Basic Weathering on Prime for Grime Models

Model railroading is a unique hobby in many ways, especially weathering. What other hobby would encourage you to take a brand-new item and distress it and make it look old? Not many. Although the concept is starting to take hold in other hobbies such as RC rock crawling, see our sister brand Axial, most hobbies keep their models pretty much pristine. So why does a person purchase a model, sometimes a rather expensive one at that, and determine to fade the paint, add rust and grime, and make it look like it has suffered many hard years of service? To simply put it, to match the prototype. For our model locomotives, rolling stock, and even accessories to look believable and match the real world, they must be weathered, Sure, applying a coat of a clear matte finish helps, but it is also a good start to making that model look like an item that has spent its entire life open to the elements.

A few years back, Athearn introduced the Prime for Grime models. These were models that featured faded and patched paint and in recent years it has begun to show actual paint degradation such as rusted, oxidized, and chipped paint, all based on research of the prototype. What Athearn has done, is laid the groundwork on a weathered model. Once you have purchased a Prime for Grime model, the first step is to apply a coat of matte clear. This will not only dull the shine but give the medium you will be using to weather the model more “tooth” in which to adhere to. There are many ways to weather models but the two most common are with weather chalks or powders and the other with paint. Either one can be done easily with a simple brush and a bit of time.

Paints for Model Train Weathering

Using paints has been a common practice for many years and one of the most common methods of weathering or distressing your model train is dry brushing. Say you want to highlight the rusty bolts of a grab iron or the sides of a boxcar - dry brushing is perfect for highlighting this effect. Simply use an oxide brown color paint of your choice and dip the bush in the paint then using a paper towel, wipe off most of the paint. Most of the paint will remain deep inside the bristles. Now lightly brush the high points of the area you wish to be rusty and soon you will see the rusty build-up on the high points of the model. You can also use this technique to simulate rust that has formed from years of rainwater and contaminants running down the sides of the model. Another paint method is the buildup of dust and grime called a wash. This can easily be done by mixing a dark color such as grimy black or various earthtones and mixing in a high concentration of thinner or water if using acrylics. Most modelers use acrylics as they can easily be thinned with water. Simply make up a mix of 4 parts water to 1 part paint, 80% water, 20% paint, and mix thoroughly. Since we are simulating the grime and dust that builds up on these cars and locomotives over time, we want to work vertically up to down, top to bottom. Simply paint the mixture from the top to the bottom and the wash you have created will settle into the lowest points of the model. Once dry, this will simulate the dust and grime that has accumulated over time to weather your model train. If the first pass is not dirty enough for you, simply make another pass after the first pass has dried. Once dried and to your liking, give the car another light coat of clear matte medium and you are finished.

Chalks and Weathering Powders for Model Train Distressing

Chalks and weathering powders are another method to weather or distress your model train locomotives and railcars and have many advantages. For one, if you weather a train and you are not happy with the results, you can simply brush away the powder or chalk. The downside to some weathering powders and chalks is they become even more subtle once you have sealed them in with a clear matte finish, but it must be applied otherwise your weathering will have fingerprints and not last. Methods here are very similar to paints. With a wide variety of weathering chalks and powders, you simply use a paintbrush and dip it into the powder or chalk and apply, much like a paint. You can build up the grime in low spots and simulate rust and wear simply by applying the powder or chalk to the desired area. Once happy with your results, a coat of matte clear will seal everything in.

This is just a basic description of weathering. Books and even videos have been produced discussing prototype weathering in detail and this is just scratching the surface. If you would like to see more on weathering a Prime for Grime car, look at Hybrid Hobby's video. In this video, James shows us how to weather a 50' Prime for Grime Athearn HO freight car. James uses a combination of both weathering powders as well as paint and shows you how much more realistic your freight cars can become. This is a great activity to perform in the workshop in between operating sessions and your operators will certainly appreciate your efforts the next time they come over to operate on your layout.

Share this article