Freight car colors are a constant topic with many modelers. We aim to paint our models reflecting the prototypes as closely as possible. The lead photo here represents my efforts on six Accurail USRA double-sheathed box car kits. The photo captures them after the gloss coat dried to seal the Westerfield Models decals.
I was very excited to achieve the variations of red oxide tones on four of the six models. Here’s the July 2015 blog post summarizing the project. These were some of the first models I had painted after purchasing a spray booth and airbrush.
I used Vallejo paint for all the models. I think the Wabash car was painted with a maroon color. The Pere Marquette and Frisco cars were sprayed with the same red. I may have used that color for the Rock Island car but added a few drops of black to darken the shade. Burnt umber with a few drops of aged white created a mineral brown color for the NYC and Santa Fe cars. I was so excited with how these models turned out, especially with the varying tones of red.
A couple months later, I weathered these cars and everything changed.
I recently set up these cars and snapped a new photo to use as a comparison. I used the same lighting but a different camera for this photo. As you can see, weathering models gives them a new appearance. Slight color differences between models are not nearly as noticeable.
After this experience with weathering, I no longer spend as much time focusing on car color. I don’t even try to get the exact same color tone on two freight car models for the same railroad. Weathering will alter the painted appearance and define the end results.
Of course, your mileage may vary. I model late 1926 in an urban area where coal is used for home heating, industrial uses, and in steam locomotives. Soot, cinders, and dirt are key weathering elements compared to later years when different locomotives came into use and many cities enacted pollution control measures. Paint formulations also improved over time. Many readers model a couple decades beyond my moment, so these are things to consider. But in general, weathering your models will alter the final appearance.
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