Weathering 16 ton Mineral Wagons


In this article we present a set of techniques which can be used to create a highly reallistic weathering effect on mineral wagons.

I have been weathering models since the early 1990's and have kept a keen eye on the different techniques used over that time, but I never thought that RTR weathering would be anything more than air brushing until Bachmann's weathered 16 ton mineral wagons, complete with rust spots, were released. These set a new standard for RTR weathering and demonstrated for the first time that proper research into weathering was actually being done and that someone was modelling what they saw, rather than what they thought they saw.

I purchased a 3-pack of the wagons and was very impressed with them, however, I did feel that the 'grey' wasn't quite of the right tone (too brown) and there was the standard 'brake dust' finish originating from the chassis...which isn't quite right for an un-braked wagon!

I have been looking for a way that I could achieve the same type of weathering on my existing 16 ton mineral wagons of which, I have quite a few.

Click picture to view in larger form:

Weathered Bachmann mineral wagon as supplied

A Quick Weathering Observation Lesson

Successful weathering of any model can only be achieved using a good selection of colour photographs. Paul Bartlet's Wagon Photo website is an invaluable resource. Those modelling earlier periods such as the 1960's need to be aware that most of Paul's photos show vehicles towards the ends of their working lives in neglected condition, so you might want to source colour photos from Ian Allan books for example. That said, Paul's collection is a fantasic resource.
Similarly, successful weathering of any model can only be achieved if the way in which the weathering occurs is understood and replicated in model form.

'Conventional Wisdom' says that weathering on mineral wagons starts in the corners of panels and on the framework edges and moves inwards to the middle of panels. I have seen numerous modellers weather wagons this way with fantastic rust in the frames and relatively 'clean' panels. The following are images I found on the Internet which demonstrate this point. Some of these are commercial offerings. All credits and copyrights acknowledged to their respective owners.

Click pictures to view in larger form:

Careful observation of photographs of the prototype reveals that this is not how mineral wagons became weathered with their characteristic finish. In all but the most severe of cases (which occurred in later years), there was generally not a lot of rust on the bodywork frames. Most of it was in the middle of the body panels. So how can this be ?

To understand how the characteristic finish occurred, we need to understand how these wagons were used and how they were loaded.

When used to carry materials such as sand and smaller-section coal, the material wasn't sufficient to damage the inside of the wagon and consequently, wagons used for this purpose survived in a 'clean' condition for much longer.
However, those used to carry large chunks of coal or minerals were usually loaded by dropping the material into them from above. Material would crash against the insides of the wagons, creating dents - which can be seen on the outside bodywork as 'bulges'. These bulges cracked the external paintwork which in turn, enabled moisture to enter under the paint and commence the rusting progess.

Dents did not appear against the framework because this was strongest part of the wagon and therefore, highly resistant. The characteristic rust appearance of these wagons started around the middle areas of the weaker, flexible panels and moved outwards towards the edges.

The following pictures can be found on Paul Bartlett's Wagon Photos website and demonstrate the point. Note how the rust starts in the middle of the side panels, not around the edges, although over time, it does eventually reach the edges.

It should be noted that there are no 'hard and fast' rules - there is considerable variation due to different usage, different storage, different weather conditions, age etc.

Click pictures to view in larger form:

Of particular note are the 5th and 6th images. Although deterioration is significantly advanced, it can be clearly seen that the areas not affected by rust are the body frames and the panel edges.
The 5th image clearly shows 'bulges' while the 3rd and 8th images are examples of wagons which have been re-panelled. The older panels exhibit more rust than the newer panels and the join between panels can clearly be seen as a horizontal line.

Model Candidates

I already had some 'prestine' Bachmann 16 ton mineral wagons, together with some Parkside kits. I decided that to add some variation, I would purchase some Dapol kits so that I could model them with opening doors such that I could open the doors in my yard which they were being unloaded.

The Dapol 16 ton Mineral Wagon
The last time I built one of the Dapol (ex Airfix) 16 ton minerals was way back in the early 1970's when they cost 30 pence! The Dapol packaging states that modellers should be aware that these models may have 'flash' on the parts due to the age of the moulds. To be honest, I think they are doing themselves a bit of a dis-service because the four I purchased had very little flash at all and the parts fitted together with pretty much no filing. I have seen much worse on more modern kits.

There were a few issues:

  • All of the sides have part numbers moulded on the inside. If you want to run the wagons 'empty' then you need to file them off
  • The frames don't fit naturally against the baseplate locators - a bit of filing is necessary
  • The actual baseplate is slightly too narrow. I resolved this by attaching a 1mm wide strip of plastic card

Click pictures to view in larger form:

One of my 1970's wagons showing the effect of the baseplate being too narrow - the sides curve inwards

One of the present Dapol models having had the baseplate widened with extra white plastic card strip - this stops the sides curving inwards and it also ensures that the body goes together nice and square

The Parkside 16 ton Mineral Wagon
These wagons are of current production and come with brass bearings and Romford wheels. Somewhere in history, I think these kits, like some other Parkside kits I have built, were not originally supplied with brass bearings. At the time, you could fit the solebars against the underchassis framework and it would all fit nice and square. Once brass bearings were supplied, this had the effect of needing the solebars to be moved further apart, but no corresponding increase to the base plate framework was made. If you fit the solebars against the framework, they will not fit square. You have to move them out where they will not be supported. The kits needs a small upgrade.
These kits also seem to have very small buffer heads which don't look quite right.
Considering its age, I think the Dapol model actually stands up very well against the Parkside kit. The brakegear protection bar which prevents the side doors banging against the brake gear is actually more finely moulded on the Dapol kit than on Parkside. Parkside have got the reversing mechanics on each side correct whereas Dapol have it incorrect on the rigging side - these wagons were built with braking on one side only, but handles on both sides.

Bachmann 16 ton Mineral Wagon
I had a couple of these which I wanted to weather. I'm not sure where Bachmann got their colour scheme for these from because I've never managed to find a colour picture which matches their grey - it seems too dark. 16 ton mineral wagons were originally painted in unfitted freight stock grey which was much lighter in tone. In later years it faded to almost white.

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Bachmann mineral wagons, weathered on the left, repainted in the centre and as supplied 'pristine' on the right. Note the difference between the later, lighter livery in the centre and the earlier dark grey on the right, both of which are correct

Model Preparation

Four Dapol kits and the two Parkside kits were built. Once completed, these, along with the two Bachmann models had their bodies airbrushed with Railmatch 309 BR Freight Stock Grey.
The chassis were then hand-painted using a 'track colour' which I mix using Humbrol 113 and Tamiya XF1 Matt Black. I use this combination because I find that Humbrol 33 Matt Black does not go matt or if it does, it goes shiney a month or so later, irrespective of how well it is mixed.

First Attempt

One of the key issues with weathering wagons is to find a suitable method and technique for applying the effects. My first attempt involved using a combination of 'cotton buds' and pieces of broken up sponge to 'dab' paint on. This was a technique I found on a YouTube video.
The paint is a combination of Railmatch Sleeper Grime (406), Frame Dirt (402), my chassis brown (described above) and Carrs Weathering powers.
The following images show the results:

Click pictures to view in larger form:

It looks reasonable, but didn't give the effect I was looking for. If we refer back to Paul Bartlett's images and even the Bachman image at the top of this article (although it's rust effects are printed on - with great effect), one thing that is very noticeable is that the edges of rust are often sharply defined. My first attempt had 'fuzzy' edges and it really looks like someone has been 'dabbing' it!
Clearly, a different technique was needed.

Second Attempt

I needed to use a technique which would yield sharply defined edges. A paint brush was one option, but there was always the risk of stray bristles destroying the effect. It also wasn't easy to achieve the sharp, random corners.
I eventually settled on using a tooth pick as a 'paint brush'. The results follow:

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These look much closer to Paul Bartlett's photos. The key is to select photos and copy the markings. You can use the tooth pick to 'dab' paint and it leaves sharp edges. It can also be worked to give the appearance of 'bulges'. I worked it around to give random shapes. Sometimes it was possible to create effects which didn't look random, but a search of Paul's photos yielded that there was such a wide variation of effects that even some real weathering didn't always appear random!

To create some variation, I used masking tape on one wagon to create the effect of replaced panels. Bachmann do something similar on one of their finishes.

Note that every panel should be different, even on the same wagon. No two sides or 'patterns' should be the same.

Final Results

Following are a number of pictures of the completed wagons running on 'Ashprington Road':

Click pictures to view in larger form:

Graham Plowman (Created 13/04/2019, updated: 7/06/2022 10:34:07 AM +10:00)

Parkside Kits supplied by: Kernow   Dapol Kits and Bachmann wagons supplied by: Hattons   RailMatch paints supplied by: Gaugemaster

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