Steam Locomotive black paint.

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by WReid, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. WReid

    WReid Member

    Jan 26, 2008
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    I was not sure the where the best place for this question/topic was so I figured as it is a technical question of a sorts I would post here.

    Well after three days or so I am still having a tough time deciding on what shade of black or possibly a shade of black with a touch of gray in it to use on my steam locomotives.wall1

    I have ruled out a straight dark black as it turns the locomotive into a dark shadow under indoor lighting. I was going to go with Polly Scale steam power black but it also seems a little too black but not as bad as engine black. I played around with mixing a little white with black but could not seem to get the look I am after. I always seemed to end up with a little more of a gray look than I wanted.:curse:

    I also tried putting a post on the Yahoo CNR SteamMavens group and was told the CNLInes SIG paints ( Scalecoat 1 ) were good. Namely their warm black. But after a few phone calls I found out real quick it is a hard paint to find. Just about all the hobby shops I called do not stock it. The ones I did find who do stock it had no warm black and would only be able to order me some once they had a large enough order of the paints.wall1

    My next move was to try mixing up some warm black. I remembered an article in the Nov. 1999 Model Railroader where a Spectrum 2-8-0 was kitbashed into a close look alike of a Central Vermont N-5a. The article had a formula for warm black using 4 parts Polly Scale steam power black and one part boxcar red. My first test mix using their mix came up with a dark brown. :confused: After a few more tries and more black than boxcar red I was getting closer to what seemed to be a warm black but it still had a touch more of a red/brownish hue for my liking. After several hours of carefully measured small amounts of paint I finally decided to take a break from paint mixing until tomorrow.

    This brings me to my question. Does anyone here have a paint mix they use to paint their steam locomotives with? At this point I am open to suggestions. Maybe I am just being too finicky about the color but finding a black that looks right sure is harder than I thought it would be.

    Once I do get the paint thing figured out I plan on posting a thread showing all the work I did to restore and turn the Van Hobbies brass CNR N-5-ds into good running locomotives. It has been a lot of fun so far and I have found I really enjoy working on brass locomotives. My wife says the last part is a bad thing. Not sure what she means by that.:)

    Wayne Reid
  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    May 2, 2003
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    Floquil's "Engine Black" always made me happy with its dark, charcoal gray color. There is some problem with it in certain lights when taking photographs as it gets an almost Pennsylvania RR "Brunswick Green" cast to it. Maybe that will help. I'd like to see pics when it's finished as I enjoy old school brass.
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Sep 7, 2005
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    Unless I'm trying to match the colour of a particular prototype (usually diesels), I don't keep a record of paint mixes.
    I use Floquil paints, and use their Engine Black as a starting point. For steam loco cabs and tenders, I add just enough white so that the two bottles, when held side-by-side, look different. For the boilers, tender decks, cylinders and pilots, plus the bolt-on appliances, I add some grey primer to the first mix: again just enough so that it looks a bit lighter than the original mix. Again, working with the previous mixture, I add some brown, red, or orange, and perhaps a little more grey for the frame and running gear - the idea is to pre-weather these areas with the original application of paint, so that less weathering will be needed to finish the job. Finally, for the smokebox, firebox, and any other area that sees more extreme heat, I add red and/or orange to the previous mix, to depict areas where the paint has been either burned away or severely affected by the heat. Sorry that I can't be more precise, but it's really just "by eye". If you make enough if the initial black-and-white mixture, you can set aside enough to paint those parts needing that colour, then just add the other colours to create the next mix, set aside a portion, and so on. Because all of the various shades of black are derived from the previous colour in the "chain", the differences should be noticeable but not "jarring".
    The painted loco will look a lot different after the lettering is applied, and the differences in shade and colour will be less readily apparent - still noticeable, but not "poking you in the eye".
    The other part of painting a steam loco is in the finishing - I like to use a fairly glossy coat on the cab and tender body, a semi gloss on the boiler, smokebox front, cylinders, and appliances, and an almost matte finish on the running gear of the loco and tender, and on the deck of the tender. I don't clear coat the firebox or smokebox, as I feel that the rougher texture of the bare paint gives a better representation of the prototype. If you apply the weathering over this finish, (the various shades of colour and finish are really a form of pre-weathering) you'll be able to build it up subtly, giving anything from a "just out of the shop" appearance to a "heading for the dead line" look. Unless you're eating burgers and fries while handling your trains, there's really no need to clear coat over the weathering, unless, of course, you use chalk for your weathering effects.