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Thoughts on weathering, sidings and wagons

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I'll post this in two parts, as the site only sems to accommodate so many words per post!


Here's part 1...


One detail on many layouts is what is in the background, lurking in weedy sidings and so on. Nowadays, most of this can be classed under the headings of (a) graffiti, (b) litter, and © security fences. It was not always thus!


If we bear in mind that the above was all but unknown prior to 1975/80, also that the main difference in peripheral rolling stock was twofold - (a) the railways had much more spare stock than now, of all types, and (b) there were spare sidings all over the place, in practically every station, we can paint a picture useful to modellers of a different landscape.


Look at the likes of the Dundalk Works layout that appears at exhibitions. Yes, trains go round and very well they look. The models are accurate and appropriate to the place and period. But look at the background! Wagons, locos and coaches in sidings, men working and so on. If none of that was on the layout it wouldn't be as convincing. Weathering also plays its part - how often have any of us gone to a railway station and seen every vehicle and building newly painted? Answer: never.


Looking under several headings....

1. Weathering.


Many of us will like pristine models, and I agree - many posted on these boards recently look STUNNING. But others prefer technical realism. One important thing is that for those who prefer realism, weathering of virtually every single thing on the layout is a must. The work of several "weatherers" on these boards is deservedly well known. Another thing is HOW things got weathered.


Any steam era layout had coal smoke hanging in the air as well as a great deal more brake dust due to more shunting. In fact, while we see pictures of both the UTA and CIE railways being comparatively well kept in the 60s, 70s and 80s, a few years earlier the environment was by today's standards, filthy. A realistic approach to modelling will therefore have light weathering on most things in the "black'n'tan" era which are IN traffic, but there will be sidings typically with a few semi- or totally abandoned 4 wheel vans in them, grey paint faded away badly, chassis a nondescript muddy / rusty colour, and roofs just looking - well - weatherbeaten. In this era, we will often have old liveries giving way to new; anything with the old will be much more weathered because it is either to be withdrawn short term, or awaits repainting. An important point here is that while diesel locos and coaches, and even wagons, in traffic were clean, this was more due to be being KEPT clean than repainted often. Per unit, paint was more expensive then than it is now, and the railway had teams of its own painters. Painting a wagon could be done in a shed, without computer-controlled specialist 2 pack machinery (whatever that is!!) and health and safety rigmaroles with ventilation and masks. If we are modelling any time in the steam era, we can generally take it that in these times, wagons were very unkempt when in use, clean grey gradually being patched up (due to economy) rather than completely repainted. Thus, wagons with "D S E R", "G S W R" and "M G W R" could be sen - tattered looking maybe, well into GSR days, almost to 1940. It is quite possible that a handful of wagons might have come into CIE ownership with VERY tattered pre-GSR initials on them. CIE seemed to embrace their new corporate image much quicker - while money was scarce, it had been even more so in GSR days. GSR era maroon coaches, especially older six wheeled ones, had their maroon faded to a (brake dust tinted) rusty red colour, especially visible on the ends.


Locos, on the other hand, in GSR days were reasonable well kept, although the "battleship grey" tended to darken after much polishing with oily rags, sometimes making the smokebox front (hotter surface - attendant effect on paint!) look almost black. Soot from the chimney added to this. Red buffer beams faded too, and the transfer numerals lost their shine, especially the gold bits. Fast forward to CIE days, and locos could hardly have looked worse. The cabside numbers were often faded to a nondescript "light" colour best described as a dirty greyish yellow, and if the tender did have a "flying snail" (not all did) it was usually worse. The external condition of many locos was a mixture of dirt, soot, coal dust and brake dust heavily coated over the grey paint. Smokeboxes often had the paint burned off them, and both somkebox doors and chimneys would be bare burned rusty brownish metal. On locos painted green, the dirt would have made most of the boiler look black, especially the dome; in fact, this was worse on ex-GNR locos. I remember some thirty years ago a lively debate among some RPSI members where some advanced the theory that the GNR painted domes black, because that's all they'd ever seen, and a look at Robert Rosbotham's book on the CDRJC shows that one might be forgiven for thinking that the CDR painted domes AND boilers black!


