Let's Get Involved - Class 37 Weathering Guide by James Makin— Accurascale Léim ar ábhar
Let's Get Involved -  Class 37 Weathering Guide by James Makin

Let's Get Involved - Class 37 Weathering Guide by James Makin

Welcome to another of our "Let's Get Involved" series of how-to modelling guides featuring techniques to take our models to another level. This time it's our most requested one to date, as James Makin takes his weathering stick and beats our Class 37 further into realism with it!

Take it away, James!

The venerable English Electric Type 3, later Class 37, is a true workhorse of the UK system with over six decades in service and still going strong today. Here’s a guide with some helpful hints and tips on how you can personalise your Accurascale Class 37 model, with this feature showing how one of the Scottish ‘car-headlight’-fitted models has been transformed into one of the most forlorn examples found running on the network in the late 1990s period.


The starting point for the project was the Scottish car-headlight-fitted 37026 Shapfell in Railfreight Distribution triple grey. It was chosen as the release was in the correct colours and closest to the intended prototype 37059, with split-headcode front as well as the same rivetted roof and arrangement of bodyside access steps to match how the real thing looked in 1998.

The numbers and printed nameplates were easily removed using a cotton bud, dipped in Humbrol enamel thinners. In just a few moments, the printing lifts away and wipes clean, leaving the Rail Grey body colour behind.

Before getting ready to apply the new number decals, the bodyshell would need to be given a gloss coat of varnish, so each window was masked off using Humbrol Maskol – a liquid that sets to pliable rubber within just a few minutes, and ideal for masking complex curved windows such as on the Class 37. One alternative method is to remove the glazing moulding from the bodyshell, but this method here minimises any chance of breaking the glazing during the removal process.

Railmatch Gloss Varnish was sprayed across the bodyshell, the aerosol being quick and convenient to use, and giving a good basis for the decals to be applied on top. The reason for applying the gloss surface is so that the carrier film on the waterslide decals does not show through once the final layer of matt varnish is applied afterwards.

Railtec decals were used for the renumber, the waterslide transfers being lined up according to photos of the real thing on both sides – observation of the prototype often reveals that there were many variations on exact positioning!

By the late 1990s, our chosen prototype, 37059, was badly faded with the original red & yellow Railfreight Distribution logos bleached out to almost entirely white. There are faded decals that can be purchased, but given how discoloured the prototype was, it was easier to touch in the original printing with white paint!

By the later stage of the 1990s, most Class 37s had received the bonnet-mounted radio aerials, so these were replicated on the model of 37059. My preference is to use a toothbrush bristle, trimmed from an old brush, superglued into a fine hole drilled in the peak of the nose. The bristles are ideal for this as they are not only fine, but extremely flexible, allowing them to take any amount of knocks and handling without being damaged.

Not only were the logos pre-faded on the side, the roof was also repainted into a lighter shade of grey, to represent years of fading on the prototype. In this case, Phoenix Paints’ Railfreight Grey was carefully hand painted on, and will form the basis of a faded effect, later on in the project.

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the trademark feature of this first batch of Accurascale Class 37s, the Scottish ‘car headlights’ needed to be removed for a model of 37059! Conveniently, the centre door just pops out of the model, with some gentle pushing from behind, and a scalpel slipped under the raised corner, pinging off the moulding! The car headlight moulding was removed, the hole filled with modelling filler and a new high-intensity headlight fitted further down, from Replica Railways. Finally, the door is repainted with Phoenix Paints’ P148 ‘Post-1985 Warning Panel Yellow’, which is a good match for the Accurascale factory-painted yellow end.

Once happy with the paintwork, the next stage would be to seal in with a layer of varnish – in this case Railmatch matt varnish, applied in aerosol format, and left for a month to harden fully. Once complete, the first layers of paint can be applied and wiped away, starting with a bright white to fade down the bright greys to a more muted shade. Simply paint on the neat white enamel paint liberally over the bodyshell, and wipe downwards in a vertical motion, removing as much of the paint as you can. If the paint sticks or starts to dry whilst on the model, either add more fresh paint or a touch of enamel thinners to soften, before wiping away with kitchen towel.

