Weathering Factory output

Lined up and ready for service!

Several box car projects have been completed recently and it’s really great to have these in service on the Wheeling Freight Terminal. It makes a big difference when six undecorated cars are replaced by six cars that are painted, lettered, and weathered. I started these five years ago, so it is doubly satisfying to complete these models. Click on any image here to review a larger size.


I enjoy weathering freight cars and have answered many questions over the years on techniques. I recommend reviewing an article by Richard Hendrickson to get you rolling. “Vintage Dating Freight Cars” appeared in the December 1995 issue of Railmodel Journal. Prototype images taken in your modeling era are additional weathering tools to keep handy. Let’s take a look at the recent output from my weathering factory. All of these models are HO scale, Accurail USRA double sheathed box cars. I backdated the brake systems on all six cars in September 2005. The body details were upgraded in June 2013. They were painted in February 2015, decaled in July, and weathered in August.


After painting, a gloss coat of Future acrylic floor wax was airbrushed onto the cars to prepare for decaling. This product, Future, is now marketed as Pledge Floor Care Multi-Surface Finish. I’m using up my old bottle.

Westerfield Models offers decals for the USRA double sheathed box cars that have accurate lettering for my 1926 era. After the decals were set, another coat of Future was sprayed onto the car to seal the decals. I live in an arid region so everything dries quickly. The car was sprayed with Model Master clear lusterless flat lacquer the next day. Weathering washes stick better to the flat surface than a gloss surface.


A dark grey color pencil was used to darken random boards before a light grey acrylic wash was slathered over the car. Excess wash liquid was removed with a Q-Tip. Once dry, a flat coat was applied to protect the work from the next wash. An oil-based burnt umber wash was applied the next day and sealed when dry. Pan Pastels were applied next. Raw umber was used on the lower parts of the car to represent dust and grime. Neutral grey extra dark was applied on the roof and upper areas on the sides and ends to represent soot accumulation.


This Santa Fe car went through a similar process but lighter shades of weathering were used. Rather than a grey acrylic wash, a tan color was used. Grey Rottenstone was dusted onto the model in place of the raw umber Pan Pastel.


Can you believe this car was painted red? As much as model railroaders argue about car colors, it all changes when you weather a model. Some people may think the weathering on this is too heavy, but this car has had six years of service in an era with few pollution control laws. Steam locomotives moved this car from place to place, adding more soot to the mix. This car was weathered at the same time as the New York Central car, so the processes are similar.


I don’t recall how the scar ended up on the door here, but I think it was from a hair on the model after it was painted. One of the last steps of the weathering process employs a light grey color pencil to highlight edges and other details. I used to drybrush with white paint in this step but I like the light grey pencils better. Chalk marks were added with the same pencil. Many cars have route tags applied somewhere near the sill. Small squares of newsprint were placed over a spot of glue to reflect these features. A portion of a larger placard was glued onto the door.


Each car has a reweigh date within two years of my November 1926 focus. Before weathering, rubber cement was applied over the reweigh decals to protect them from the weathering so they would look fresher at the end of the process. A toothpick was used to carefully spread the cement in place and later used to pick it off. The effect isn’t as bold on most of the models as I was hoping, but it does show up on a couple of them.


I wanted to do something a little different with one of these cars. I found a photo of a couple box cars with a paper seal applied around the door to protect the load. I wondered what the car would look like after that paper seal was removed. Possibly, not all of it would be removed. I know I have seen a photo of a car with some remnants of the paper seal, but I can’t find it. I used 1×2 stripwood and some thin brown bag material to make these remnants for the Rock Island car. This is not a common detail, but it does make for something interesting. I may do this again on another car sometime down the road.

Resin Kits

I have built a number of resin kits over the last couple of years, but none have been painted, decaled, or weathered until now. Here are two HO scale Funaro & Camerlengo box car kits that are my first complete resin freight cars.

Eagle-eyed blog visitors will realize the prototypes for both of these models were in use beyond my 1926 focus. I’ve had these kits for a while and thought it would be good practice to build them and send them along. These have been shipped off to a friend back east who got me started in this hobby, 40-some years ago.