The silver "livery" of unpainted aluminium applied to coacjes and new diesels between 1955 and 1958 was interesting and fresh on the first day in use, but VERY rapidly became a filty dull grey - probably the least durable finish for any railway vehicle ever.


So a layout based in, say, 1960, could have very dirty wooden wagons, brand new ones in light grey, very filthy steam locos, but lightly weatherd diesel locos and coaches. Older wooden coaches are dark green still - badly faded by this stage, and well weathered, or the new (post '55) lighter green; while anything silver would certainly have the bogies weathered by brown brake dust (how long in use can BOGIES stay SILVER!!!??), and of course new post '62 black and tan would be pristine, and at that stage very much kept that way. Older wagons in fifty shades of grey (see what I did there?), and an older darker shade, faded snails included.


Livery detail: it seems that wagons painted in the earlier (probably pre-1950) period had light green snails and numerals instead of cream as later. By 1960, a few of these might rest in out of the way / rarely used places, perhaps against the buffers in a long siding.


Wooden carriages faded quicker than steel ones, probably partly due to "steels" / laminates being easier to clean (smooth surface) and the fact that anything wooden will be more susceptible to damp getting into the wood, and paint peeling. Old six wheelers used for years as brakes on branch lines might not see the inside of Inchicore or Limerick's paint shops as often, and would also be kept in the open more. Brake vehicles / mail vans etc were not cleaned as often, and the state of some of the 4 wheeled "tin vans" even in the otherwise very clean black'n'tan era was pretty grubby with brake dust.


Another livery detail worth noting: CIE painted the ends of carriages black in most or all cases, though I think some narrow gauge vehicles at least had green ends. Nothing at all in the b'n't era had "b'n't" on the ends - always black, and usually with a good smattering of brake dust. BUT - the GSR painted the ends of six wheel and non-corridor coaches the same as the body colour, with the exception of the brown and cream stock, which had black ends. It is possible that CIE painted plain dark green on the ends of stuff like that right at the start, but I haven't any evidence of it. The GSR painted the "Bredins" black on the ends.


Here endeth part 1....

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And Part 2:[/b]


Lets go on to sidings.. all these spare bits of track, long disappeared behind new security fences, untidy piles of spent ballast and other discarded railway rubbish, generously topped with supermarket trollies and old kid's buggies, front wheel missing. Quite a few of our main lines - more than you'd think - were double at one time. Immediately after the GSR took over, many miles of track, especially on the ex-MGWR, but also elsewhere, were singled for economy. But in through stations, a part of the former second track which had been lifted was retained, sometimes on either side of the station, for stabling cattle specials. These usually ended with a large concrete-block-like GSR design buffer stop - I am sure many are familiar with them. Often they had a lop sided aspect, due to having had one too many a rough shunt of 35 cattle trucks walloped against them. They had wooden sleepers on the face of them for the buffers to rub against, and while quite beyond me, I am sure that the reproduction of an old sleeper, half rotten, with what little red paint was left having faded to pink, with worn out rusty / oily looking circular spots where buffers had hit them, would be child's play for the skilled modellers I find myself among here. A realistic addition to a layout could very well have a long siding like this (up to a mile long!) running out parallel to the remaining single running line. the main line has new ballast, may be about 6 inches higher rail level due to more frequent and recent ballasting, with shiny topped rails, while the siding is a bit weedy (brown / dead weeds, following a weedspray visit, anyone?), with brambles springing up here and there, but not enough to make it unusable. At the very end, against the buffer stop, is a home for that wagon kit with an irreparably dodgy coupler or an axle that keeps coming out, but which you can't be bothered to fix properly! It will be badly faded grey, and have a faded flying snail on it, or a "broken wheel", possibly with a faded "G N" showing through it (if it is a van). If we are modelling the post-fitted-goods-introduction era, mid 70s to mid 80s, there could be a dozen recently withdrawn "H" vans and a few old wooden opens; the former mostly brown, the latter generally grey. Some of the brown ones would have paint peeling to show grey here and there. The brown roofs would have mildewy coverings, and generous donations by birds, if under lineside trees. many stations ended up with little used sidings of this nature full of old wagons in these times. More recently, for modelling from 1990s onwards, what few sidings are left are probably used for loading ballast and are therefore buried to rail level in the stuff from diggers loading it into wagons, and may well feature a disused cattle bank or goods platform nearby with a digger parked on it beside a mountain of ballast awaiting loading. Layouts pre 1975, say, will have cattle banks still with fencing often made out of old and rusty rails, either unpainted or painted black (with much rust weathering). Older ones, usually of the deserted variety will be of old sleepers, faded and bleached by weather and the passage of time to a greyish colour, not a "wooden" colour - look at any old farmer's fence and you'll see. Cattle banks when in use were recovered on the occasion of each use by a special type of material dispensed from cow's bottoms, thus when older / disused / derelict had a good crop of healthy looking weeds coming from between the cracks in the serrated concrete used to surface most of them!