Having left the faded white layer a few days to harden, it’s time to repeat the process using a palette of browns and greys, having looked at photos of the chosen prototype to estimate the range of shades involved – there’s no hard and fast rule so it’s very much down to your perception of the colours and what you’ve got in the paint collection. Again, paint the brown shade all over the relevant parts of the bodyshell, and wipe away, leaving the paint residue in the grooves and recesses of the bodyshell, much as you see on the prototype.

Here we can see the paint layers being applied to the bodysides, and the action of wiping away vertically down the bodyside. Notice how the matt varnish layer has helped provide a ‘key’ for the paint residue to cling to the bodyshell and change the overall colouring from a bright grey to a brown shade, which will be ideal for the next stage.

Working with the brown shade on the bodyshell, the majority of this can be removed from the flat areas of sheet metal, using a cotton bud dipped in Humbrol enamel thinners. Again, work the cotton bud vertically downward, emulating the gravity of rainwater cleaning the locomotive from top to bottom. Where there’s a rusty or dirty streak required on the model, it is possible to clean the area around the desired streak, to leave a vertical line of dirt on the bodyside, often where the capillary action of rainwater has brought dirty deposits down onto the otherwise-clean paintwork. Allowing time between coats, this stage can be repeated with different shades of browns and greys to fit your chosen prototype – building up a nice patina of colours over a few days.

This next stage is where some fun can be had! Each locomotive will have a unique appearance to its weathering, based on where it’s been, how long since it was last painted and any damage it may have picked up during its career, so this can be replicated using fine brushwork on the model, closely following prototype pictures. 37059 had a very bleached out upper flint grey, so a flat brush was dipped in a tiny amount of light grey paint and wiped on a kitchen towel, leaving an almost-dry brush. This was then gently rubbed vertically down the upper grey area, giving some of the streaky faded areas observed on the prototype.

Little individual details were then picked out using a fine 5/0 brush. It’s important to have the right tools for the job and fine brushes, bought from the likes of Pro Arte – available online, on eBay, Amazon and at model railway shows – can be used to pick out tiny areas of colour where needed. In this case, the upper flint grey had a range of odd swirls and marks that were individually painted to match prototype photographs of 37059 in 1998. It can be painstaking and time consuming, but this is an area that can lift a model from having a more generic finish to creating something very bespoke, following photographs at every step of the way.

By my chosen time period, the engine-room access door on one side of 37059 was a different colour to the rest of the locomotive, so was touched in with some darker greys. A series of colours was applied, again using the trusty 5/0 paintbrushes, gently mottling on small amounts of colour, before adding slightly lighter and darker greys, to build up a more realistic finish than if just using a single shade of grey. By adding a range of colour tones during weathering, it becomes a lot easier to get a more convincing effect as in real life as there is depth being built up gradually with each different shade applied.

One of my favourite things about the prototype 37059 in particular was the remnants of the old BR Rail Blue livery showing through the degraded triple-grey colour scheme, and crying out to be modelled! Small amounts of Phoenix Paints’ faded BR Rail Blue were dotted onto the loco, meticulously following photos of the real thing to get the positioning to match. If you ever worry you’ve gone too far, simply wipe away the paint with a cotton bud and enamel thinners if required – practice makes perfect and it’s rare to get things spot-on the first time around. Even once nearly-dry, the spots of rail blue were rubbed over with a cotton bud just to help blend them into the background of the livery rather than appear as if they’d been painted over the top.

Here we can see a line-up of the Humbrol enamel paints used for the rusting stage – picking out all the little damages, surface rust and entrenched rust spots that build up on both 37059 and many others like it. The colours are applied in order from lightest to darkest, and so in the following order of Humbrol’s No. 62, 186, 113, 133 and 251 respectively. The lighter shades are applied in the greatest volume, with No’s 62 and 186 being used for the staining where the rainwater can drag the rust particles downward, whilst the other colours are used to build up the darker tones and leaving No.251 to be used most sparingly at the epicentre of the worst rust patches.

As a case study in the rusting process, the build up is shown here on the ghosting left by the former ‘Port of Tilbury’ nameplates on 37059, with the lighter browns feathered on with the fine 5/0 brushes and streaked downwards, whilst the darker browns are being gradually applied over the top to build up the varied patina of the real thing. Following prototype photographs, additional layers of light and dark greys were also added later. This same rusting technique is applied across the entire bodyshell where appropriate – starting with the light brown and working upwards. The Class 37s are particularly prone to rusting around the sides of the No.1 End Radiator grille and on the cabsides where water gets into the cabside droplights and rust bubbles outwards until the paint peels away.

