Has this happened to you ? A model of your favourite engine has just been anounced, you eagerly click on the homepage of your local supllier and find that it wont be available in your roadname ?

Now there are four alternatives that you can follow:

Forget about the locomotive and hope for a future release of your roadname

Ask a friend or a “hobby painter” for a favour or a financially affordable repaint

Contact one of the commercial repainters for a perfect but expensive solution

Overcome your fear of ruining an expensive model and do it yourself

Forget about the locomotive and hope for a future release of your roadname

This is by far the easiest alternative but it may be frustrating and fruitless. Consider that model railroad manufacturers need to make money in order to survive. Thus the focus will always be on mainstream railroads that generate widespread sales for one paintscheme. You will always find a BNSFor UP model, but many roadnames will go unmodelled for lack fo potential purchasers. This is why steam locomotives are scarce: Every railroad had their own version, it would simply be too expensive to accurately reproduce each detail for each roadname.

Ask a friend or a “hobby painter” for a favour or a financially affordable repaint

If You live in Germany I can recommend Sven Heger. I have purchased several locomotives from him and the results were always excellent. I have currently some photos of his work under development which will appear soon on the bottom of this page.


 "Railwaypainter" ,  Albertistr.5, 78628 Rottweil, shaegar@web.de.
"Preis und Lieferzeit auf Anfrage" (Please enquire about Price and Deliverydate)

Contact one of the commercial repainters for a perfect but expensive solution

The best known sellers of commercial repaints are Brooklyn Locomotive Works and Trains Emporium of Nevada. Both produce excellent quality products like this Kato Rio Grande F7 AB Set from Trains Emporium.

Their models are accurate in every detail, roadnumbers, details colours, everything is according to prototype. The only “problem” to some of us might be the price. I paid 400 Dollars for the above set.

Brooklyn Locomotive Works

Trains Emporium, Nevada

Overcome your fear of ruining an expensive model and do it yourself

This is the most cost effective solution as you do not pay for the most expensive part: Your work. Many of us are scared to ruin a 100 Dollar locomotive, but I am writing this article to take away some of your fears and also give you a few what if....worst case scenarios and how to solve them.


First of all I would like to state that I consider myself clumsy, non artistic and a complete failure at DIY. Still I think that my self painted locomotives are quite good and found it easy to make them. I paid very little learning money and most models came out good right from the beginning.

First of all you have to select a prototype that you wish to model. For starters take a paint scheme that is simple meaning unicolor. There will be plenty of time and opportunity once you have some practice to get into “difficult paintschemes” like Santa Fe Warbonnet with lots of round curves to be masked. You should start in order

1st step - Unicolor easy paintscheme like Rio Grande

2nd step - Multicolor with some masking along straight lines like UP Lightning Stripe

3rd step . advanced paintscheme like Santa Fe Warbonnet

4th step - Aging and weathering.

We will start here with a simple paintschem like the above Rio Grande/UP Patch units.


Find photos of your locomotive on the Internet. This is easy by typing the type and roadname and the word jpg for JPG-Image into Google or Yahoo. Usually some roster sites pop up, hosted by fans who have side and front views of almost every individual locomotive of this type and roadname. By rightclicking and selecting save to harddisk in your browser, save those images for your reference. You do not want to spend time and effort for a repaint of which you are rightfully proud just to hear from your friends: “Oh but this number never existed in that paintscheme/didn’t Rio Grande keep their GP35 in Small Speed lettering ?” That hurts. So get to know the prototype by studying the pictures. Get one from each side, one from the back and one from the front.


Now it is time to check for the availability of a model and the Decals. I suggest to take an Atlas or Kato model.Oops trying it all out on such an expensive model ? The reason for picking these is: You can get replacement parts from the manufacturers. In case you ruin the shell or break a part, it is easy to get a new shell or part for around 10 Dollars. This minimizes the risk for your operation. Both Kato and Atlas offer online parts ordering:



It is not important weather you can get an undecorated unit or a painted one. I do not recommend stripping paint of models, just paint over them. