Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Tuesday Tip: What NOT to do . . .(freight car wheel faces)

Some years ago (I don't remember when, and unfortunately can't find it now), a Model Railroader article mentioned using a mixture of PollyS Grimy Black paint and baking soda to paint the wheel faces of friction-bearing (aka "solid bearing") freight car trucks. The idea was to replicate the caked-on mixture of journal oil and dirt that was so common during the Steam Era.

So when it came time to build my first steam-era resin freight cars, I decided to go all out and try this technique (though I used my "grimy black alternative" craft paint instead of PollyS). As you can see (especially if you click on the image to enlarge the view), the effect is pretty great:

Click here for more photos
Here's an even closer view:

Looks fantastic, IMO. But unfortunately, this great effect eventually - and explicably - deteriorates . . .

Note that the white baking soda is beginning to show through. I'm really not sure why.

Here's a more-recent, and more obvious, example:

I built - and weathered the wheels on - this car a bit over 4 1/2 years ago (click here for the build). Lots of white baking soda showing through. Compare this view of the truck to the closeup photo above. I think it's actually the same truck(!)

But looks are only part of the story. The real problem comes where the wheel meets the rail . . .

If you want clean track, you need clean wheels. And if you want clean wheels, you need to clean off this gunk. . . . and probably resolve NOT to use a baking soda mixture on your wheels again.

And that's your Tuesday Tip!

Having said all that, do you have a preferred method for weathering steam-era freight car wheels - the ones used in solid-bearing (aka "friction bearing") trucks? If so, please let us (aka "me" :^) know in the comments!


  1. Chris,
    I think I've read where someone tapped Pan Pastels onto the wet painted surface of the wheel. Something I'm willing to try but haven't done yet.

    1. Yep, that's what I do. I use Pan Pastels into wet paint for all sorts of applications.

      For wheels I just use a paint pen (like the ones Woodland Scenics sells) and then stipple in the Pan Pastels. Quick and easy (if a bit messy...).

  2. Hi Chris,

    Check out this video :

    I tried it and was very happy with the results especially on wheels and trucks.


  3. I imagine talcum powder or some other, chemically neutral powder would serve in place of the alkaline baking soda...

  4. Hey Chris,
    Good old rattle cans work for me, on a lazy susan in my spray booth. Start with Oxide primer, then flat black, finally camouflage or some shade of gray. All light coats, varied for the effect desired. Can do trucks and wheels for 12 cars in abut 20 minutes. When we have our weathering marathon for your fleet of cars, you'll get to try it out.