Weathering a Gondola

Now that we have painted and lettered a new gondola to complement the railroad scrap yard, like the rest of the models in the scene, it will benefit from a little weathering. We have already covered several different weathering techniques in this modeling series. For this project we’ll use a few of these to refine the car.

Rust Spots

rust spots

Using a small brush and sponges, “rust” is concentrated on the area around the floor line and the bowed side sheets.

For this particular car, the goal is to represent an older car that has signs of wear but also shows some evidence of maintenance and still has plenty of work years left.

The side sheets of the car have been bowed outward by repeated loading. To review this process, see the previous blog. With damage like this, surface rust is almost a given. Even though our car has been repainted, there will still be plenty of signs of rust.

top chord

The top chord takes a lot of abuse and even on a “new” car, there will be signs of rust here.

Rust tends to develop first anywhere that the paint is damaged or removed. The top chord and interior of the car are obvious targets. Splotches of surface rust also appear around the bulges on the car sides.

More severe rusting is commonly found in places where car components come together. Any place water can collect is the perfect habitat for rust.

To model all of these different areas of rust, oil paints were applied with small brushes and sponges as shown in this post. Build the colors gradually until you have the shades and degree of weathering desired.


Four colors of weathering chalks finish the car: dark earth and rust, light gray and grimy black.


To finish the weathering effect, some general dirt and grime is needed, plus a few more highlights for the details on the car.

To accomplish all of this, the final touches were applied with weathering chalks. For the trucks, a rusty-brown was used to highlight details like the coil springs. A light gray was used on the sideframes to represent dust kicked up by the passing train.


Subtle colors on the trucks bring out the details.

The gray is carried up onto the lower portions of the carbody as well. Additional patches and streaks of light rust are added higher on the carbody.

This interior of the gondola will get a removable scrap in the next article, but for its empty travels it needs to be weathered. The entire interior was liberally dusted with shades of rust and black. An empty car can be just as interesting as a load. Look for some more ideas for empties, check out this Freight Car Friday feature.


Don’t forget the interior! Even empty, this car looks good.

As you can see, you don’t need to use every weathering technique available on every car. For example, this car did not receive a weathering wash – but it could have. Varying the techniques you use, along with the degree to which they are applied, can create a unique look for each car appropriate to the story you are trying to tell.

Next we’ll finish this car with a load of scrapped locomotive parts.

finished gon

The completed weathered gon looks ready for a load at our scrap yard. We’ll take care of that next!

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