SP branch to Redlands, CA has ties that still show a weathered creosote color with tones of gray.

SP branch to Redlands, CA has ties that still show a weathered creosote color with tones of gray.

The color of my ties has been bothering me.  No, I am not talking about the rack of ties that are gathering dust in the closet.  I drove past the former SP branch to Placerville the other day.  It has been out of service since the 1980s and reflected weathered ties.   They were a light gray with slight tone of brown.   The light went on and I realized that creosote is not black but more of a sepia color.  I need to have more brown in the tie color and little black except for highlights to show distressing.    It seems the old lesson of observing the prototype was lost upon me.

Lodi turnout6

Here is another view of SP track in the town of Lodi, CA.   The ties have  been there for a while yet they show the brown and gray that I missed in my own track.  This should be easier to fix except a sold gray color is hard to achieve with stain but maybe paint is the answer.  I have noticed that some ties cut from sugar pine have a tendency not to stain uniformly.  I guess this has to do with the hardness of the material or something.

track washed

The original ties that were stained black with C.C. Crow’s Silver Wood stain. That wasn’t going to hack it after my epiphany  I decided to do some experimenting.  A section of the previously installed ties were sanded to a natural color and washed with thinned gray acrylic paint.   I added a little dab of a alcohol wash with rust color.  I was trying to get the creosote highlights.    Subsequently, I purchased a bottle of Dr. Martin’s concentrated water color.  I chose the sepia tone since it has some of the color spectrum of weathered creosoted ties.  I am hoping that this will fill the bill.   I still have more work to do before I get the effect I am looking for.   I give you an update on my progress.

10 thoughts on “TRACK DETAILS-Color of Ties

  1. Gene:

    Try India ink as one of your staining materials. I thin mine with Denatured Alcohol for a short drying time. By varying the amount of alcohol several shades of gray can be obtained.


  2. Gene, I stain with the regular shoe dye and alcohol mix (in both brown and black) and then individually scrub each tie with a rag sopped with just the alcohol for varying amounts of time. This seems to give me the distinctive aged look of the ties up here on the old Idaho division branch lines.

    Tom Dempsey, Spokane, WA

  3. Gene,
    What era are you modeling? Looking at ties on an out of service line which hasn’t had ties maintained since the 1980’s might not be the way to go. Look at photos from the time period you are modeling. There might be a difference in their appearance.

  4. Gene
    I had received an order of Kappler ties from Right of Way and quite a few had streaks of orange which made spiking almost impossible without first drilling a hole. A lumber dealer informed me it was glucose common in some species of wood especially pine. I passed up an opportunity to purchase two good looking bags at the Lombard, Illinois show. As that saying goes, you are never too old to learn. I question that.


  5. Gene:

    I model in Sn3 and have opted to use flex track. I noticed the variation in color a while back, and as I model narrow gauge in the 1930s, want my track to look reasonably good. There should still be some tie color variation. I lay the track and airbrush all the ties a tie brown color as a base. Then I go back and randomly spray some ties a weathered black color to indicate freshly replaced wood, and others a grey color (not white). With some ballast, the finished result works for me.

    Perhaps you should consider a wash of burnt umber oil or acrylic for fresh ties, and a wash of grey or burnt umber and grey for some of the older ties?

    Keith Hayes

  6. Charlie,
    I use to suffer from that problem also. When I started my Proto48 railroad, I purchased two boards of clear pine and cut my own ties. Those ties you purchased will not stain any better than they will except spikes. With the clear pine, the only thing that appears in the wood are veins of sap that I dig out when weathering the ties. Make nice splits in the ties too.


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