The weathering processes for these models were similar to the USRA cars above. The C&O car photo was taken before the highlights, chalk marks, and route tags were added to the model. It was fun to work on models from a later period, but I’m thankful I don’t have to mess with the AB brake system piping on a regular basis!

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20 thoughts on “Weathering Factory output”

  1. Hi Eric,
    Very nice job writing up your process for weathering and the finished cars look great. Good to know I’m not alone in modeling 1926 – SP Shasta Div.
    Thanks for sharing,

    1. Thanks for your comments, Gary. If I were to extrapolate the weekly hits on the 1920s Plastic Freight Car models page here on this Blog, then there may be thousands of people modeling 1920s railroads. But it is more assuring to know a few names! – Eric

    1. Scott, I think there are many folks with long term projects on, or near, the workbench! I’ve got a few more coming along that will be featured here. Someday. – Eric

  2. Eric I have to agree 100% about you comment on “Believe it or not, this car was originally painted red!” I’m now to the point where I simply paint a lot of ny cars in one of three shades of oxide red (usually some sort of rattle-can primer) running from red to brown. By the time they get weathered they usually can’t be identified as to what color they originally were, so why agonize over getting the exactly correct shade of Freight car red?

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Jared, it is funny how different everyone sees these things. I sent a couple of these photos to another friend and he thought there was too much weathering, especially on the roofs! I do agree that a couple of the cars need more soot. Standing here at the layout and looking over the car fleet, there is a decent amount of variation to the roof weathering. Some are nearly black, some have a bit of car color showing through, and many about hit a 50% weathering/car color look. I try to reflect those Jack Delano color photos of yards around Chicago in the 1940s. We’ll see how these look after the next operating session. At least it’s easier to add the soot than to take it away! – Eric

  3. Hi Eric,

    I greatly enjoyed looking at this write-up and the photos. Since I model 1929, we do a very similar era.

    Claus Schlund

    1. Claus, Thanks for your comments. I’ve learned from your work, too! We pre-Depression Era modelers need to stick together! – Eric

  4. Eric
    Thanks again for the cars. They are on the layout and will be in regular service. If you need more kits, I have plenty that are not built and as old as I am, they may never get built. Maybe some friend will get bored with the 1920’s and want more modern kits to build. Have a great day in the 100 plus temps. It might get to 90 this next week. We do need rain.

    1. Dick, Thanks for checking in on the blog. I’m glad those cars are headed to serve the J&LE. – Eric

  5. Hi Eric,
    These models are fabulous! I have a question.

    What year do you think the railroads stopped using the paper seals on the doors?

    I’m modeling 1964.

    Thanks for sharing this info.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, John! I do not know when paper door seal use ended. Certainly it was more difficult to tack any wood battens onto a metal car side or metal door. I suspect there were advances after WW2 that were employed, especially as covered hoppers became widespread in a number of different applications. remember, by your 1964 focus, the Airslide covered hopper would be the preferred car to transport any fine material and protect it from contamination. – Eric

  6. Hmm, those external paper seals are something I do not recall seeing before. Wonder how close to the transition era they were used – maybe not after the end of wood cars? Am thinking they would be nailed to the wood, and steel would present a bit if an issue there.

    1. Forrest, I don’t recall seeing these kind of external seals on cars with steel-sheathing. I suspect the seal became more of a internal plug in the door opening and concealed by the closed door. Since this was posted, I have seen several examples of paper seal remnants on wood-sheathed box cars. Once you are aware of the detail, it becomes more apparent in photos. – Eric

  7. Eric, Just saw your posts on the NEB&W Facebook page. Thanks! What issue of RMC had the article you mention? I had vaguely remembered it and looked unsuccessfully for it. I emailed John Nerich and he put the project on the club page.

    You’ve got a very good website, info, photos

    1. Hey Bill! Thanks for stopping by! The RMC article with the door seals was the November-December 2014 issue. The article is by Don Valentine. – Eric

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