This article describes the process of weathering track, including rails, sleepers and ballast.
Track is generally fairly straight forward to weather and there are several ways of doing it. I will describe the methods I use.
Before I continue with this article, I will refer readers to the article "Wiring Live Frog Turnouts" in the electrical section as the following techniques can potentially break the electrical connectivity of a turnout if the wiring technique is not implemented. With dead frog turnouts it is important not to get paint between switch blades and the adjacent stock rail otherwise electrical connectivity will be broken.
After laying track, I paint the rails using my standard track colour which is a mixture of Humbrol 113 Matt Rust and Humbrol 33 Matt Black. I do this prior to ballasting because:
A) it prevents me accidentally painting ballast
B) it prevents the paint brush picking up loose stones.
Some people lay the track and ballast, then spray paint the whole. This generally works well but the main issue of concern is that railheads do overhang and spraying may not get under the edge so you may end up with unpainted rail. This is why I hand paint rails even though it is a time-consuming exercise.
Some notes here: When painting track, remember to paint all rails including the tops where trains do not run. This includes check rails, wing rails and un-used tracks such as traps and catches (see right hand two pictures above). Make sure when you clean the track in the future that you don't take this paint off - touching up may be necessary.
Once I have painted my rails, I let the paint dry and then use a C&L track rubber to remove all paint from the tops of the rails. I then vacuum all the residue. This is best done before ballasting so that the residue doesn't end up in the ballast.
After vacuuming, I lay the ballast and fix using the traditional watered down PVA and washing up liquid method, applied with a teat pipette. I do this because it gives me best control over glue application and I don't end up pushing ballast where is isn't required.
I believe that there is a tendency for modellers to rush ballast laying, probably due to the size of the job, and look for methods, which assist that rushing such as ballast carpets, pre-ballasted track or complete spraying of everything. The result is usually untidy or unrealistic looking ballast.
The care taken in laying ballast is what sets track off.
After ballasting, I let the glue dry for a few days and then clean the track again of residue glue, followed by another vacuum. Odd filling in may be necessary for areas where glue has not held - with practice, you shouldn't have this problem.
Detailing such as point rodding and facing point locking cover ramps are then added - these can be seen in all of the pictures above (right picture has signal box removed to aid visibility).
Finally, I use Carrs powders to give the track an overall track dirt finish.