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Weathering PCA Wagons With Mick Bonwick - Let's Get Involved!

Weathering PCA Wagons With Mick Bonwick - Let's Get Involved!

Welcome back to our latest "Let's Get Involved" feature; our modelling blog showing you how you can enhance and modify your Accurascale models! Our latest feature is one we have received plenty of requests for so we are delighted to introduce a weathering guide for our PCA cement tank wagons with Mick Bonwick! 

Mick's step by step guide below shows how a light weathering can transform the PCAs and is applicable across all three liveries from our first run. Over to you, Mick!

Materials to be used

Continuing the theme of not using very much to achieve realistic weathering effects, the target becomes a Castle Cement PCA. Seeking photographs from which I could glean ideas about what happened where, I came across a set of images by Andy Jupe on Smugmug, taken on 25th May, 2010, which you can see here. Thankfully there are plenty of photos of the PCAs in all their liveries online which can serve as visual inspiration. A train of Castle Cement PCAs had been photographed at Wellingborough, when these wagons were fairly new in service for this carrier. Very little grime had accumulated, and the wagons were therefore quite clean in appearance. Nonetheless, there was dirt showing in quite a few places and the task now is to replicate this.

The thin layer of cement dust will be achieved with Lifecolor pigment PG111, N. Europe Dust. Road dirt on the tank barrel ends will come from MIG Productions P033 Dark Mud. Small areas of rust, just beginning to show, will come from thinned applications of AK Interactive AK013 Rust Streaks and accumulated grime on the underfame will be represented by the same manufacturer’s pigment, AK143 Burnt Umber.

Because there will only be small amounts of material deposited at each stage of this weathering exercise, a pristine example of the model will be included in the photographs where possible, to illustrate how much of a difference is being made at each step in the process.

Most of the work on this wagon will be done using pigments, applied with a filbert brush, and only a small amount of work with an enamel wash applied with a rigger brush. So that the pigments have a dependable surface to adhere to, the whole wagon is given a good coating of Testor’s Dullcote before work begins.

Layer of Cement Dust

Starting from the areas immediately adjacent to the filling hatches, the ‘cement dust’ is applied using the filbert brush in a downward movement following the curve of the tank side. The pigment is picked up from the lid of the jar rather than plunging the brush into the pot. Small quantities! The pigment remaining on the brush continues to be brushed downwards from the top of the barrel, working out sideways in both directions from each hatch on each side of the tank.

The end result will be a thin dusty coating over the whole barrel that will give the impression of having been deposited there during filling operations over the short time in service. The lettering will also be taken back by this application, gaining a dust appearance in the process.

Road Dirt on the Ends

The ends of the tank barrel have a build-up of road dirt around the inner edge of the ‘lip’. At the portrayed stage of their lives this is only very faint, but it is nonetheless visible. MIG Productions P033 Track Dirt has been applied, with the filbert, all around this edge. The pigment is taken from the lid of the pot rather than the pot itself, once again, to minimise the volume on the brush. The key to achieving slight discolouration is to avoid putting too much pigment onto the brush in the first place and only applying light pressure on the bristles when applying. The level of dirt shown in this photograph was achieved with only one dip of the brush into the lid.

Ladders and Raised Detail

There is a wealth of detail present on these wagons and a lot of it cannot be seen easily because it is all the same colour. An integral part of weathering is the highlighting of this detail so that it becomes visible. The photographs show that the access ladders have a brown discolouration to them between the white painted bottom end and the angled steps at the top end, and that there are bolt heads depicted on the horizontal flange of the solebars to which the suspension is attached. By rubbing the lightly loaded bristles across this detail, the pigment is transferred to the raised surfaces and edges. The difference between treated and untreated areas can be seen in the photograph.

Early Signs of Rust

There are early signs of rust staining appearing in several areas of these wagons, most noticeably (from our modellers perspective helicopter view) on the edges of the access walkways. I am using a rust colour that is rather bright for my own eyes’ view of railway vehicle rust, but it seems to work in this case. Application is by rigger brush and the wash is thinned even further than its natural state by first dipping the bristles into clean white spirit, then just touching the tip into the pot.

Capillary Action and Thinned Wash

By just touching the tip of the bristles to the target area, a small volume of the thinned wash is drawn by capillary action onto the detail and then runs along the corners and angles. If the mix on the brush is too thick you just get a big blob and if it’s too thin there is no perceived difference.

Coil Springs

While there is still some thinned wash on the bristles, the appearance of the coil springs can be enhanced by placing it into the coils as shown. Once again, just touching the target area with the tip of the bristles will get the wash flowing into the detail.


To represent the grime build-up on the underparts, burnt umber pigment can be lightly applied all over. The initial application of Testor’s Dullcote has ensured that the surface will readily accept the small particles of pigment. Any matt varnish would achieve the same effect, but my preference is Dullcote because the aerosol version that I normally use is consistent and convenient. The same filbert brush is used here as in all the previous steps and I have found that there is no need to clean the brush between colours. So little pigment is used on the brush for each colour that there is no perceived effect on any subsequent colour.


There is exquisitely executed pipework on the underframe and I was tempted to retain some of the colours showing through the grime. By limiting the volume of pigment picked up on the brush I was able to achieve this, but I have to say that I am not sure that it is prototypical.


A close-up shot shows how much detail has now been highlighted by these few simple steps. Small quantities!


The detail on the walkways deserved some attention, but I was wary of using a brush in case particles of pigment were flicked by the bristles onto the body of the barrel. I could have prepared a paper mask to prevent this happening, but instead decided to apply the pigment from a finger dipped in some spillage on the paper towel. The method was to just rub the now dirty fingertip all along the walkway, leaving a thin film of dirt thereon.


Without having used very much at all, and having taken about 20 minutes modelling time, the difference made can be readily seen in this comparison photograph.

And there you have it! Why not give it a go on your PCA wagons today? If you fancy adding some to your fleet, check out your favourite Accurascale Approved retailer, or shop direct with us! Limited amount of STS Grey and Rugby Cement livered wagons remain in stock. Order here

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