Forty foot long boxcars are getting harder to find on the prototype. They're still out there, but just not used anywhere near as often as their longer 50' or 60' brethren. So, whenever I see one, I make sure to get a photo of it. This car, ONT 92065, is one that I saw while on vacation in Northern Ontario in 2003 (yes, with a much smaller camera than I have now). Notice the rust patterns on the car side and how they differ between the left and right sides of the door. On the right, where the door slides, there are horizontal rust streaks from the door scraping the car side (the side sometimes bulges from the load pushing on the wall), while we see a much more scattered rust pattern to the left of the door.
As model railroaders, many of us are trying to duplicate the real world in miniature. The ready-to-run rolling stock that we purchase at the hobby shop is better than ever, but then it's up to the modeler to make it really look real. We have to have a firm understanding of what kind of weathering occurs to freight cars, both what it looks like and how it occurs, to know what we need to add to a car to make it look less like it's straight out of the paint shop. Let's take a closer look at one specific covered hopper car that I found today to see what we need to duplicate on our models.
One thing that I always find fascinating about graffiti on railroad property is how the railroads deal with it. I've heard stories of graffitists getting arrested or chased off and then the equipment moved to the paint shop for a patch job, but I've also heard stories of other graffitists who were simply advised not to cover the numbers. Inevitably, many freight cars these days will have their reporting marks covered by a graffitist's piece. Here's one of the more interesting solutions that I've seen recently; the number was repainted with spray paint in a way that makes me think it could have been done by the graffitist himself. On our model railroads, this gives us another way to renumber equipment without getting out the paint strippers. However, for cars used in operating sessions, remember to get the reporting marks on all four sides so your operators can spot the cars correctly on your layout.
Graffiti, whether it's called art or vandalism, is a fact of modern railroading. But it didn't always look like what we see on the trains passing us today. Railroad graffiti has evolved over the past century and a half from simple chalk marks left by railroad workers to notify other workers of issues to marks left by hobos to vanity tags made in permanent ink to the elaborate and often enormous painted "pieces" (as they're termed by those who create them) of today. Let's take a look at how these markings were developed and, for those interested, how to model them.
When equipment is sold to another railroad, the buyer will often paint over the car with the new owner's official colors. Sometimes, the original owner's logo and paint shows through, giving us a clue as to the equipment's heritage. The same effects can be seen when a railroad upgrades its official paint scheme as can be seen here on this former Chicago and North Western Railway hopper. The old and larger CNW logo outline is clearly visible under the new and smaller logo, which thankfully has not been itself painted over yet. This car and another of CNW heritage were spotted behind the MG&E power plant in Madison, Wisconsin today.
Unless you're modeling equipment straight out of the paint shop, it's OK if your decal is chipped. It happens on the prototype too, like this UP locomotive passing through Rochelle in 2005. A lot of railroads use large scale "decals" of their own to apply uniform lettering and numbers on their equipment, and their decals chip just like ours do on our models.
Rust streaks often start at points on a car where two pieces of metal intersect, such as where the roofwalk supports meet the top of the car or along the weld joints in the side panels on this covered hopper. From the origin point, the rust normally flows downward, pulled by water and gravity.
When graffiti covers part of a car's mechanical data, it's often re-added "black box" style. Also, dents (from shifting loads or rough loading/unloading) under where a door slides are normally the first places where paint is scraped off, which leads to unusual rust shapes.