Painting Railway Ties and Coal in a Coal Tender

Hi folks,
Do MR enthusiasts paint the railway ties on their track? I'm anticipating a diorama to display my Polish armoured train project and
my comrades in the plastic model world will frown at me if I have any unpainted plastic! So...
I imagine Polish railways of the 1930s is an obscure topic, but I probably could get away with standard HO scale track that I can pick up at my local RR store. But what colour would the ties be? In North America (the part of Canada where I live used to have narrow gauge railroads that were torn up in the early 1990s), railway ties I've poked around at elesewhere on the continent are usually a black-brown sort of colour from pressure treatment or, more likely, oil soaking.
This should be an OK colour to use, right?
Also, probably a daft sounding question to many of you, but what colour is coal in a coal tender? I would have assumed black, but perhaps I'm associating it too much with bags of BBQ charcoal. I wouldn't have asked, but I've seen some pictures of coal tenders and hoppers on line that show a brown colour.
Thanks very much in advance with any comments on these two subjects.
--
Tim http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~tmarshal /
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Tim Marshall wrote:

If you want realistic track, paint it. Start by spraying the rail dark brownish almost-black. Wipe off the railheads (I've used a chunk of softwood or balsa successfully). There'll be overspray on the ties, which is just fine. Use a brush of suitable size, and drybrush the ties with various shades and tones of darkish greyish brown. Don't bother trying for a uniform colour - in fact, drybrush several times with different tones of tie colour. A few ties painted brownish black will indicate newly replaced ties, if your prototype actually did this. Many railroads replaced miles of ties at a time.
Wood ties were pressure treated with creosote, which starts out almost black and weathers through dark brown to light brownish grey.

Yup, but make variations of this colour.

Depends what kind of coal, the weather, etc. Anthracite (hard coal) is actually shiny. And definitely black. Softer coals range from a dull glossy black through dull very dark greys to a dull dark brown. If the weather is rainy, the coal pile will have a nice wet gloss to it. And so on. :-) If your diorama will be seen in artificial light, use a very dark grey rather than black. Pure black in artificial light will obscure the textural details that make that heap of coal look like a heap of coal.
HTH
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Tim Marshall wrote:

The treatment of sleepers has altered over the decades - in 1930 the treatment was mostly creosoate, possibly pressure soaked but most likely not. The ballast used has also changed, generally it would have been locally sourced so it's colour would relate to the local geology. Branch-lines would have had lower grade ballast with much more small stones in the mix and quite possibly sand and/or ash. Over all that, steam trains were dirtier than modern diesels so coal soot is going to be a major colour factor. Next comes red oxide from cast iron brake blocks, particularly near curves and on gradients. Finally, passenger coach toilets flushed/discharged directly onto the track - I'll leave you to imagine the difference between high speed express train and local line slow train effects.

Coal varies between shiney black, matt black and brown. Polish coal is probably brown. The better grades (black) were probably reserved for express trains where horsepower is the requirement and the poorer qualities supplied to goods trains where pulling power was all that was required.

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You might also model a steam engine tender needing more coal. Ever notice most photos of steam engines with full coal tenders, never half or three quarter empty. Just a thought.
rich
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One extra question to add to the painting of railroad ties: Not sure but I assume sectional track uses a normal sort of paintable plastic, but what about flex-track? Is it made of plastic or vinyl? And if vinyl, will certain types of paint have trouble sticking to it?
~Brad fd64
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snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net spake thus:

Not vinyl, but more like (or in fact, is) styrene. Very paintable.
What a guy would want to do is first hit it with a very thin coat of primer. After that he could use water-based paint (like acrylic) if he wanted to.
I've painted flextrack directly with acrylic paint (with an airbrush) and it stuck good.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Even before you hit the track with primer, hit it with warm slightly soapy water and then fresh water. The plastic sleepers are usually well coated with mold release oil, which accepts paint about as well as - uhh, oil!
Regards, Greg.P.
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Greg Procter spake thus:

Well, like I said, I've had no trouble painting track directly with water-based paint (acrylic), and I've never bothered to wash it beforehand.
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None of the flex track ties I've ever seen are styrene. Do the burn test and smell the fumes. They are also pretty resistant to solvents which easily attack styrene.
Besides that point, plastic ties are quite paintable (no matter what they're made of).
Peteski
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Peter W. spake thus:

