Finishing & Staining Wood Ties

I’ve already glued my ties to the roadbed. I used Kappler 8′ 6″ wood cross ties (KP00SS86-HO) I purchased from Proto87 Stores.

I sand my wood ties to flatten them all to the same level. I used a sharpening stone to good effect. I also use a small emery board to hit individual ties that are a little too high.

I distress the ties using a wire brush and Exacto knife. The wire brush helps leave the impression of a grain. I Scribe damage lines and marks into the ties with an Exacto blade.

Finally, I stain the ties using a mixture of sepia colored India ink mixed with isopropyl alcohol. I don’t have an exact mixture ratio, but If the stain coloring dries too light, I usually go over with a second coat; if it dries too dark I lightly sand it off and re-stain.

Staining Wood Ties

Staining Wood Ties

Apr 122013

I decided to try a little leather dye mixed with alcohol for tie coloring. I bought Lincoln Black Leather Dye form Kent Shoe Repair shop for $10 this morning (price seemed a little steep, but I didn’t want to spend the day searching for leather dye.)


I think it’s too black and white without enough brown to warn it up. Next I’ll probably try railroad tie brown wash as base and maybe a very light shoe dye wash as highlighter.

Apr 112013

My first attempt at getting a realistic looking railroad ties. I distressed the ties with an exacto knife, wire brush and sand paper. Weathering is various washes of PolyScale Railroad Tie Brown, Acrylic Raw Umber, Black Ink & Alcohol. I think it turned out a little dark,, I sanded some of the finish off after these photos and it looks a little closer to what I want. I’ve posted a couple of prototype photos as well as my weathered ties. I stuck with Acrylic and alcohol solutions instead of wax based solution because I don’t think the tie plates will adhere to a waxy surface.

When I was researching stainging ties, I found a few great examples and threads on the O Gauge Railroading forums:


I’ve been mercilessly abusing this Proto:87 Superfine #8 turnout. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can with this one turnout before I start building the Ultimate turnouts I recently ordered. I wasn’t happy with the throw-bars because they kept dropping out, so I tried a hybrid version with the leading throw-bar soldered to the points. I’m considering using carbon fiber strips for the throw bars.

I’ve also done a little track weathering experimentation. I really like the Polly Scale “Dirt” paint for the rails, but think I also need to pre-weather the track with Blacken-It or ME Rail Weathering before painting so I don’t end up with bright silver shiny rail heads.


Proto:87 #8 Turnout

Proto:87 #8 - Used and abused.

© 2012 Greg Amer
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