Saturday, 18 July 2015

Weathering WHX wheat hoppers

I mentioned in June that one of the biggest take-aways I got from the Thornleigh Exhibition was Aaron Denning's weathering demonstration. I'd seen him demonstrating it on wagons in 2014 and this year's focus was on locos.

The process is described here in the kind of detail a beginner can take in, so I won't go into it too much. In a way, one advantage is that everything you need for this you won't get at a hobby shop. As I'm living away from home and my usual hobby shops this has been quite handy. The art supply chain, Eckerlseys has stores all over the east cost which makes getting main ingredient, the Conte pastel crayons, pretty easy.

The main points are that you need an ultra-flat spray paint. Aaron uses Krylon camo brown (background of the below photo) and I'm a stickler for instructions. Your average can from Bunnings isn't going to cut it. I got mine from Albion Park, but The Art Scene in West Ryde and Paddington stocked it at the time of writing too.

I've sprayed over the wiggly R on the two I've done so far. I'll keep it and fade it with thinners on the next two for some variety. When I learned that the process involved taking a completely fine model and spraying over it, I was a little sceptical. Once you start to get the powders on it really comes together. After spraying:

For comparison, here's the first one I did (left), and the second one (on the jig), and a brand newbie for comparison. The first one I followed the colours to the letter, but to me it seemed a bit too light grey for the late 70's. The Australian Railway History did some articles in recent years about moving grain in NSW through each of the decades of the latter 20th century, and the photos suggested that although the dark grey was the most common, light grey weathering could also been seen in large numbers, particularly in a longer train.


This process was also the first time I'd used a spray gun, so the first WHX has fingerprints from where I didn't leave the isopropanol to dry long enough, and where I indavertently brushed the powders off. I'm sure everyone does this, but not many write about it. If you try this yourself and make a similar mistake, it's perfectly normal. Frustrating. But normal.

The second WHX, all finished. The wheels took a little bit longer as the weathering process introduced more friction to the bearings, reducing the free-rolling qualities of the wagon. It's a little better now, but still not as good as if straight out of the box.

While I was at Thornleigh, I noticed another modeller's efforts on some WHX's using the same process on a train running around Binalong on the Saturday. It really changes the look of the train. A lonely FRH seems to have snuck in a trip to the big city on the wheatie too. 

I'd love to know why axle boxes were painted different colours like the one below, and why the bolsters and ends of the bogies were painted yellow on some bogies. If anyone has the answer, grateful if you could leave a comment.

Overall it's a pretty simple process. If you only want to apply a light weathering without changing the base coat you can also do it using dullcote instead of an ultra flat paint. Although the attitude of the railways towards cleanliness was changing in the second half of the 1970s, the weathering on a 1970s GLX for example looked very different to an NLGX (same wagon, new code) of the early 90's. I've got an On Track Models GLX which I'm keen to try some light weathering on, so it will be the next cab off the rank, followed by some cement hoppers. May be a while, but I'll post the results.

Cheers for now,


  1. Hi Ben,

    Great effort there. Only just stumbled across your blog this evening, 10 June 2017

    Aaron Denning

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  3. The bearing cover/axle box colour coding is to do with greasing date. There are 7 colours and when the bearing is greased it is painted the colour that is due in 2 or 5 years depending on bearing type. Colours are Yellow, White, Purple, Green, Blue, Pink and Red. When the colour of the year comes up the wagon is sent to a repair terminal and bogie is removed for full mechanical inspection and bearing renewal or regrease.