If we are modelling a city centre location, oily deposits will show between the rails on lines where diesels park, not just on loco shed roads (with very faded CIE green on the doors, and the adjacent ivy-clad bricked-up water tower), but also on terminus platform roads, like at Loughrea in "G" class times. Prior to the diesel era, soot, piles of ashes and firemans shovels lying on the ground for spreading it out, will be essential for any shed. Look at the groun surface at Whitehead, now in use as a steam shed for some forty years - longer than some in railway service. The ground cover is ashes to the top of rail level, with piles appearing beside the track where locos are swept out.


And the final random musing for tonight, on wagons...


Back in the day, paint was dear. The railways were - well, dirty. Thus, while locos and coaches were generally well looked after, as were stations, good trucks were like they are today - often drab, often so filthy and unkempt you could hardly tell what colour they had been painted in. At least there wasn't the awful graffiti we have now.... liveries are covered elsewhere, but broadly speaking if you have a layout prior to the late 60s, everything is grey, and a shade as good as identical to English LMS grey. The lighter grey used by CIE mostly on "H" vans was a very late 1950s / early 1960s innovation. And the brown came in later - again, for all three, nothing was black. Roofs and chassis were body colour, though brake dust changed the hue of anything below platform level pretty quick. So if we are modelling before the black'n'tan era, dirty wagons are a must - the more heavily weathered (so no two are alike) the better.


Corrugated-side open trucks were all over the system from the early '50s, though at that stage were in the minority, most opens being wooden. By the late 60s, wooden opens (and indeed, wooden framed vans) were rare in traffic.


A few more observations, as I said; hopefully of use to modellers.

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Thanks for your observations Jonathan :)


I know that from my mainland experience, that if you look along a freight from the steam era up to the early eighties, all the wagons fade into much the same sort of colour, brownish brake dust, with fading from the sun(!) and wash from the rain.


You may know that all the wagons in the train started off different colours, but look at the train in 'long view' and all the train fades into a brownish/greyish colour.

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Superb information thanks. I'd a number of questions at the start, but you answered them all. The only other one I can think of is whether people ignored the "Do not use the lavatory while the train is standing in the station" signs as much in the 50s and 60s as they did in the 80s and 90s - the track at platform 5 at Connolly used to have an oily, papered, lumpy texture that makes the weeds at cattle loading docks look like a health spa.



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Alan's point is very relevant here. Another very important fact is that when flushed the contents of the toilet would land on the coach bogies of the coaches, especially the MK11, MK111's. Although not a particularly pleasant topic it shouldn't be discounted. Several shades of brown should do the trick :D. I would never have known only a guide on an IRRS tour of Inchicore mentioned it to a chap who was about to put his hand on one of the bogies on a MK11 aircon during the visit. That is seriously informative reading in those posts J, your knowledge and enthusiasm for sharing it are really important and hugely appreciated.



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