number 7 shows quite a bit of crusty, blistered paint ... while No. 6 has just a few crusty spots and a generally dusty appearance.  The techniques described on the following pages can be varied to suit your taste!  And, if you're a little nervous about trying these techniques for the first time, look in your junk box ... most likely you have an old boxcar, locomotive shell or other item on which you can make a "practice run."  Techniques illustrated on BVM "Little-Bose Boxcab" kits -- available as a single (#352) or two-pack (#353).  Each loco uses one Bachmann On30 Davenport mechanism.

Disassemble Bachmann Davenport -- Be sure to TEST RUN your loco prior to disassembly or modification in case any warranty work is needed!  Remove coupler mounting screws at each end.  Pull couplers and coupler boxes out from each end.  Gently lift body as shown above.  Unplug leads to headlight and remove body.

Remove wheel assembly for painting -- (Optional)  We wanted to paint the locomotive chassis and the crank-n-siderod assembly to highlight the details along the bottom of the loco.  Remove the screws and cover plates from the bottom of the loco and gently lift out the wheel-crank-siderod assembly.  Replace cover and screws.

Mask the cranks and siderods for painting -- We simply cut some slots in a scrap of cardboard to snugly fit around the axles.  After the wheel assembly was placed in the cardboard as shown, we covered the open slots with masking tape prior to painting.  This simple technique allowed us to paint these parts without complete disassembly or complicated re-alignment of these little parts. 

Mask the chassis for painting -- We placed small pieces of masking tape behind the axle openings (above left), then covered the underside with more masking tape as shown (above right). 

Then we covered the motor and all electronics on the top side with masking tape.

NOW THE FUN BEGINS!  Creating the crusty UNDERCOAT -- We'll use ust two light passes of of spray paint to create the undercoat that will peek thru the blistered and peeling areas on the top coat.  First, we spray a quick, light coat of Testor's #1246 Metallic Silver (above left) -- just enough to create a speckled layer as shown and suggest some bare metal peeking thru the peeling paint.  Next, we sprayed a quick, light coat of Model Master #1954 Light Earth (medium brown tone) to subdue the silver.  The earth color laid over the silver and black will appear to be old rust when the top coat is removed.  You can vary the colors, the brands of paint and the coverage of each coat as desired.  Experiment on junkbox items to develop a feel for these techniques! 

Use SEA SALT and/or RUBBER CEMENT to create blistered and peeling effects.  Photo above left shows the Bachmann chassis with the silver and brown undercoats.  To create areas where the paint BLISTERS and breaks loose, we'll use the sea salt as illustrated below.  To create larger areas of PEELED paint, you can use rubber cement -- this is illustrated on the boxcab roof below.  The small brushes shown with the supplies at right ( are available at many hobby shops.  The white "super fine" brushes have a miniature swab-type head that's great for precise placement of rubber cement dabs. 

Add SEA SALT over basecoat (above left) -- We used an inexpensive McCormick sea salt grinder as shown in the photo of supplies above.  This produces various size particles of salt and helps create a more realistic effect.  You can also use coarse salt from a box.  Now, this may seem a little gross to some, but saliva (aka "spit") is a convenient medium for applying the salt.  Work up a good spit, we a big soft brush on your tongue and slather the area you're working on with the brush ... or, if that's too "distasteful" ... it's quite likely that saline solutions (nose drops, eye drops) or automotive windshield fluid would do the trick.  WET the area, grind some salt over top and let that sit until the fluid dries.  If you have too many salt particles, you can knock those loose with your finger tip or a flat wooden toothpick.  OPTIONAL:  Add dabs of rubber cement for larger areas of peeled paint.

Spray top coat over salt and/or rubber cement (above right) -- Once the salt particles have dried in place, take a look and see if there are too many or if there are clusters that are too big.  Those can be knocked loose and brushed away.  Choose a color that represents your railroad's paint scheme.  In this case, we selected Model Master #1930 Flat Gull Gray.  Spray several light coats to achieve the desired coverage.  Since we're going for a fairly beat-up appearance, we stopped short of an opaque paint coat.  Set aside for a SHORT TIME ... the next step will be done soon after the top coat is dry to the touch.


