How to weather a locomotive using paint washes and powders

18 October 2018
Finished-1-62064.jpg Follow our simple advice to get started in locomotive weathering
Model railway weathering does not have to be difficult or expensive. Follow these simple steps to get started

Most model railways look a bit characterless if everything is too clean. Grime highlights edges and emphasises detail, and any layout will look more realistic with a bit of it.

For this project, we keep things simple by using items from Humbrol. The weathering powders are especially good, as they seem to stick to models well. We are also using a basic 0-4-0, which is the lowliest model in the Hornby range and is widely available. Despite this, a bit of dirt makes a great deal of difference. Follow these simple steps, and you'll soon be adding dirt to all your locos:

What we used
No.67 Enamel – Tank Grey
Black Wash
Dark Brown Wash
Dark Brown Weathering Powder
Rust Weathering Powder
Smoke Weathering Powder



Never start weathering with your best locomotive. This slightly dusty Hornby 0-4-0 is perfect, not least because as a colliery locomotive, the one thing it needs to be is really dirty!
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering


The first job is to paint the shiny edges of the wheels a colour to match the wheel centres. Ideally you should prime the metal first, but matt black enamel sticks pretty well and if it does chip, touching up is easy. Remember to clean the wheel treads once the paint has dried if you want the loco to run.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering getting started


Dirt gets into all the nooks and crannies on a real loco, so start with a coat of weathering wash wiped off with a paper towel to leave residue in all the corners. Wipe downwards to simulate the effect of rain washing the dirt away. The colours used are black for the top, where soot falls, and brown everywhere including the tank tops. Let the colours mix as they do in real life. Leave the model overnight to dry.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering painting


Dry brush the black parts with No.64, Tank Grey, to highlight the rivets and tone down the white handrails. Use an old brush, pick up some paint then wipe most of it off on a cloth. Then work the brush over the model - paint will be dragged from the bristles on raised details.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering dry brushing


Scrub weathering powders into all the surfaces, especially the horizontal ones such as the footplate. Start with sparing use of rust colour followed by generous amounts of dark brown. Finish with soot on the top surfaces. The powder gets everywhere, so put some paper down to keep your work area clean.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering powders


If you don't like the results, try a damp cotton bud to clean some of the surfaces. If all else fails, remove the body and give it a scrub in the sink. Obviously don't do this if the model has lights or other electrical details.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering adding dirt


The finishing touch is to glaze the spectacles plates by waggling a blob of Clearfix in each opening until it forms a skin across the hole.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering adding windows


We used a pretty tatty selection of brushes for this project. The washes are applied with a large old brush that's no longer useful for proper painting. Dry brushing ruins the bristles, so use another old brush for that job. Finally, Humbrol Stipple brushes are perfect for putting on and taking off the weathering powders. The cotton bud is for cleaning up powder that needs to be removed.
Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering choosing paintbrushes

Expert Tip - wear and tear
If any weathering powders wear off, this usually begins in the places where the prototype would probably wash clean anyway. If too much wears away, a light spray of matt varnish will sort the problem. Just remember to mask off the wheels, windows and valve gear before doing this.

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Model railway Hornby 0-4-0 weathering project

Just look at the 'before' (step 1) and 'after' pictures. By following this step-by-step guide you're left with a much more realistic-looking locomotive. As mentioned in the article, don't attempt this with your favourite, expensive locomotive until you've mastered these weathering techniques. Good luck...

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