A Number Plate for a Steam Locomotive

The Brant Railway Heritage Society is a recently formed group, working to raise funds to restore the Lake Erie & Northern station at Mount Pleasant Ontario and build a new museum there. As a fund raiser, they have cast resin replicas of Canadian National Railway steam locomotive number plates. I believe they have done all three of the northern’s preserved in southwestern Ontario, 6167 in Guelph, 6218 in Fort Erie, and now when I saw them at the Copetown Show two weeks ago, the Toronto Railway Museum’s 6213. Obviously, while I passed on the others previously, a donation to the museum for a resin 6213 number plate was a must.

The plates are provided unpainted, so I took this as an opportunity to see what I could achieve using cheap craft paints, not just because I didn’t want to search for complex or expensive hobby paints, but as an opportunity to learn on something that at the end of the day, didn’t cost me a lot of money, and doesn’t need to be perfect.

IMG_1835Cheap ($2-$3) artists paints from Michaels.

I decided that I would spray the brass base colour with my airbrush, and thin and run in the red to allow it to find its level inside the plate, much like how a real plate would be done, except with the real plate, paint was applied to the brass, then polished off the facing surface!

The cheap craft paints are not the best for airbrushing. They don’t have super fine pigment, so they didn’t want to spray well, despite a lot of thinning with water and upping my air pressure from my normal 30psi to 40psi. It did work, but it wasn’t my best painting experience. That said, part of the reason I did this this way way to learn. Its good to know what it takes to try and spray these paints, as you never know when a project will actually require a crazy paint choice like this.

Painting Process (clockwise from top left): Unpainted; in Tamiya fine grey surface primer; spraying the back; spraying the front; and dried brass finish.

After a day to cure, I thinned some red down so that it would flow, and used an miniature eye dropper to get the paint dropped into the plate. One advantage of this, is when I determined my first approach didn’t work, and I was getting paint in places I didn’t want and in ways I didn’t want, a quick run to the tap to rinse off the water soluble paint and start over happened. The second attempt, having learned from the first to work from one side and go across the plate so I could pick it up and tip it to get paint to flow into corners and it worked out much better.

With bright red run into the plate to surround the brass. With a shot of the real locomotives number plate on the right for reference.

The real 6213 at the Toronto Railway Museum has recently emerged from her chrysalis with a new paint job, though the detail work of painting the cab numbers or the CNR wafer on the tender isn’t done, and details like her number plates aren’t back, she looks light years better, as the paint she had been in was looking long in the tooth. My little number plate is for display with my True Line Trains CNR 6213 in HO Scale, I’m super happy with how the plate has turned out, and it makes a nice addition to the models on display in my layout room.

IMG_1834My HO Scale 6213 now with a larger replica numberplate as part of the display.

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