How To Make Your Model Train Buildings Look Weathered

Model Train Buildings

In order to have a realistic looking layout, it is important that you learn how to make your model train buildings look ‘weather-beaten’. There are a lot of different materials and techniques that you can use to achieve a ‘weathered look’, and they may not even cost you a dime.

By using these materials and techniques, it is almost guaranteed that your buildings will look as dirty and as grungy as many real-life railway buildings do.

Materials Used To Weather Model Train Buildings

One way to give your model buildings a really grungy look is to use organic materials from your own yard. A good dirt and grime wash can be made by taking plant and oil debris from your driveway.

Mix this oil and debris with a bit of rubbing alcohol, and then use a small paintbrush to paint your new wash onto your wooden buildings. This will create realistic looking grime.

While concrete and stone buildings look great on any model railway layout, weather-beaten concrete and stone buildings look even better. In order to give your concrete and stone walls a weathered look, mix a bit of dark potting soil with a bit of water to create a dark wash for your walls.

Use a sponge to gently dab a bit of this wash onto your stone and concrete walls to give them an authentic weather-beaten look.

Severe weathering can also cause the paint on buildings to ‘chip’ off. A way to achieve this effect on your model train buildings is to ‘prime’ your buildings with a light color, and then use ‘rubber cement’ to cover areas on your buildings where you want the paint to look chipped.

Once the rubber cement is dry, you will need to paint your entire building with a dark color. Then, using a sharp hobby knife, you will need to remove the rubber cement from the buildings.

The lighter color that was protected by the rubber cement while the building was being painted with a darker color will then show through. This will create the chipped paint effect.

Some Of The Best Effects Are Real

It is not uncommon to see rusty doors on railway warehouses. To create a wash that will simulate ‘rust’, you will use steel wool and vinegar.

By allowing the steel wool to sit submerged in vinegar for a few days, the steel wool will ultimately dissolve in the vinegar and leave you with a rusty liquid. Use this rusty liquid by painting it over the doors on the buildings on your layout.

Once you have applied the rusty liquid to the doors, you will need to blow hot air over it as quickly as possible. The reason for this is that when iron comes into contact with warm air, it forms rust. Therefore, the rust on your building’s doors will be real.

Brookside Ice House Kit
Brookside Ice House Kit

If you are looking for a building kit for your layout, the ‘Brookside Ice House Kit‘ from Historic Rail is a great choice. This building measures in at 9 inches by 5.1/2 inches by 4.1/2 inches.

Ice houses were used to service reefer cars that were pulled by steam locomotives. This HO scale ice house with an early to mid 20th century design features the following:

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  • Laser-cut basswood walls
  • Laser cut window and door openings
  • Windows and doors
  • Detailed stairs and railings
  • Color-coded strip wood
  • Cast metal detailed parts
  • Realistic ice blocks
  • And more


This kit requires assembly and makes a great addition to any layout that models an early to mid 20th century railroad. Even though this building arrives looking perfect, you will obviously be able to create your own weathered look, perhaps by using the methods mentioned above.

In the end, now that you know more about how to create the ‘weather-beaten’ look on your model train buildings, you will be able to add some of the most realistic looking buildings to your layout which can only enhance its overall level of realism, rendering a great looking layout that you can really be proud of.

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