New Monthly Content March 2017: How to Design a Realistic Paint Scheme for Your Freelance Model Railroad

March 2017 cover no text

New Monthly Content March 2017: How to Design a Realistic Paint Scheme for Your Freelance Model Railroad

march 2017 coverAs you set about creating your original paint schemes, there are some questions you can consider that might help you decide on colors, styles, designs, and more.

What emotions/reactions do you want to provoke with the paint scheme? Do you want customers or the general public to think of your railroad as a gritty, blue- collar, hard-working railroad or a glitzy, fast-paced, high speed line?

What prototype railroads do you enjoy and which may influence your paint scheme? Do you like the Santa Fe warbonnet, UP’s Armour Yellow, or Norfolk Southern’s all black dip job? Or are you more influenced by another freelanced model railroad, like the V&O or Utah Belt? Copying the colors and/or design of another railroad is perfectly acceptable for a freelanced model railroad.

How complicated a paint scheme do you want? Do you want something simple, like a dip job or simple two color paint scheme? Or do you want something showy and elaborate? Will it be based on two or three similar colors that are adjacent on the color wheel, or will it be based on colors that contrast?

What features of the different eras of model railroading really call to you? What era is your model railroad set in? Do you like the loops and masks of the 1940s and 1950s? Do you prefer the straight lines and simple designs of the 1960s and 1970s? Maybe you love the modern day “retro” paint schemes, like the new warbonnet and the retro-Belle, or the “heritage” paint schemes used on some diesels by the Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern. These heritage schemes show off the paint schemes of railroads that are predecessors of the modern railroad.

Do you want multiple versions of your paint scheme? Many railroads have multiple paint schemes at a single time, especially in the immediate wake of a merger. Sometimes, prototype railroads are so desperate for locomotives that they put them to work before the paint is finished, or even applied at all!

By answering these questions, you can create a history or timeline of your railroad and the major points where the paint schemes changed. You can then select the point you want to model and use one or more possible  paint schemes that may have been in use at that time.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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