Tie Color and Distress

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:


Author: Greg Amer

11 thoughts on “Tie Color and Distress

  1. I wanted to post a picture of ties painted Rust-O-Leum Camoflauge Brown (Looks Good) and weathered with Floquil Instant Weather (Looks Terrible).

  2. Greg, I’ve used both black and brown liquid dye. I think the black looks much better than the brown. Look up in your local phone book to see if there is a leather or shoe repair place close by. Most likely they will have what you need. The bottle should come with some sort of cotton applicator. Don’t waste your money on the tie stain that Micro-Mark sells. It looks nothing like what the shoe dye stuff does, and it’s pricy. If you vary the percentages of the dye and rubbing alcohol you can get a variety of stain colors. It will stain your hands as well, so use gloves. I mixed 50/50 and then dumped it into a small container, dropped my ties in (cedar), and then fished them out with a pair of tweezers. Let them them air dry on a piece of newspaper for a few hours and your good to go. You could brush the dye on, but I think it’s easier to soak all of them at once.
    Don’t waster your money on this stuff. Very light stain. 🙁 http://www.micromark.com/railroad-tie-and-bridge-stain-3-1and2-fl-oz,8795.html

  3. I was thinking of the shoe polish that comes in a can that we used to shine our combat boots with. It’s waxy. Maybe the dye is diferrent, maybe I’ll give it a try. I’m currently glueing tie plates to ties with Barge/MEK mixture. True HO Scale spikes are ridiculouisly hard to utilize.

  4. Experiment with the above ties; Medium thickness CA & .030″ styrene.
    Fresh died tie, a little CA and the styrene holds well. Older tie that had been out in the weather took a couple of tries to get the styrene to stick, but I think that’s more because of the dirt, etc than the stain. I tried to peel off the styrene after only a minute or so of drying, and where the CA was on both the wood and styrene, it held strong, where there wasn’t CA, the styrene ripped along the edge of the CA. I’d say it’s sufficient to hold your tie plates. More food for thought!

  5. Are you using CA to glue? I wouldn’t think that it would be a problem, but I’ve never had the need to glue the tie plate to the tie as I just use the spike to hold it in place. That said I’ve never noticed any waxy feel or look to the stain or ties. Here’s a picture of a few ties… https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/302578_10150365247101912_2072430965_n.jpg
    Top tie has been outside for a while, middle tie is freshly stained, and bottom tie is raw. If you go with the shoe polish you can adjust the ratio to create lighter or darker..

  6. Have you tried the black leather shoe die/rubbing alcohol (50/50) stain? Jim Pendley told me about that. That’s what he uses on his layout. I tried it with the garden RR, but the UV rays lighten up the stain after about 6 months and it had to be reapplied.

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