Why Aren’t You Weathering Your Signals

Two examples of weathering on adjacent railway signals at Maryborough West in Queensland.

I can remember a time when weathering your models just meant leaving them out so that dust accumulated on them but these days weathering has become an important part of the model railway scene.

There are plenty of how-to articles in the model railway press on how to model your locos and rolling stock and, if you’re not brave enough to try doing your own weathering, some model railway manufacturers are even producing models that are pre-weathered.

MTL-Lines is one manufacturer that produces some fine weathered models so weathering is obviously well-entrenched in the hobby but there are some things that no one seems to be weathering.

Take lineside signals as an example. When was the last time you saw a coloured-light signal that had weathering applied to it?

Now you might think that weathering your signals is taking the whole weathering thing a bit too far but when you want to produce a layout that has a real impact on viewers … including yourself … it’s often the little things, like realistic lineside detail, that turn a great layout into something that takes your modelling to a whole new level.

Just a few dry-brush strokes are all it takes and yet so few modellers do it.

So what should you be thinking about when it comes to weathering signals. Let’s take two signals that stand side by side at the northern end of the station and yard at Maryborough West in sub-tropical Queensland.

Up here there are no extremes of heat and cold … it’s warm in Winter and hot and humid in Summer so colours fade.

The rail traffic consists of diesel-powered general containerised freight, one electric passenger train and several diesel-powered passenger trains.

There’s no mineral traffic to add dust to the surrounding areas and, even if there was, the rain that falls during our wet seasons would be enough to wash away most traces of mineral dust.

But that doesn’t mean that these signals are devoid of any weathering.

What can you see in the first photo?

As I said a moment ago, the sun up here fades everything … even the signals and, as you can see, the backing plate and the lens hoods on the signal in the first photo have faded from a basic black to something closer to a dark grey with highlights that are almost white.

That fading isn’t uniform either … some patches are lighter, and some are darker. And the sun isn’t the only thing that helps weather the lineside detail. Did you notice the rust on the frame of the maintenance platform? Then there’s the pole that holds the signal up … there’s weathering on that too.

The smaller signal below the main set has some interesting patterns on it too and the metal plate blanking out one of the lights looks as though it may have come from some other signal entirely.

What can you see in the second photo?

Now take a look at the second photo … signals MW23 and MW31. As I said earlier, this signal stands almost next to the first signal we looked at and yet the general fading and highlights are quite different to the first signal even though they both face the same direction.

The second signal also shows signs of another type of weathering … bird crap. You get lots of that up here on just about everything from roads with tree cover to roof tops … and railway signals.

Also have a look at the bracket that holds MW31 to the main post. It’s not a nice pristine black either.

Details … even weathering details … are what can lift your layout into the realm of something special so don’t ignore them. Adding this level of detail doesn’t take much time but can have a major visual impact so have a look at the railway signals in the area that you’re modelling and see what signs of weathering that you can add to the signals on your layout.