How to model graffiti on your model railway


Love it or loath it, graffiti has become a common feature on railway property since it was popularised in the 1980s. Michael Russell shares how it can be miniaturised.

Corners of the railway are often neglected, which is what you expect from a working environment where the provision of a service is the most important aspect. Rolling stock waiting for disposal can be parked in a siding for many months, perhaps even years. With such neglect comes dereliction as the weather takes its toll along with the attention of individuals who, like the rolling stock, are similarly under-employed.

Graffiti has become more common and more colourful as spray paint ranges have expanded and this should be reflected in the era you are modelling. This, along with litter, is something that I abhor and I know that many modellers feel the same way. However, if we are to accurately portray the real world, it isn’t something we can ignore. Just remember that modelling it doesn’t mean that you condone it. Having said that, I wouldn’t condemn anyone who left it off!

This is also a good opportunity to model road vehicles too, and to adapt some of the many excellent die-cast offerings available. Although die-cast metal isn’t as easy to work with as plastic, it retains its shape and strength when large parts are removed.

Shopping List

Hornby (R7152) Transit Van, Humbrol (AC5708) Clearfix and (AC5501) Gloss Cote
www.hornby.com
 
Vallejo (70.183) Rust, Stain & Streaking set
www.scalemodelshop.co.uk
 
Scale Model Scenery (LX280-00) Roller Shutter Doors, (KX044-OO) Ultra Low Relief Terrace End House End Wall
www.scalemodelscenery.co.uk
 
Decals (9008) Graffiti and (1042) Withdrawn/condemned markings
www.railtec-models.com
 
Dapol (D095D, D096D or D098D) Stanier coach
www.dapol.co.uk
 
Deluxe Materials Glue ‘n’ Glaze
deluxematerials.co.uk
 
Lifecolor (TSC208 and TSC204) Tensocrom
www.airbrushes.com
 
Winson & Newton Raw Sienna Gouache
www.winsornewton.com

The buildings

1

The terrace end wall is made following the manufacturer’s instructions. I used a seam roller to ‘iron’ flat the paper glued on with PVA glue. Use a tool handle, such as a knife, to burnish the paper at edges and corners.

2

The exposed ends are disguised by using permanent marker pens. If you need a colour you haven’t got, you can layer the colours. To make brown, apply purple followed by orange.

3

The roller shutter door kits are simple to make and are glued together in layers using PVA glue. To avoid warping, spray paint them using any acrylic colour of your choice. Glue the door to the building sides using PVA glue.

Graffiti

1

Practise on paper first using pencil. Draw two lines 2cm apart and write your word between them. Now ‘balloon’ the letters and make them overlap, drawing in ink. Try to make swift, confident marks to avoid ‘tightness’.

2

Rub out the pencil and colour in the letters. Add shading to the letters and contrasting colours behind the letters for impact. Think of each ink as coloured glass and don’t overlap them unless you wish to make a third.

3

To retain brightness, mask out your graffiti and spray with white paint. When dry, remove the masking tape and draw your design on the white area as though it were paper. This will give you a white colour, too.

4

Draw the outline first, then add the colours within. Although they dry quickly, wait a few moments before adding marks near a newly-applied colour. Reapply white to correct mistakes, but these should be few if you have practised.

5

To add small areas of white to a design, or colours that you don’t have a pen for, try using a dip nib or bow pen. The paint will flow correctly if you get the consistency right.

The carriage

1

If necessary, dismantle your carriage so you can gain access to the glazing. This will vary depending on the manufacturer and model. I used a Dapol carriage because these are made from kits and don't use glue.

2

Cut out doors by making repeated light cuts along the edges with a sharp knife. Clean up the edges with a file. I added internal door detail, such as the lock made from 0.020in plastic sheet.

3

Cut the glazing down where doors have been removed and fill in gaps in the floor. Remove some areas of glazing altogether. Paint the interior with acrylic paint. I used Vallejo 70.301, 70.981 and 70.302.

4

To portray broken glass, score clear plastic sheet with a wire brush. Score the marks at 90-degree angles to each other. You can also add a little white acrylic paint to the marks to add to the opaqueness.

5

Cut the glazing using a sharp craft knife to portray areas that have dropped out. Small stone marks can be made using a small drill. Glue glazing in place using Glue ‘n’ Glaze or Hornby Clearfix.

The van

1

The tyres are too round, even for those fully inflated. Remove them from the rims and cut out a flat section with a knife. Press back into place and stop the axles from rotating with cyanoacrylate.

2

Undo the two screws underneath and take the model apart. Cut parts out of the shell using a razor saw. Take your time and beware of tool slippage by over-exertion. I wouldn’t recommend a rotary tool for this job.

3

Clean up the edges with a rough file, then smooth the cut edges with a fine file. Clean up your work area afterwards to remove the small metal debris from the modelling environment.

4

Cut down the glazing and the interior with a knife where you have removed elements such as doors. Remove the dashboard and paint the entire interior with acrylics. Prime any cut metal edges first.

5

Drill out the headlights using a 2mm drill. I drilled one all the way through to represent a missing headlight and one concave to represent the reflector with no glass. Remove other items to taste.

6

To make a headlight, take a 2mm piece of plastic rod and, using a drill of the same diameter, drill a concave depression. Now drill through the centre of the depression with a 0.4mm drill. Cut the end off the rod and round the end.

7

Take a 0.2mm piece of copper wire (mine came from the windings of an old motor) tie a knot in the middle and thread it through the centre hole. Fix in place with cyanoacrylate. Paint with Vallejo 70.302 and 74.505.

8

The broken windscreen is made from a piece of material taken from a nylon storage bag. Draw around the aperture with a marker pen, cut out slightly larger than the outline with scissors, then brush on Matt Acrylic medium.

9

Glue the windscreen in place using cyanoacrylate and depress with a blunt instrument to portray the concave collapsed structure. Brush on cyanoacrylate and, while it is drying, disturb areas to give a more white and opaque feel.

Weathering

1

To fade the paintwork, the van and carriage sides were given a coat of Humbrol Gloss Cote mixed with some Humbrol Pale Stone. Merely diluting the paint with thinners would allow for the possibility of overspray.

2

Railtec transfers are now added. I used both the marks made by the rail workers in identifying the carriage as condemned and graffiti. Bear in mind how far people can reach from the ground when adding these.

3

The buildings, van and carriage are given an all-over layer of dirt using Vallejo 70.822. Add more on the carriage roof and ends than the sides. Ensure the buildings have some around the base to portray rain splash-back.

4

Add Vallejo light rust around the wheels, frame and bogies of the carriage. The wheels arches and wings of the van are also treated. Don’t overdo the rust on such vehicles, unless they have suffered fire damage.

5

It is important to add algae to vehicles that have stood for some time. I sprayed the carriage sides with a mid-green and then, before the paint dried, dragged a damp hog’s hair brush over it to produce streaks.

6

Add further decals to portray fresh graffiti and give a contrast with those applied before weathering. In this way, you can portray vehicles that have stood for longer or shorter periods.

7

Add rust spots using a cocktail stick. I used Vallejo 70.981. Add dots of raw Sienna gouache paint and spread downwards with a damp brush to replicate the action of rain. Use restraint on painted surfaces.

8

Clear glazing can be weathered using Lifecolor Tensocrom agent applied neat. The grass and smoke colours are the most applicable here. These products are also useful for general weathering if you don’t have an airbrush.

More information

If you enjoyed this practical feature, you'll find a whole host of great practical advice and step-by-step guides in our Techniques section here.

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