Weathered sleepers


Weathered sleepers

Postby Philbax » Mon Sep 08, 2014 12:40 pm

Hi Guys
In the last few weeks I found a site, American I think, that gave some recipes for staining play sleepers. One if which was based on wire wool broken up in a 'liquid' and gave the right grey colour for sun bleached old sleepers.

Unfortunately I cannot retrace the source and wondered if anyone on here could help


John Palmer
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby John Palmer » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:09 pm

The liquid in question is vinegar. When wire wool is steeped in this for a few days it produces a mix known (at least to Americans) as iron buff. This is then used as a wood stain. In experimenting with such stains, I've tried both white vinegar (as recommended by some of the American articles I've seen) and cider vinegar.

I too was encouraged by a picture on a model railroad forum showing a strip of wood that had been dipped in such a mix, as it did indeed produce the grey colour you describe. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to reproduce the same effect using either some elderly lengths of crossing timber strip or society sleepers. Instead, I could only only generate a reddish brown colour as shown towards the r/h end of the lowest strip in the accompanying picture (sorry, not a very good one).
Tmiber stains.JPG

I suspect that the ability to get a grey finish to such staining operations depends heavily upon the wood to which the stain is applied, and that the chemical reaction of the stain with the ply timbering we use is simply incapable of producing such a finish. You might well get better results with other wood, but at the cost of having to cut and finish your own timbers.

I have had better results with drawing ink. The two uppermost timbers in the picture had Rowney Kandahar Indian Black drawing ink worked into them. The next two sleepers were similarly treated, but the brushed with the vinegar/wire wool stain. This technique produces some rather good brown patina effects.

A potential problem with ink upon ply sleepers is that if you don't work the ink in to obtain a near-black finish, the slightly creamy tint of the ply's natural appearance will 'grin' through the ink.

Here's a further shot with some ink-stained sleepers laid in place. Some of these have also had a brief encounter with the vinegar/wool stain.
Timbers laid in place.JPG

David Knight
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby David Knight » Mon Sep 08, 2014 3:03 pm

In North America sleepers are usually modeled in basswood or sugar pine which will react differently with any stain.

For society ply sleepers I've used Minwax Jacobean Oak with some success, see below.
Stained ties.jpg
Stained ties.jpg (308.64 KiB) Viewed 4465 times

A range of tones is possible depending on how long the sleepers soak. I put mine in a paper bag with some paper towel and shake before spreading out to dry.



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Tim V
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby Tim V » Mon Sep 08, 2014 3:08 pm

The sleepers I died with Colron Light oak have faded over the years to a grey colour - but they are over 20 years old!
Tim V
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby Philbax » Mon Sep 08, 2014 4:13 pm

Thanks for the feedback, I am really after the grey/silver colour of old bleached wood rather than the creosote effect.
I take the point about the base wood and therefore how it reacts with the stain.
I'll try the vinegar and then see what happens with bleach, probably a light brown, we will see.

I can't wait the 20yrs TIM


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jon price
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby jon price » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:16 pm

Tim V wrote:The sleepers I died with Colron Light oak have faded over the years to a grey colour - but they are over 20 years old!

This is an interesting point. We try to paint/create a snapshot in time with weathering and breaking down of materials, but then expect the finished product to stay unchanged. Of courtse all materials change and so if we expect our models to last more than a couple of years they will naturally change, which means our carefully designed finish will change too. If we are mixing materials and finishes this might produce alarming results where they change at different rates.
Connah's Quay Workshop threads: viewforum.php?f=125

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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby smardale » Sun Sep 21, 2014 5:39 am

...for that 'silver grey' finish try dry brushing your stained sleepers with well stirred humbrol gunmetal (tin no.53).

Terry Bendall
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Re: Weathered sleepers

Postby Terry Bendall » Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:07 am

If after all those efforts to stain the sleepers, after the track has been laid and the sides of the rails painted, some (many?) people will give everything a light spray of a track colour to tone it all down. Will the effects of some of the very subtle staining be lost as a result? :)

Terry Bendall

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