How to paint a model train

Charles has been in touch, and shows us how to paint a model train:

“Hi Alastair;

Reading your post every day, I’ve noticed 99% of the contributions are layout oriented. I have attached some pictures of a different facet of the hobby that I truly enjoy. Painting and decaling model railroad equipment in N scale.

I have been an N Scaler since the mid-1970s. Back then there wasn’t a lot to choose from as far as equipment and paint schemes, so, I painted a lot of stuff myself. Fortunately, there was a good selection of N scale decals to choose from.

One of the best things about N scale is you really don’t need an airbrush to do a decent job. All of my paint jobs are brush painted.

When I have a piece, I want to paint I look for photographs online, I try to get it as close to the prototype as possible. Some “Nit-Pickers” I’m sure will find fault but that’s OK, I don’t do it for them, I do it for myself.

I paint all types of equipment, locomotives, freight cars, and cabooses. Sometimes I start with an undecorated model, sometimes I repaint an existing model.

The photographs I included show some models before and after I painted them. It’s a fun aspect of the hobby that I enjoy, I hope your readers like what I’ve included.

I leave the weathering paint jobs to my son, he has an airbrush and knows how to use it.


N scale paint

N scale paint

paint a model train

paint a model train

N scale paint

N scale paint

paint a model train

N scale paint

paint a model train

paint a model train

paint a model train

Now on to an update from Will.

Only yesterday I posted how he’d made a start – here’s what he’s done in the few weeks since sending me the pics:

“Making headway, foam board, leftover styrofoam and plaster of Paris from home depot (cheap). Dries fast, so you must move along.

All painted light grey than a black wash, followed with a white dry brush.

Double track trestle from MTH. Bumper Lionel street car upper level.

Will be adding waterfall and small town.

Will be adding some type of casters as the the plaster of Paris added

Quite a bit of weight, plus the transformer.


It just goes to show making a start is the only way you’ll get the most from this hobby.

A big thanks to Charles for sharing how to paint a model train.

And if you want to make your start today, the the Beginner’s Guide is here.

That’s all for today.

Please do keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here (still going strong).

25 Responses to How to paint a model train

  1. Good work with the painting and decals Chuck , sure makes them look a lot better Dangerous dave


    I like Will’s trestles – made think “this is where I want it, now I can visualized how I want it to look”. A great way to jump ahead or jump start a section.

  3. Robert Brady says:

    Chuck A man after my own hart, I re-paint,.NYC,,Amtrak change box car company’s to suit. With one exception I model HO, Easier to mask.
    Carry on Chuck, great work.
    The Critic

  4. Norman says:

    Great work Chuck, it’s very impressive!
    Can you explain and show us some more pics of your methods to achieve the finished job please.

  5. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Chuck. Excellent work.

  6. Jeff says:

    Excellent work Chuck. I’m blown away that you brush paint these. At least now there are quality can paint that help me with my repainting. I know I couldn’t do that good of a job with a brush. 👍

  7. Michael Ilkenhons says:

    It is impossible to find a lot of rolling stock and engines in our fallen flag roads. Painting is the only way to often get what we need. I had a great Stewart F3 and needed a B unit. The only one I could find was just too expensive (at least I didn’t think I needed it that badly). I did find a Stewart F7 B-unit in another road. Yep, just like Chuck is doing, repainted and decaled it. Granted it helps to have an airbrush and know how to use it. That is definitely evident in Chuck’s case. His skill is pro. Well done, mate.

  8. Ray Riek says:

    Regarding using plaster-of-paris. If you add some vinegar while mixing, you will delay setting of the plaster and give you more time to work it. that helps a lot – I even use it when making rocks in molds

  9. gordon valentine says:

    Chuck I am impressed with your paint work. Anyone can have an out of the box model, but you have a one of a kind. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to more of your work.

  10. Excellent

  11. Peter Evens says:

    They look great. Good skills. Unfortunately n gauge decals in UK incredibly expensive, and not readily available, I repainted a loco for a mate. I spent £5 on paint and £15 on decals!

  12. Don says:

    Beautiful work. I love to see this sort of work by modelers.

  13. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    Chuck, that’s what modeling is all about. Really fine work for N scale. I struggle with G scale. Because it’s bigger it’s more “visible”. You didn’t say what kind of paints you are using.

  14. Excellent work on such small engines.

  15. Mike Williamson says:

    Really enjoy seeing your work and how it adds to the looks and adds a realistic look to your set up. Keep up the great work.

  16. Mark T. Pianka says:

    nice job will!!

  17. Cord says:

    Chuck –
    That Penn Central F7 sure brings back some old memories!
    Great job.

  18. Rich B. says:

    Forgot to add- chalks need to be rubbed on sheet of sandpaper and q-tip or woman’s makeup brush used for application of chalk.

  19. Rich B. says:

    Oops- never got my first post on weathering. Second would make no sense…sorry.

  20. TJK says:

    Hey Chuck, that paint job on the New Haven is terrific!

  21. CLIFFORD H. WOOD JR. says:

    GREAT WORK CHUCK!!!! DO YOU DO PAINTING ON THE SIDE? I’M 74 YEARS OLD AND CAN’T DO MUCH. I’m into HO and have a Proto 2000 Undeck GP30 THAT NEEDS Painted.

  22. William Orton says:

    The decals are to me what make the final product. Are you making the decals, paintimg them by hand, or purchasing them? Pls let us know
    I have some post-war o scale that need the same attention.
    Great work!

  23. george zaky says:

    Awesome work. What I loved even more was your son wielded the air brush. The A team.
    The elevated track sections with the black columns should have some support between the columns to carry those heavy engines. If the track is bending even slightly when running then you’ll have problems later. Those cantilevered curves concern me. You can double up the columns perhaps but I would rather see something like a 3/8″ plywood base with that column spacing. BTW the columns & bases are well done.
    Big Al
    Cest bien

  24. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    Chuck, I have a group of old freight cars needing restoring, but I have tried removing the old decals to no avail. Also changing the road numbers on locomotives. What do you use to remove old decals? I am trying Micro Sol and Micro Set by Microscale Industries, but neither do too well. Anyone else have suggestions?

  25. Brian Messenger says:

    Charles, excellent paint jobs on all. Well done.
    Brian the HOn3 guy in Knysna RSA

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