Let the CRUSTY bits appear ...

SOON after the top coat is dry to the touch, it's time to knock loose the salt particles.  We found it handy to chop the fat end of a flat toothpick at an angle and use this to break away the salt particles.  It's okay to leave some of the tiny bits -- those will represent areas where the paint has begun to blister but has not yet broken loose.  You can also use that wooden toothpick to scrape some of the top coat off the edges of nuts, bolsts and other hardware items.  If you used rubber cement, use your finger tip to rub that away and reveal the large peeled areas.

DON'T let the top coat sit overnight before you do these steps -- it becomes difficult to remove the salt and/or rubber cement once the paint is fully cured.

We'll use the same techniques on the Little-Bose Boxcab body ... meanwhile let's take a look at RUBBER CEMENT effects on the roof ...

MASKING -- We painted the lower portion of the roof assembly using the techniques alreayd described, then applied masking tape to the underside of the overhanging roof as shown here.

CRUSTY UNDERCOAT -- We sprayed light, speckled coats of flat black, silver and earth.  Once this dried, we used one of those "super fine" brushes to apply dabs and streaks of rubber cement -- concentrating along the edges of the roof ribs and beneath the area where the muffler would sit.

TOP COAT and CRUSTY EFFECTS -- After the rubber cement was dry to the touch, we sprayed a couple of light coats of Krylon Ruddy Brown Primer (oxide red).  When this was dry to the touch, we peeled away the rubber cement to reveal the crusty areas of peeled paint.

Now we'll use the same techniques on the Little-Bose Boxcab body ...

Left:  We used multiple light passes of Krylon primer to build up a good base coat ... inside and out.  Center:  Then we masked the interior and spray a light, misty coat of flat black.  This helps add depth to the weathering effects.  Right:  Then a misty coat of silver to provide little specks of bare metal in the peeling and blistered paint areas.

A misty coat of earth over the black and silver creates varying shades of rust.

Then we added SEA SALT as described for the chassis paint job.  Apply a generous sprinkle and allow the particles to set.  Then review the overall look and knock loose bits where you feel there's too much or where the clusters are too big.  Obviously, we were going for a really beat-up looking paint scheme on this example!

Then we sprayed a top coat of light gray spray paint (below).  SOON after this was dry to the touch, we began to knock off the bits of salt using the modified toothpick shown in the photo.  In this photo, you can also see where we dragged the angled part of the toothpick across the tops of the rivets to knock off some of the top paint coat and highlight the rivets.

Dusty windows wiped clean in the middle -- Prior to assembly, we traced all of the window openings on a piece of paper.  Then we taped window stock over that and added generous blobs of rubber cement in the center of each window -- it's hard to photograph, but you can just make out the darker gray patches in each window.  Once the rubber cement had dried, we sprayed a light mist of dullcoat.  We let that set, then rubbed off the rubber cement to reveal the effect shown on the finished model.  (Side with dullcoat installed on inside of loco.)

Finishing touches -- It seemed like a number or lettering laid over the cruddy paint would look out of place, so we made up this story ... our railroad purchased this unit second hand, so the crew painted patches of gray over the cruddy paint and then added the new number.  We deliberately selected a different shade of gray and masked crooked patches of the new paint to suggest a hasty job.

We gave No. 7 the full-blown "crummy" paint job.  Number 6 has just a few specks of blistered paint on the body and a few more on the pilots and chassis.  Chalks were used on No. 6 to give it the weathered quarry-service look.

 We used similar techniques on this BVM 20' Steel Boxcar.  An undercoat with mists of black, silver and earth ... fllowed by dabs of rubber cement ... a top coat of Krylon Ruddy Brown Primer (oxide red) ... and a black wash to pull it together.

Check out the Little-Bose Boxcab kits and the customer photos in those listings!

(c) Copyright 2007 Dallas Mallerich III.  You may print/save this article for your personal reference.  Any other use requires written permission.

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