Ah, yes, the old burn test. Actually, while I burned plastic as a kid (it was pretty kewl seeing those soldiers melt, then shoot off flaming drips with a zipping sound), I never learned to figure out which plastic smelled like what. Probably just as well for my health.
Reminds me of meeting a guy who worked in a paint store who could tell you what ingredients were in lacquer thinner by smelling it. Instead of judging the bouquet of a fine Gewrztraminer, he could tell you what vintage of toluene or acetone was in your thinner.
--
Don't talk to me, those of you who must need to be slammed in the
forehead with a maul before you'll GET IT that Wikipedia is a
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Oh yeah - I can relate to this.... A nose is a very important organ for identifying chemicals! :-) I think that if you look hard enough in my head, there might still be few functioning brain cells left.
Peteski
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Thanks all for the responses to painting flex-track. Just wanted to be sure it was paintable or rather didn't need special paint. Done tons of plastic styrene models even without washing parts first with no problems (but yes, technically, many hobbyists will advise washing which I eventually started doing -I would usually use dish soap just to be safe). Aside from resin, I remember a lot of kits from Japan would be made from a "hard vinyl" which was paintable. I guess it's the standard vinyl such as lawn chairs are made of that has anti-paint sticking qualities, but from your testimonies the flex-track is something safely paintable.
Thanks again! :) ~Brad fd64
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On Feb 16, 10:53 am, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net wrote:

fd:
Hard or soft, vinyl is polyvinyl chloride, but the soft stuff is plasticised and made flexible by adding stabilized oils to it, which you can see in an old car. The oils in the soft vinyl dashboard break down in the sun over time, and the dash hardens and cracks. Probably it's a combination of the oily plasticizers and flexibility that prevents paint from sticking.
Cordially yours: Gerard P.
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Gerard posted:

Makes sense to me. Even the cheap vinyl lawn chairs will eventually get brittle and crack. Hard vinyl seems to hold up better. The kit material had a similar quality to PVC pipe in that when heated up it became soft and you could reposition parts, let cool and it would stay in the new position.
I didn't know the PVC would do that until I was building a cemetery fence for Halloween one year out the stuff and wanted to attach plastic fence spikes to the tops (same look as the cast metal versions). The holes on the spikes were square and I thought I'd need to grind down the end of each pipe to make them fit but my brother suggested heating the ends with a heat gun. They softened up nice and with a little help (with gloves) to start it in the hole it pressed in easy. Once cool the spike could be pulled off and replaced easily as the pipe held it's new square end.
Since I'm babbling anyway, this reminds me of yet another type of vinyl/plastic. It was a toy I had probably in the early 70's. Don't remember the name but it looked and was about the size of a tabletop electric popcorn popper with a clear plastic dome and an electric metal heating plate inside. You took little plastic squares of different colors (imagine Starburst fruit chews but about 2 or 3 times bigger) and placed them on the metal plate with tongs. As it heated up the square would unfold into a little alien type creature. You then removed it and let it cool and when done was like a plain hard plastic figure. The coolest part was you could then put it back in the machine, reheat and while super hot place it in a compaction chamber built in to the side, crank it down and squeeze it back into a flat square complete with a little Mattel (?) logo impression. The compression was so complete that you literally couldn't tell what type of creature it had been. And this process could be repeated over and over. Was some amazing material. Never tried to paint it though. :)
~Brad fd64
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snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net wrote:

The plastic ballast base on brands such as EZ track is made of polystyrene (also used for foam cups, model kits, etc etc). The plastic used for flex track AFAIK is the same as for sectional track, but exactly what is it is I don't know. Both are paintable.
BTW, there are many, many types of plastic. About a dozen are recyclable (look at the li'l recycle triangles on the bottoms of plastic containers: the number inside them and the letters below tell you what kind of plastic the container is made of.) Also, there are hundreds of variations on each type of plastic: no plastic is used pure, it all has additives to colour it, stiffen it, make it UV resistant, pliable, tough, etc etc etc. You want a plastic that performs a certain way, some manufacturer can make it for you.
HTH
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On Feb 13, 8:04 am, Tim Marshall

Just wanted to mention - could you put up & link some photos of the finished project when done? Would be neat to see it.
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Tim Marshall wrote:
> Also, probably a daft sounding question to many of you, but what > colour is coal in a coal tender? I would have assumed black, but > perhaps I'm associating it too much with bags of BBQ charcoal. I > wouldn't have asked, but I've seen some pictures of coal tenders and > hoppers on line that show a brown colour.
Tim,
Most Polish is a soft, brown-coloured lignite, which is fairly dusty and frangible. It's pretty poor stuff to fire a steam engine on. The PKP processed much of their coal into briquettes to improve both the combustion and handling characteristics, much as the SNCF did. So you could model your tender full of brown dirt, or brown blocks! :-)
Cheers,
Mark.
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In addition to what everyone else has said, I will point out that normal hobby shop track has texturing on the ties. This doens't stand out very well because it is all cast the same color plastic.
You could use this to your advantage by painting the track, and then gently wiping the surface of the tie with a cloth. The raised surface of the texture will be taken off by the cloth, bu the deeper sections should retain a bit of paint. This will produce ties that do look like real wood, because real wood ties are never the same color through the whole piece. Instead, different parts of the wood grain will weather faster than others.
It will probably take a bit of testing and experience to perfect this. So, you will probably want to start with the ties that will be hidden under the train.
--
-Glennl
The despammed service works OK, but unfortunately
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I appreciate the responses from everyone, thank you, this will be a big help in an area of modelling with which I have little experience.
--
Tim http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~tmarshal /
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