Once satisfied with the final appearance of the bodyshell, this is then given a second coating of Railmatch matt varnish, to seal everything in and flatten down the finish. After this is dry, the Humbrol Maskol can be removed from each window. This is carried out using cocktail sticks, gently pulling away at the rubber, taking care around items such as the windscreen wipers. Sometimes you might need to add a little dark grey paint to the inside of the window frames to finish – whilst it can prove time consuming, in your author’s opinion it’s often preferable to accidentally breaking moulded glazing if the glue is tougher than expected, and ensures a perfect factory-fitted appearance is maintained.

Attention then moved to the chassis, with wire hoop couplings fabricated from 0.33mm brass rod, bent to shape and fixed into holes drilled just inward of the buffer shanks. Everyone has their preferred coupling method, and this setup allows the locomotive to work with rolling stock that’s still fitted with tension-lock couplers, yet also retain the fine Accurascale bufferbeam pipework. The bufferbeam pipework just fits into the holes in the chassis, and the front guard irons have a dedicated rectangular hole on each respective side of the bogies, being secured with a small dollop of Bostik contact adhesive.

The cab backplate is beautifully modelled, and a gentle wash of dark grey will bring out all that hidden detail. Humbrol dark grey No. 32 was painted on, and wiped away with a cotton bud, dipped in enamel thinners, leaving the dirt to gather in the recessed panel lines and joints.

The bodyshell was then replaced onto the chassis and given a final coat of traffic weathering, which consists of a range of different shades being applied by airbrush – in this case an old Badger 175 double-action airbrush, that allows control over air & paint flow. Phoenix Paints produce a range of helpful pre-mixed weathering shades, including Brake Dust, Track Dirt, Roof Dirt and Dirty Black, which were applied to the chassis and bodyshell respectively, following prototype photos for guidance. Around the exhaust ports on the roof, a custom mix of black and dark blue was sprayed on to represent the deposits from oily exhaust fumes in this area.

Whilst spraying, one trademark piece of weathering you can add with an airbrush is the classic grubby bonnet – the Class 37’s distinctive bonnets are challenging to clean, with conventional washing plants unable to reach the area, so are often found caked in dirt, and noticeable especially on the yellow section of the bonnet top. This is gently sprayed with Phoenix Paints ‘Roof Dirt’, and a top tip here is to use a lolly stick, or similar, to protect the angled cab windows, which would otherwise collect dirt when spraying down from above.

Once the paints were fully dried, it was then time to pick out some of the gorgeous detail on the Accurascale bogies – by drybrushing Humbrol MetalCote ‘Gunmetal’ (No. 27004) across the bogies, and then polishing with a cotton bud, it emphasises the raised detailing which really helps add some extra bulk to the appearance. At this stage, other oil stains and fuel spillages were added to the chassis using dark grey paint too.

One very final touch to the locomotive is to paint up the buffers – the shanks are painted in more Metalcote Gunmetal, giving a slightly worn metal appearance, and grease marks added to the faces themselves, with a cotton bud dipped into grey paint and mottled onto the face of each buffer.


The steps featured here can be applied to detailing and weathering any Accurascale Class 37, it is rare to find a locomotive that’s in such poor condition as 37059 was in the late 1990s, so in theory it should be an even more straightforward process hopefully!

The ‘37’ fleet is incredibly varied, so the main takeaway advice is to surround yourself with prototype photographs – whether drawn from Flickr, Smugmug, Google Images or from social media, with a quick search of your chosen prototype and the year you’d like to model, being an essential activity before starting to work – you never know what little details change over time and can catch you out!

The weathering is great fun and helps to take the model to the next stage of realism, and hopefully the step-by-step features here can help demystify some of the processes and encourage you to have a go and see what you can do to your model!

 Many thanks to James for this superb guide which you can use to personalise your Accurascale Class 37, or indeed other locomotives in our range! Browse our locomotives today, including the next batch of Class 37s and give it a go for yourself!

 Browse In Stock Accurascale Locomotives Here!


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