Weathering rolling stock

Got this in from Sam on weathering rolling stock – and it’s a cracker too: looks great and saves a load of money:

“Hi Al,

Thanks for the constant flow of info – really gets me inspired when I can’t really be bothered!

I’ve been working on a ‘how to’ guide for wagon loads, inspired by some of your readers. Thanks to many useful posts on your site I have been encouraged to experiment with many aspects of model railway systems.

weathering rolling stock

Due to the expense and often the lack of realism with plastic ‘loads’, I have come up with a fairly easy and certainly very realistic method of creating bespoke loads for your rolling stock. Hope you find it useful.

Weathering rolling stock

All you need is some expanded polystyrene, cling film, a hot wire cutter and of course some empty wagons.

polystyrene for model train

To cut the polystyrene neatly and accurately I use some wooden blocks to hold the wire at the correct height then simply push the block through.

cutting polystyrene

Use a metal rule to guide the hot wire cutter when trimming to length.


Shape the blocks or leave square depending on your load.


Make sure they fit snuggly in your waggons but not too tight.

Weathering rolling stock

Lay the cling film over the wagon and carefully push the polystyrene block down into the wagon.

Wrap the excess around the bottom taking care not to pull the block back out. This will stop the load getting stuck to your wagon (unless you want a permanent load!)

Weathering rolling stock

Add your load.

Stones, large coal pieces, rocks etc. can be dropped onto a film of PVA, then watered down PVA can be painted on to hold the load in place.

rolling stock

Weathering rolling stock:

Leave to dry fully. This has taken a couple of days in my experience.

You may find although the top is dry you will need to wipe off any PVA that has seeped under the polystyrene block.


Maybe best to leave to dry some more out of the wagon.

You can touch up any visible white areas of the underlying polystyrene at this stage with acrylic paint and any other acts of realism!

Once dry you can fit to your rolling stock and enjoy.


The scrap wagon load was made with bits and pieces from my ‘scrap’ drawer along with bits of wire, old model car wheels, chain and pretty much anything you have. Once dry I painted it with shades of rust coloured acrylic paint.

Weathering rolling stock


A huge thank you to Sam for taking the time to share his weathering rolling stock ‘how to’.

And don’t forget, there are lots more like this in the Beginner’s Guide.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming.



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

37 Responses to Weathering rolling stock

  1. Mike Street says:

    Very good Sam, I have used this method myself but not with the cling film tip, excellent idea. Mike S

  2. Richard Standing says:

    One suggestion – only cut the polystyrene block to about 1/3 the length of the wagon, and glue a piece of card the size of the wagon floor on top of the block, so that the block is central. Then glue the load on top of the card. That way the load is easier to remove as pushing down on one end of it tips the other end up.

  3. Eugene says:

    That’s is really good work i wound never thought doing that.
    nice work!

  4. Don J says:

    This is a good idea.
    It can also be done to American rolling stock (non-European rolling stock)
    Try it guys
    Don J

  5. Pete says:

    This is a very awsome tip. I love it and will be using it for sure!

  6. Mark Jarvis says:

    Just an addition to Sam’s great idea, paint the top of the poly block black first, then it wont show white through the stone, coal etc.
    Still a brilliant idea, cheers mate.

  7. NJ Mark says:

    Fantastic idea! Truly imaginative. Cheers! NJ Mark

  8. BOB TRYON says:

    for the past several years i have colecting pits and pieces to build an n scale layout your posts have enspired me to believe that now is the time
    thank you for the inspiration


  9. Martin Gliddon says:

    Brilliant, simply brilliant.

  10. Iain says:

    That’s a good idea, I need to try this.

    I usually get plastic coal loads, then cover with real coal

  11. Bruce OScale says:

    From across the pond. I have recently moved and waiting for new home to be complete. In the meantime, I am planning my new layout, all in 3-rail O gauge.
    With a nice collection of “wagons” of different mines in the west, this is the best how-to for creating loads for those that did not come from factory with loads.
    This is about as good a How-To as can be created.

  12. d j howarth says:

    A good bit of information on how to with those wagon loads Sam …well done ..Dangerous Dave

  13. Keith Miller says:

    Thank you Sam (and Al). Cling film is a clever way of removing the load easily, if needed. Good ideas about using blocks and straight edges to guide the hot wire cutter, but I always worry about hot wire cutting of polystyrene – is there anyone out there with expert knowledge about the dangers of the fumes to our health?

