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  • A Rust Primer

    by Sam Swanson

    Photos by the author

    The gondola and its load, along with the lineside buildings, display a variety of rust colors and textures, along with a variety of degree (from lightly corroded to very rusty).
    Model Railroading - September 2004 - Page 29

    Metal corrodes in a variety of ways, and is prevalent when metal is exposed to moisture and heat. Using paint and chalk, there are several ways you can vary color and texture to represent rust on common modeling materials such as metal, styrene and paper.

    Color Variations

    The older rust is, the darker brown the surface becomes. Metal corrosion that has recently formed is more of an orange color, such as the rust colors marketed by Floquil and Polly Scale (see Photo 1). So try to vary rust colors on structure and detail components based on the age and condition you want to simulate.

    One of the most prominent corroded building components is the rusty metal roof made of standing seam or corrugated panels, as shown in Photo 2. Avoid uniform corrosion hues by using different types of paints to simulate rust, and using black and brown washes to accentuate individual panels on any given roof.

    Additional rust detail can be added with chalk and paint set acrylics (see Photo 3). There are a variety of rust, brown and orange paints that can be used to drybrush over base coats. Paints can also be thinned and used as a wash to tint the base roof color.

    Color variation, as well as texture, can also be built up with chalks. Use earth-tone pastel sets that have a variety of orange and red hues. Fine powder can be ground off the pastel sticks by rubbing them in a circular pattern over an emery board. Chalks can be mixed like paints, and stored in small containers. Mix orange and red hues with black and brown pastels, and youll have a variety of custom colors to simulate rust.

    Texture can be built up by coating the surface to be corroded with a thin wash of diluted white glue and carefully brushing on chalks. Repeat if the first application doesn't provide enough texture.

    Test Panels

    Even in a relatively compact scene, such as this coal yard, there are a variety of rusty items. Examine the variation between the conveyor, smoke jack, barrels and shovels, nut-bolt-washer castings, gusset plates and rails. Base coating, staining, drybrushing and chalk dusting were all used with a variety of colors to corrode these items.
    Model Railroading - September 2004 - Page 30 Model Railroading - September 2004 - Page 31

    Before undertaking a project, practice on some scrap material similar to the project you are working on. See Photo 2 for some examples of color and texture variations. Practicing on scrap will allow you to get an idea of the final corrosion coloring you'll be applying to your structure or detail component, allowing predictable results for your modeling projects. And once you're done with the practice item, mark down the paint and chalks you used on the back of the scrap, so you can use it as a reference chip for future projects.

    Coal Yard Example

    When you start composing scenes for your layout, there can be many opportunities to add rusty components to your models. For example, many of the support components in the coal yard shown in Photo 5 are corroded. The conveyor is the most predominant metal object, but there are many other rusty items, from large details (such as waste cans) to small details (such as nut-bolt-washer castings on the trestle). Notice the variation between items, in color and texture, along with degree of corrosion. Vary these accordingly, and you'll avoid any corrosion of conformity in your modeling.

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