Clinic: Weathering a Steam Locomotive

Written by: Aggro Jones


This first step is probably the most important. I clean the heck out of the locomotive. Almost to the point like I’m going to paint an undec shell. I remove all finger prints, dust, and oils using a soft long bristle brush and 70% rubbing alcohol cut with a little water to decrease the chance of screwing up the factory paint.


Once dry, I drybrushed locomotive and tender details–pipes, jiggers, valves, rivits–with Polly S grimey black + aged white to highlight them. Most of the UP Challengers I observed were ashy gray with lots of light dust. Not too much black shows through.


Then I brush painted the drivers Polly S grimey black + mud. Took the beast outside and hit her with Lusterless.


Since the Lionel Challenger’s rods are way too light for what I was going for, I Neo-lubed them up. This kills 2 birds with one stone. The rods get grimey looking and the joints are lubed.


Next, I “wet-brushed” mud along side the bottom edges of the tender, loco trailing, and lower pilot area. (What I call “wet-brushing” is like dry brushing but instead of wiping paint off on a dry paper, I use a 91% alcohol soaked paper towel to remove paint from the brush. This causes a different effect.)


After the Lusterless totally dries, I work Bragdon Enterprise weathering powders on it. A lot light rust, dust bowl brown, and dark rust in various areas. This creates beautiful under tones that can’t be made by sticking to just black, gray, and white powders.


Then I Lusterless it more. And when that cures, a total ashifying coat of light gray powder is added every where except the smoke box area. That recieves a huge dose of soot. Then a final “Lusterlessting”.


That ain’t then end. Then I come in with Polly S concrete on a fine point brush and draw on streaks, marks and such. Very slow, very carefully.

I copy the look right ouf the prototypes. I have a small collection of vintage footage. Challengers came with all kinds of dirty patterns. I select the “best look” of certain parts and combine them on my model. It is supposed to be a UP Challenger after being down graded to helper service. Filthy, worned down, and looking like it needs a run through the wash rack.

Real steamers don’t look like they were sprayed all over with an airbrush . They appear alot “rougher” in coloration.

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