Dishing the dirt

I have a confession to make. Usually when I am weathering my locos and stock I go for a “generic” look. While you get over that shock, I should perhaps explain that I don’t go for the “general grot” often used by the RTR manufactures (but which is now seemingly being consigned to history). I will, of course, get a collection of photos of what ever type of vehicle it is that I’m working on. So, my class 50 is in the deplorable filthy oily state that was typical of them in their early years on the Western Region. I have removed the “D” from the number as is correct for 402, and the front jumper cables are in their dark grey (now thought to be unpainted casting) state. But I cannot say that 402 was ever in the oily state that I have modelled it, but I hope that it is typical of its type, and so it may have looked like that at one point.

There is a fine line, I suppose, between “right” and “wrong”. Take my two tone green class 47 for example. It has been renumbered to 47 256 and therefore has a green patch over the cabside numbers and the new number is applied behind the driver’s cab door in Rail Alphabet numbers, with a blue backed data panel below. All this is based on photos, and is as correct as my modelling skills allow. Likewise the same loco has the area beneath the Secondman’s side window all in dark green, obliterating the characteristic two tone livery. Photos show this loco in this condition, so I have replicated it. So far, so good. These painted features lasted some time, and were recorded in a number of photos on-line. But the weathering? “Generic class 47”.

The problem is, of course, that while paintwork stays in place for a while, dirt comes and goes. Sure, things like the tops of nose ends will get dirty and will often stay dirty as the mechanical washers don’t reach there but general road dirt does get washed off. The nose top thing is an interesting one as some people claim that the noses were painted in a “non-glare” matt paint to help footplate crews. No one seems to have proved that to be the case, but I will concede that the line between “clean” and “dirt” is often so well defined it does appear to have been masked and painted.

There is another problem with dirt; it varies depending on what the item of rolling stock has been doing. Obviously both a milk tanker and a coal wagon will be weathered by their load, but so to will a locomotive be affected by the work its been doing. On the Hillside locos I had a class 56 with a line of Mendip stone dust along the roof, and some patches of the same on the cab roof dome, a result of trips under the loader at Whatley or Merehead, and a class 58 with and actual pile of coal on the roof. Both features (if you can call them that) were based on actual observations.

So what do we do when we model a fictional location, and the locos work hauling fictional trains? I don’t mean that they are hauling wagon loads of fairy dust, or rocking horse manure, but in some small way the weathering would, arguably, be different if the real locos had served our imaginary towns, stations, yards and sidings.

It’s all bit of a balancing act.

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