  14. wowee
    great idea sam
    Ive been using my ‘carts’ to store junk parts for years…
    makes for..great ‘detailing’ and ‘realism’
    I very seldom ‘seal’ them tho like your cello wrap idea
    great idea for me tho…
    because whenever I have a train wreck there are parts scattered all over that need to picked up and put back in the carts…
    …like I said… ‘REALISM’….hahahahaa
    good stuff here today Alistair…!!!
    keep ’em runnin’ fellas…!!
    stjohn in long beach calif

  15. David B Lowth says:

    Thanks Sam for a very useful idear which can be used in any scale. I operate in G1 and have a garden railway, but will use this system when building wagons. It has the advantage of allowing the wagon to run empty or loaded with different types of loads.


  16. Sam Stockley says:

    Thanks for the encouraging comments BUT I should have mentioned (for health and safety reasons) to only cut polystyrene with a hot wire cutter in a well ventilated room or with extract – fumes are toxic!!

  17. John Reynolds says:

    Fantastic hint/tip..
    Very well presented also…
    John from California

  18. Rod Mackay says:

    Best tip for wagonloads, is work from pictures of the real thing. Most wagon types were dedicated to particular sorts of loads, and most loads were carried in a particular way, and very often secured as well, or sheeted over to protect them from weather or wind. Some long loads that stuck over the end of a wagon would have an empty runner wagon marshalled next to them. Also, bulk loads like coal or stone vary in weight, so a 5-plank wagon might be ample for ten ton of stone, but a seven plank for coal, and for something very light like coke you usually had a couple of “rails” (raised planks) on top as well. Few loads came right to the top of the wagon sides as you didn’t want to lose cargo in transit or to brain someone on a platform with a lump falling off.

  19. Andrew Tillbrook says:

    Great idea Sam, many thanks – this looks a great way to consolidate a load of clutter that builds up over the years and be constructive and effective Cheers Andrew

  20. Trevor Elliot says:

    Great idea. thanks for sharing.
    Trevor, Olympia WA USA

  21. Michael Day says:

    Good work but would somebody please remind me of a suitable total weight for a typical 4-wheel 00-gauge British Big 4-period wagon? I usually add odd nails, lead, nuts, bolts etc. before limestone, coal on top. If I recall, most goods wagons are on the light side. I suppose total weight should be per axle, which can then be applied to passenger coaches of any length? Many thanks.

  22. robin says:

    awesome idea, love the bit on how to cut the blocks to size.

  23. Ian Mc Donald says:

    what a great easy to do going to try it out.

  24. All I can say is WOW! You guys are Geniuses! I can’t believe all of these incredible tips and secrets I have learned from Y’all! Thank you so much for sharing them! Keep them coming! Absolutely the Best!

  25. Thomas Murphy says:

    Have just tried Sam’s lod method with a few of my cars (American gondolas) and the system works perfectly everytime. Thank you Al and Sam for providing this information.

    Regards, Tom, from Maryland, USA

  26. Roy Forbes says:

    Good work! Looks good. I have done something similar but instead of using a hot wire cutter, I used a sharp knife with very realistic results. But I had even more realistic results when I used a rough saw. I then used poster paints and acrylic paint mixed together with a bit of watering down to colour the various loads.

  27. Bill Holt says:

    Very Good, looks good

  28. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Nice job Sam….. I will keep this post in mind.

  29. Robert Brady says:

    Sam A Great Idea but you can use anything to shorten the load, Styrene sheets cut to size like I did. stiff card board plastic. The whole Idea is to lighten the load especially when loading different aggregate & 75% water 25 % white glue to bind the load
    The Critic

  30. That’s a great idea and a great thank you for sharing that going to try that soon hopefully it turns out as good as yours did. Chris

  31. Bill in Virginia says:

    Great and simple tip! I’ll give it a try . Thanks for sharing !

  32. Great Idea Sam, I use a similar method, with one small difference, I put a small metal plate underneath the load, more or less in the middle of the load, then I can lift the load out with a strong magnet.

  33. John Douglas says:

    Great shout for loads!
    I have used in similar vein bits of foam board topped with the load of choice. Might add that there really isn’t anything more like coal than, well, coal. Alas crust it up well, I have seen many loads which look way over scale.
    Cheers all and many thanks Al for hosting.

  34. David says:

    Superb !

    Bravo …………

    Greetings. David (in GWR land) 🙂

  35. Erick says:

    I like the work you did. I hope mine turns out that good.

  36. richard rudolph says:

    Ive done it in the past but there are some good ideas here. THanks

  37. David Zehr says:

    This I will use for sure. Thanks!

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