Painting Undecorated Steam
Okay...I need some help here.

I've searched, read, and looked up but I haven't found anything really that comprehensive if you will.

What I need is a start to finish guide or assistance on painting an undecorated Steam locomotive.  

Questions like: 

Do I need to disassemble it? I'd rather not if I don't have to because a decoder is installed and I don't want to take it apart again.  The whole engine needed to be re-wired...I get anxiety just thinking about it...

What can I use to mask the windows? Would ordinary green painters tape suffice or do I need to use some of the fancy Tamiya stuff?

Do I need to primer it?  I'm thinking a black primer might be better then a grey or maybe not?

Most importantly...what flippin colours do I use?  I think I have one of the last unopened bottles of TLT CPR Steam Engine Grey which would seem to do the trick in my eyes.

Despite my recent efforts building and weathering my freight inventory this particular project gets me stressed.  Mostly because I don't want the hassle of messing it up and then have start it over.

I have the appropriate decals too...

For comparison I have an engine that I bought painted and weathered on consignment at a LHS which is the look I'd like to achieve with this project.


6931 is waiting for a decoder install before she is put back into revenue service.  But this is the look I am after.

...and here is 6928.  Waiting for her railroad name and numbers.  I picked her up from a club member years ago for a steal at 75 bucks.  A deal I could not pass up.


Anyways...sorry for the long winded post.  The idea of doing this particular project gives me seriously cold feet.

Thanks guys.
Hello Tetters,

my humble attempt of an response.

Do I need to disassemble it? I'd rather not if I don't have to because a decoder is installed and I don't want to take it apart again.  The whole engine needed to be re-wired...I get anxiety just thinking about it...

First my thought was to an unpainted brass loco, but when i saw you photo Icon_eek
Your loco is already painted!
So there is no need to disassemble it. The only exception in causa disassembling is the separation of loco and tender due to better handling while working on it. Here with P2K loco and tender are coupled by the means of a plug connection which simultanosly is not only the electrical but also the mechnical link. So uncoupling / coupling is a simple task.

What can I use to mask the windows? Would ordinary green painters tape suffice or do I need to use some of the fancy Tamiya stuff?

As an example, here in EU there Revell Colourstop is available:
It must be available in USA / Canada also. And also Tamiya must have their own stuff of this. This is a Latex based dilution which can be applied with an brush and dries to a thin elastic skin. After painting the colour this skin can easily peeled off.

Do I need to primer it?  I'm thinking a black primer might be better then a grey or maybe not?

As i wrote, your loco is already painted. The only stuff of primer you will need really is high gloss varnish only for those areas where the decals will be applied.

You will need engine black too. Small areas like the bright axle ends of the drivers, some rivets of the valve gear and other too shiny areas should be painted by an handbrush with black colour. If you use solvent based colours or varnish, there is no primer necessary. Take care for the wheel rims and wipers. They should be masked before painting, particularly when an airbrush is used. The other way is a meticulously cleaning of wheel rims and wipers from paint rests afterwards.

When the decals are applied, an overall finish with matte varnish is mandatory to fix the decals; no primer necessary.

Then you can start your weathering vodoo.

Thanks Lutz.

I wasn't sure if the undecorated engine was actually painted or not...other then maybe the boiler at the front.

I was thinking about using the liquid masking for the windows and lights. I've just never used it before so it will be a first for me try it out.

I guess I'm just apprehensive because....well it's an engine and not rolling stock. It's like the stakes are higher. I'm going to give it ago in the days ahead and see what happens.

Sooner or later you just have to bite the bullet and do it am I right?
As Lutz has mentioned, your locomotive is mostly already-painted, and what little needs to be done can be touched-up using a brush.

The other loco that you show has been weathered, but, in my opinion, it's too uniform in both colour and application.

I do disassemble the boiler from the running gear, especially when painting brass locos, although it's not always necessary to do further disassembly of the chassis.  I do remove the motor and gearbox, then the chassis goes into the sink, with hot water and dish detergent.  After letting it soak for a while, I rinse it under hot water and set it aside to air-dry.
Even if your locomotive doesn't need actual painting, it's a good practice to remove the cab and boiler assembly, and put it in the sink with some not-too-hot water and some dish detergent, as it will remove any dirt and finger oils that accumulate with handling.  Rinse it thoroughly, then let it air dry before adding any weathering.  This will allow better adhesion of whatever paint or weathering you wish to apply

Since I usually modify my locomotives to varying degrees, most require a full-repaint (as do all unpainted brass locomotives (many of which I also modify).  Depending on my preferences or those of the person for whom I'm painting, I usually begin by painting it as a new(-ish) locomotive.

