ENHANCING THE TOP VIEW OF YOUR DIESELS
What is it we N-Scale modelers see the most when we run our trains?
I would wager it is the top side of our equipment. With this little tip/article I hope to help you enhance that view.
At least of your locomotive diesel power. This will pretty much apply to your EMD power. I picked this
technique up from the book Painting and Weathering Railroad Models by Jeff Wilson. It is published by Model
Railroader Magazine. As you can see in the photo above, the fan blades are very visible and is more
enhanced by locomotives that have a darker background. The book gives you a basic understanding of the
technique and I thought I would try and enhance it a bit.
If you are custom painting your models, you will want to perform this procedure as the next step after you shoot
your base coat of paint or at least after you have finished your base coats if you have a multi stage paint job.
The reason for this is so you can still retain your color match of the base coat for the grill touch ups.
Pretty straight forward here. Paint your locomotive. If you are starting with a factory or preprinted model, then
try and find an exact color match for your model. If you are going to finish up by also weathering your model
then you can get away with not finding an exact color match, but instead shoot for a very very close match.
This is an optional step. If you a have a model that has a dark base color as in the above photos, then this
step can also be bypassed. If you have a model that has a light base color, then you may want to proceed with
this step. It will help to make the fan blades stand out more.
Start by applying a heavy wash of either grimy black or black in the fan area. I use one drop of paint to about
30-35 drops of thinner. I have been using Polly Scale paint and air brush thinner. Take a small brush and
soak up the wash. Make sure you have a generous amount on the brush. Then fill the fan grill area to the top
with wash. Try not to get it on the fan button or the fan housing. Getting it on the grill tops is unavoidable and
no big deal anyway since they will be repainted later. It is very easy with a small pointed brush to get the was
in just the fan grill openings. It will puddle in there. Do all the grills and if you want, go ahead and do your
exhaust stacks. REMEMBER, try and only get it in the grill area. If you don't, it will leave a water spot. Now
just let the wash dry up. You should get what you see above. A darkened grill area. In some instances you
may have to do a second or third application depending on the consistency of your wash. I did three on the
Now that the wash has dried completely it is time to hit the fan blades and make them stand out. In this step it
is important to have a steady hand and a small pointed brush as well as a good quality brush. The point is to
get paint on the fan blades. Do not worry about getting it on the grill castings, the important thing is to NOT
get it on the area or surface below the fan blades (bottom surface of the casting). You can use either gray or
silver paint. I use silver and the best silver I have found by far for brushing is Poly Scale Stainless Steel. It
was brought to my attention also that fan blades are also painted the base color of the locomotive. I searched
for top views and found this to be true. Though they are a much different shade. For instance a black
locomotive may have very dusty gray blades just due to natural weathering. Unfortunately we are not very
privy to top shots. I use the silver to just enhance the blades. You can use a multitude of colors to do this.
The idea is to vary the shade of the blade to make it stick out.
As you can see in the photo, the fan blades are silver and none of the area below the blades is painted. You
can also see that the grill casting around the blades got hit with silver as well and some of the button edges.
Set this all aside and let dry for a few minutes and it will then be time for the final step. I must say here that by
far Kato has the best fan and blade detail and relief which makes doing all this very easy.
In this step you will be touching up the surfaces that are not supposed to be silver/gray and completing the
enhancement. This step is a bit tougher if you are working on a factory painted model since you need to find a
Get your base color out. You may want to thin it a little depending on the consistency of the paint. You want to
be careful and try not to paint over the fan blades with the base color. You will not be able to completely miss
painting the fan blades so do not fret if a little of you touch up does hit the blades. Using your small brush
again, fill it with paint and wipe off most of it. This is going to be somewhat like dry brushing, but not really
because you have more WET paint on your brush. I very lightly whisk the brush over the surface of the grills
until the entire grill top is touched up. I also give a coat to the buttons to clean up any silver that may be on it.
Even though the silver is just on the edges of the button, I paint the whole button to give an even coat of paint.
Next is to touch up just a tad down into the grill and fan housing. With the point of your brush and a steady
hand paint down the inside edges of the grills just to take any of that silveryness away. Look at the fans at an
angle and you will see the areas you need to touch up. When you are done, you should have what is shown
above in STEP 4.
Now you do not have to point out to me that the fan blades are not painted silver. They are usually whatever
color the fan housing is. That paint does wear off in time. So maybe instead of silver you could use either a
darker shade of the base color or lighter shade. The end result is you want to highlight the fan blades to help
enhance the depth.
I hope you enjoyed this and will give it a try. It makes a big difference in the appearance of the model.
TOP: Penn Central GP30 custom painted by Brian Banna. BOTTOM: Chessie (WM) GP35 custom painted by Brian Banna.
Both models are Atlas/Kato made.