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Layout Scenes IV: Rail & Tie Color

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Layout Scenes IV: Rail & Tie Color
The growing popularity of railroad subjects in the static model community has expanded the common model railroad question of "What color is track"? I hope these images will help modelers clarify this question for their modeling enjoyment.
Color
What color is track? The answer is What color isn't it? That isn't meant to be flippant. Rather, the color of track can vary widely depending on the era, the environment, maintenance, whether under steam, diesel or electric locomotives, even the season.

This track was photographed in October along the storied East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. It is the restored portion operated by Doe River Gorge Ministries, which operates train and speeder excursions along three miles of 3-foot narrow gauge track.
So what color is rail?
Many colors! Much of the rail shown was rolled over a century ago. Ties show a variance of wood exposed to the elements. Soil and detritus along the roadbed shows how a railway through a forest can look in the autumn.

These photos show what a 100+ year-old track in the mountains of eastern Tennessee in autumn can look like. Moss gives the ferrous rail a green tingle - on the south side of the south rail only! Oil and grease changes the hues. Dust and dirt add unique coloration, too.

Attempts to create authentic track color should be proceeded by research into your subject. Consider the time and era of the subject, what was hauled, and traffic densities. Above all, enjoy your hobby and model what makes you happy!
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About the Author

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)
FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...


Comments

Hi Fredrick, Excellent example of mother nature at work. Al
OCT 24, 2013 - 02:56 PM
Fred, good question and answer. I like burnt umber for the ties and a home made grimy rust rail-brown for the rail and plates on my home model railroad. But as you point out the color of track is due to its age, location, and mechanical interaction with rolling stock. The Mammoth Cave Railroad Narrow Gauge layout that our club is building at the LINK has a rough logging line and a tourist line. The ballast and track on the logging line will be heavily weathered with mostly dirt. The Mammoth Cave Railroad line will have light ballast with some eroded patches for the 1919 time frame we are depicting. Great to see photos of the ET&WNC (Eat Taters and Wear No Clothes) the Tweetsee.
OCT 24, 2013 - 03:56 PM
Frederick, very clear and useful Feature. Thank you.
OCT 24, 2013 - 08:12 PM
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