Of late I’ve had the pleasure of helping out on Roy Jacksons Retford layout. Roy’s vision is to see Retford as it was in the late 1950’s, this includes the trains and their correct formations as well as the scenic side. I started weathering my own stock quite early on in my modelling development, and in the depths of the redundant stock I had some of my own wagons, which I had decided would need a re-work for my own layouts Albion Yard and Bawdsey. Once I’d got happy with the technique I showed it to Roy, as I felt that the mineral wagon trains would benefit from a similar makeover. Roy’s wagons had been built in the very early 1970’s, were in trains of about 30 or so and had previously operated on his Gainsborough Central layout and then the High Dyke and Dunwich projects. To be able to give an individual look to each wagon was an essential element to the project, also to do it efficiently and without any invasive work on the wagons. After all a good proportion had been working without problems for in excess of thirty years, and the last thing we needed was to affect that reliability.
The first thing I did was to get the materials for the project, these involved a couple of tools, paint and transfers. A Scalpel with a new C10 blade. A glass fibre pen and plenty of the pen refills, these two are the base starting point on the project. Pairs of surgical gloves to protect hands from glass fibre shards. Assorted enamel and acrylic paints for detail weathering. Aerosol spray cans of Halfords Matt Black, Halfords acrylic laquer and Vallejo matt varnish, together with masking tape.
Number and lining transfers from Cambridge Custom Transfers Sheet BL1 including black backing patches, sheet BL7. MicroSol and MicroSet decal softening solutions.
Many of the wagons still had the Airfix Decals, some of these were removed completely, others which could be saved were scratched or brushed clean, taking care to scratch away the thick Airfix carrier transfer film. As we were looking at trains of thirty or so wagons that pass through the scene, we wanted a ‘mass’ appearance rather than specific individual wagons, so having the same number re-occur occasionally is unlikely to be noticed. For this example we’ll look at taking a heavily weathered wagon back to nearly new. The first shot shows one of the typical starting points, the first job is to remove the Airfix transfers, once that is done then wearing the gloves you can start to cut away the original paint.
Its a good idea to also have a plastic container underneath the wagon to catch the broken fibres to keep the bench clean and safer, a glass fibre splinter can be very painful and aggravating. Depending on the amount of paint you vary the brush pressure to cut the paint back, and as a rule keep the strokes vertical, this will give a realistic look as the original coat comes away. The brush allows you to get into the corners by the hinges and framework, it also leaves some paint there which adds to the effect. Once I have a bare wagon I repaint the chassis Humbrol 33 matt black by hand, if the wagon inside needs doing I give those a coat too, again remembering to keep brush strokes vertical, so any streaks show the correct orientation. You can also mask the top of the wagon and use the Halfords black spray to do the wagon insides if you have a large number to do, when I was working on a batch of about eight or more that’s the way I usually did it. At this point you should have a wagon with a matt finish from the glass fibre brush and some corrosion left in the corners where the brush can’t reach. You can add to these areas with more patches of rust, hand painted and then cut those back too, if you’re not happy with the result. It takes about half an hour or so to get the wagon to this stage, once you’re comfortable with the technique.
You are now ready to apply the transfers. With waterslide and most other types of transfer they adhere better to a gloss surface and the easiest way to do this is to spray them. If you don’t have a gloss surface then it is very easy to see the carrier film, and ‘silvering’ occurs where you have pockets of air preventing the transfer seating properly and the shiny carrier film shows at most viewing angles. To help minimise this I use the Halfords acrylic laquer, it goes on easily and doesn’t affect the underlying plastic. I make a very simple mask from the tape, to protect the wheels and couplings and then spray the sides from about nine inches with the laquer.
I dry this with a hair dryer, and then give another coat and do the same. This gives a hard and gloss finish for the transfers to grip to. Cut as close as you can to the actual writing or logo on the decal to reduce the amount of film you have to hide. For these minerals I used CCT’s black patch transfer sheet (BL7). This is a sheet of plain gloss black that you cut to size which your numbering decals will go on top of. If you’re doing a batch of wagons as I was, then cut enough, plus a couple of spares to do all the wagons you’re working on.
In the best traditional manner, use lukewarm water to dip the transfer in to release it from the backing paper. Once it’s started to slide I put a light wash of Microset decal solution on the area where the transfer will go. This starts to cut the oils in the paints and helps the glue on the transfer grip the surface. This helps the transfer conform to the model surface and minimizes the amount of air that can get trapped underneath. The numbers, wagon weight, tare data and white end stripes are all on CCT sheet BL1, and they are all printed on the same sheet of backing film. I use a scalpel and ruler to cut as near as I can to the markings, leaving a minimum of the backing film surrounding the printed areas.
If you are applying a decal across planking, or a compound curve like an HST nose for example, then Microsol works in a similar fashion as it softens the transfer so it’ll conform to highly irregular shapes.
Leave the transfers to dry completely. Once they’re dry check for any ‘silvering’, if you find any use a pin to prick the silvered area and dab Microsol on it, that will release the air and allow the transfer to settle on to the model so you lose the silver effect. You will now have a glossy mineral wagon, and the fastest way to give it a matt coat is again by spraying them. Vallejo make a matt varnish that is available in a spray can. This is also an acrylic and will provide you with a good topcoat cover that is a very dull matt crucially will not affect the models plastic, paint, laquer or transfers you have already applied.
This technique has given us the opportunity to quickly change the appearance of many wagons, which in turn has greatly enhanced the effect of a long train of mineral wagons being slowly dragged across Retford’s characteristic GN/GC level crossing by a suitably tired and filthy WD 2-8-0.
Cambridge Custon Transfers