Ties. Getting better all the time.


There are some really neat techniques to weather and age ties and track. I used to be able to say that I’ve not really tried any of them. Yup, I used to be able to say stuff like that. Luckily, I just couldn’t settle my mind or quell that curiousity.

In the above photo, I have lightly sanded the previously coloured ties to just soften the paint. My ties are cut from 1/16″ balsa sheet. I wanted to try scrubbing them with a brass-bristled brush to see what sort of effect that would leave. Initially, I was worried the wood would be too soft to sustain any sort of aggressive action but I soon learned I was wrong about that assumption. The more I picked away at this, the more impressed I felt. I dug an X-Acto knife from my tool box and, using the back of the blade, picked and gouged at random ties to further distress them. By the time I took the above photo I was really starting to feel like I knew what I was doing.

To restore some finish and get some depth into all that work I grabbed some acrylic paints and washed a very thin and equally random coat of black over the finished trackwork. It’s settling in quite nicely and I think the ties look amazing. I’m glad I made the time to try something new, to me, that I hadn’t before.

Distressing these ties wasn’t complicated but, man, am I ever beaming with pride over how well they turned out.

My inspiration for all of this is the track that Hunter Hughson has been building for his layout, as illustrated in this photo:


Some of the nicest HO scale track I’ve ever seen done.



    1. Thank you again, Steve.

      I’d been having the opposite thoughts: “Shoulda’ just bought a bunch of flex track…” Thinking I had nothing to lose, was going to rip it out anyway, I tried the extra weathering and man, am I ever glad I did.

      Now to keep moving forward. Onward to rail.


  1. These are beautiful, Chris, but you are getting close to the point of stopping.

    It is very easy for detail to become caricature.

    I think this happens because we unconsciously begin to emulate other models rather than real things. I live on an Atlantic island where I am surrounded by weathered cedar, worn brick, cobblestone streets, peeling paint. And yet I never see a building with the lines of nails beloved of Craftsman kit builders. If I tried to build a contest model of a local barn, weathered cedar shingle with unpainted cedar trim, I might put a couple of weeping nail holes in the door header and still be faithful to reality, but I bet I would lose points in a contest for lack of details that in reality are not there.

    I would put yout trackwork aside for a day or two and perhaps scenic a “breadboard” that you can take into the field with you on the way to work. Put this next to a real piece of track of the age and condition you are modeling. Do the colors and textures match? Is that what you want, or do you want to create the Platonic idea of track in the area you are modeling?

    Lost in admiration of your work, but just sayin . . . .

    Marshall Keys

    1. Your comment should be a blog post all to its own and I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment here. There is, indeed, a delicate balance.

      Part of that balance, as I was struggling to communicate in my previous post, was that sense of the style we chose as artists versus the effort to accurately model the way something really looks. I don’t mind when the pendulum swings closer to or further from caricature if the style is consistent through the work – but I lose interest in the more stylized work when its promoted as the “correct” way instead of personal preference and an opportunity to communicate the makers vision.

      So far I’ve been working in Prod and really need to make up a couple of sections to test the next steps on, as I progress toward rail.

      Thanks again for the kind words from one Atlantic island to another.


  2. “By the time I took the above photo I was really starting to feel like I knew what I was doing.”

    That line made me smile because I know feeling well!

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