Buildings Part 1 - Painting Brickwork


There are four sections to the buildings section and, for ease of navigation, a link to each of the other three pages is listed below - though you can navigate yourself sequentially through this section using the links at the bottom of each page should you so wish - so that you don't have to navigate your way through all four pages of this section if you don't want to!

The links are also listed in the appropriate section of this page so that you don't have to return to the top of the page to find them should you be following the ongoing process detailed below.

As you may know, I intend to have a Motive Power Depot as one of the main features of this layout. I'm going to need several buildings for this. A carriage maintenance shed, a diesel engine maintenance shed, train washer, diesel storage tanks, a refueling point and a site office plus some other buildings will all be required. I've got some time between now and when I can get the shed extended so I've decided to have a go at doing some of the buildings.

One of the buildings that will take some work is the train washer. I want something that would have been seen in the early-mid 80's as that is when the layout is set. There is nothing remotely like the train washer available in N gauge pre-built or in kit form so that means my first ever bash at scratch-building. I've got photographs of the train washers at Gillingham, Wimbledon and Fratton depot's. They give a good idea of how wide and tall one of these facilities were plus the size of the opening that the trains went through but not how long. From memory they would have been about half a carriage length long but I'll need to verify that before I start cutting the corrugated sheets I have!

Painting Brickwork - The Theory

Before I have a crack at scratch building, I thought it might be a good idea to try making some kits up first, just to refresh myself on how to paint/build kits. I've bought 3 kits to try out. They would be useful for my layout should I make a good fist of it but would be no great loss - as they were fairly cheap - should I make any mistakes.

Kestrel Designs Modern Industrial Unit Kit
The Kestrel Designs Industrial Unit kit that will be one of the first buildings I attempt to paint and assemble

The buildings I chose were 2 Ratio kits - some oil storage tanks and 2 concrete lineside huts - and a Kestrel Designs kit for a modern industrial unit. The way I've approached them is to prime the kits using a Humbrol grey aerosol tin and to then paint them in the colours I want. For the brick parts of the kit I'm going to try a technique that I've used successfully on 35mm metal figures where I wanted to pick out raised detail - drybrushing. After I've primed the kits I'm going to apply some Phoenix Paints Rendered Concrete to represent the mortar and I'll paint on this colour making sure it flows into the gaps. Once the paint's dry, I'll drybrush on some Phoenix Paints Light Brick Red picking out the raised detail and, voila, the bricks and mortar will be painted. Well, that's the theory at any rate!

Putting Theory Into Practice

Well the theory didn't stand up. Not because the theory wasn't sound. It was because the paints didn't match up to the standards I was expecting. I've never used Phoenix Precision paints before and did not know what to expect. What I found was that the paints were a lot thinner than I'm used to working with - maybe they're designed with airbrushing in mind? That meant that the paint kept running into the gaps when I used the Light Brick Red and flooded out the "mortar" areas of the model which was quite frustrating. I also found with the Rendered Concrete a problem that I have sometimes had with enamel based paints - it was so runny it may as well have been water and that, when applied, it just would not dry - over 24 hours after applying it's still not even remotely dry - and is so shiny that no amount of matt varnish will take away the shine. Time for another approach.

The Theory - Part 2

So, theory 1 didn't work quite how I wanted it to but then I remembered something. I used to do table top wargaming and, when I used to paint the figures, I used to use acrylic paints. Games Workshop do quite a range of colours, even if they're on the expensive side, and I know they can be good for drybrushing raised detail as I've used them for this in the past.

I also thought that perhaps I was going at this the wrong way. Did I really need to put on a coat of primer, then paint on the concrete/mortar colour then drybrush on the red for the bricks? Given that the mortar areas of the model are only a fraction of a millimetre wide, maybe priming the model in white and then drybrushing on a brick red colour would have the same effect? There would also be 1 less coat of paint being applied and I would reduce the risk of losing detail from the painting process. That sounds more promising. I'll try this theory out next and see how I get on.

Putting Theory 2 Into Practice

An example of the painted brickwork
The first attempt at drybrushing the brick work using Theory 2

As you can see from the photograph to the left, this way of painting the bricks has met with some success. I used the Games Workshop colour "Terracotta" for the brick work which is a dark red and, looking at it, I think it does a good job of representing brick. In reality, it worked better than the photo would indicate. The small gaps between the bricks combined with the resolution of my camera and the contrast of the colours painted means that in some places on the photo, where it appears that the red paint has seeped into the joins between the bricks, the paint is, in reality, white so it actually looks like mortar. Either that or it might be that I haven't got the hang of taking photos with my new camera yet!

I've got 3 of these kits - plus a Ratio station building and a Kestrel one, both of which have brickwork on the models - on which to practice so, hopefully, I'll have some really effective looking brickwork once these are done. I'll put up some photos of a completed model as soon as I get one finished.

I've finished my first attempt at painting one of these kits. I decided to paint the non-brick parts of the model brown on the first kit. I've already started the 2nd one and am painting that one blue. The 3rd will probably be painted silver or light green.

The first industrial unit kit finished
The first model finished (click on picture to open an enlarged image)

I'm not 100% happy with the brickwork on this first model but I don't think it's too bad for a first attempt either. I'd prefer it if less of the "mortar" were showing but I've found that drybrushing the brickwork can lead to problems if you try and apply too much paint to the raised detail. The gaps can get paint into them and it completely spoils the look that you are going for.

It probably can also be put down to practice as well. This is the first time that I have drybrushed a model in a few years and my technique probably needs a bit of brushing up (pardon the pun, I just couldn't resist it!). Once I've done a few models in this way, I would hope that there is an improvement in the finished models.

I have now built the second of the 3 industrial unit kits that I have bought and have refined the method of painting them. It's been suggested to me that a way to achieve a more realistic look with the mortar is to wash it with either a thinned down brown paint solution or an ink wash. This should make the mortar appear less bright than it does in the first model I did. I've decided to paint this one blue where I painted the first one brown and am looking to have a small industrial estate somewhere on my layout. The 3rd will be painted either grey or a light green or cream. I haven't decided which yet.

The second industrial unit kit finished
The 2nd industrial unit kit built (click on image to load an enlarged image)

I've also got some Ratio brick lineside buildings that I'm going to attempt to paint up in this way. One, a small brick building, looks like it quite good representation of the control office for a train washer which I will be scratch-building some time in the next couple of weeks.

I also want to buy some of the Muswell Models range of buildings for my layout - most notably the track-side railway office kit - at some stage and they're a little more expensive than the kits I've bought so far. It'll be a lot cheaper to practice on a £4.75 kit and get it wrong than to do it on an £11.75 model!

I need to scratch build some buildings too so all this is good practice. I need - or should truthfully say want - a train washer. Both a carriage and loco shed will be needed and I'll probably want a signal box at the station throat given all the pointwork that is going to be in place. The piece de la resistance is going to be the station building. I'd like something very eye catching if I can develop the scratch building skills necessary to achieve this and would like a nice, fairly ornate, brick building too. I really find the current fashion of glass and steel buildings quite unappealing so am not going to have one as the centrepiece of my layout!

As with most aspects of this project, the buildings has it's own forum devoted to it on the site's forum. A link to the forum has been included below, should you be interested.


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Page last updated: 24th May 2007

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