How to enhance an RTR locomotive

21 August 2019
LEAD-PIC-web-57309.jpg How to enhance an RTR locomotive
Struggling to differentiate your RTR locomotive from the crowd? Here’s 18 quick transformational tips to improve your fleet.

Bachmann’s 1F model is nicely finished, but from the box, it is un-weathered. As such, it looks unrealistic. Doing your own weathering is very enjoyable and straightforward if a few simple rules and techniques are followed.

We’ve endeavoured to weather the locomotive to a well-used, but a cared-for condition. The basic method is to add paint, then remove it, thereby replicating the action of dirt accumulating and being removed by locomotive cleaners.


Prise couplings off and store them safely. You may like to weather these separately if you plan to add them back to the locomotive at a later date.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


We’re adding the cosmetic couplings to the buffer beams using superglue before starting the weathering.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


The next step is adding the canvas weather sheet to the cab roof using tweezers and superglue.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


The crew come away fairly easily by twisting them using a pair of tweezers.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


We split the locomotive from its chassis. There are two screws holding the two halves together, as shown in the documentation provided with the model (and available online).
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


By using the cardboard tube from a toilet roll as a handle, we managed to avoid touching the body when spraying.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


We removed the bunker by undoing the two screws underneath - be very careful here as the handrails are now exposed and are easy to bend out of shape.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Using the screws, we attached the bunker to a piece of cardboard to facilitate handling when spraying.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Brush the model with a soft brush to remove any particles of dust or debris.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Using an airbrush, spray a mix of Humbrol Matt Black (33), Leather (62) and Metalcote Steel (27003) onto the body, chassis and bunker. You’ll only need a light coat. If you don’t have an airbrush, apply a dilute mixture using a brush.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Before the paint has dried, use a cotton bud moistened with thinners to remove the paint wherever you can reach it. Work on one area at a time and change buds regularly as they become dirty. Mop up thinners from the model using a dry cotton bud. Be very careful to avoid rubbing too hard otherwise you will remove the transfers!
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Use a soft dry brush and tweezers to remove particles of cotton stuck to the model.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


In the cab, wet a brush in thinners and move around the weathering sprayed onto the cab roof and backhead. Use a cotton bud soaked in thinners to clean the gauges, wheels and regulator.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Remove the two screws holding the baseplate in position and remove the wheels. Immediately put the two halves back together temporarily to avoid losing gears and prevent debris reaching the inner workings.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Apply black acrylic paint behind the wheels, and spring. You’ll be able to see the outline of the wheel from the spray pattern left behind. Grind up a small amount of black and grey chalk using a file and daub this into the wet paint. Reassemble the wheels and fix the baseplate into position.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Thin acrylic black paint by 50% and paint this onto the cab floor. Apply more of the ground black chalk. Add a small amount of ground orange chalk to the firebox door. Reassemble the bunker to the main body.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Mix up a thin enamel wash of Humbrol Gloss Tan (9) and Metalcote Steel (27003) and apply to the coupling rods. Ensure that you don’t add this too thickly and so gum up the motion.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive


Finish the locomotive by topping up the bunker with real coal and PVA glue. Add a dab of black acrylic paint to each buffer head to represent grease. Add the crew back using super glue – the fireman seemed to have no backside, so I added solder and repainted the missing detail.
How to enhance an RTR locomotive

Weathering Top Tips

  • Good light is essential. Spray outdoors, in a glasshouse/conservatory, or close to a window.
  • It’s difficult to see how much paint is produced by your airbrush until it has landed on the model. So that you’ve got some idea, start spraying onto a piece of cardboard, then, holding the brush controls in the same position, direct the airbrush at the model.
  • You will use very little paint when weathering, so only mix small quantities.
  • Stop before you think you have finished – it’s easy to overdo weathering effects. You can always add more if you revisit the locomotive at a later date.
  • Keep your brush strokes vertical, never horizontal.
  • Before using the locomotive, with everything dry, clean the wheel treads and current collection surfaces. Check that you haven’t gummed up the motion and free it before use.
  • Be careful using thinners around transfers – work on these sections quickly and don’t press too hard.

For more step-by-step weathering articles, head to our ‘Techniques’. 

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Read our step-by-step guide to weathering a locomotive using paint washes and powders here.