The cab and the tender sides get an application of black, while the boiler and tender deck, along with the smokebox front, get a slightly lightened black (a little white or light grey added to the original black).
The smoke box and firebox are painted using black, modified into a dark-ish grey using white, then with some red added to turn it into a greyish brown.

For the running gear, I use the same colour as was used on the boiler, but add a little more grey or sometimes a little silver.

All of these colours, so far, have been done using an airbrush, and usually, without need of masking, other than holding a piece of cardstock at points where different colours abut one another.

When the paint has fully cured (the time needed will depend on the type of paint used), then it's time to paint the details.
These may include window sash, tire rims (many roads used white or silver paint on some of their locos), and especially piping which runs over surfaces like the smokebox and firebox - in most cases, the piping is not directly in contact with those hot surfaces, so it would be much the same colour as the pipe on, f'rinstance, the boiler.

Once the colours are in place, it's time for clear finishes.  I use Testors Glosscote and Dullcote, again applied with an airbrush, as it's easy to mix the two in order to get finishes varying from high gloss to dead flat, using an appropriate mix of the finishes with an equal amount of lacquer thinner.

The cab and the sides of the tender get a high gloss, while the boiler, smokebox front, pilot, cylinders, etc., get a less glossy finish, and the running gear an even less-glossy finish, along with the tender-deck.  The smokebox and firebox do not get any clearcoat.
Once that's been done, it's time to get out the brush, and apply the appropriate clear finish to those pipes and handrails that pass over the smokebox and/or firebox.  If there are number boards on your loco, use the brush to put gloss on the "glass" where you'll be adding decal numbers, and likewise if the headlight/back-up light has numberboards, too.

When you finally get all the painting done, then it's time to begin the weathering process.  Tastes vary, and I've done locos for which the owner wanted no weathering, and others just a little, some where it was heavier, and a couple where the loco represented one in its last weeks (or days) of service.

Photos of real locomotives can be a great help in weathering, especially if they're in-colour.  Look for white/grey "spffts" or streaks where there's a steam or water leak, soot along the top of the boiler and cab roof, and, of course, accumulations of dirt and dust on the running gear, similar to what collects of the lower extremities of freight and passenger cars.

To weather the running gear, I usually put the chassis (often with the tender's chassis attached) on a piece of powered track in the paint booth, then, while preventing the loco from moving under its own power, push it back and forth with the wheels and drivers turning while I spray well-thinned paint in a back-and-forth motion.

I'd like to offer some photo examples, but I'll have to hunt through my pictures on disc, as photobucket images will not work at all on Big Blue....the main reason why I post much fewer photos than previously.

Here's some examples of Doctor Wayne's "works of art"

[Image: 50267997451_83f05be3e9_k.jpg]P1410277 (4) by Ed Creechan, on Flickr

[Image: 50047994851_3ba7868133_k.jpg]P1400551 (2) by Ed Creechan, on Flickr

[Image: 50083947411_92ed89bad6_k.jpg]P1400724 (2) by Ed Creechan, on Flickr

[Image: 50025899996_80131aec8a_k.jpg]P1400482 (2) by Ed Creechan, on Flickr.
Thanks Doc. That's a lot to take in however I wasn't expecting this would be an overnight process. I see what you mean about the "different" tones of black and grey and glossy and matte surfaces. To do it right the tender and the cabs studying the pictures I've looked at, appear to have a shine to them. And I've heard and seen that the fire box always had an almost reddish or brown colour to it. It also looks as if taking it apart will be an essential part of the process...if I'm going to do this right the first time.

Thanks for the pictures too Mr. Nutbar. They are a great reference and much appreciated.
I saw your thread last night just after you posted but I thought it would be best to let Doctor Wayne reply. I've painted a few steam locos and his advice made them turn out much better than if I tried to figure it out on my own.

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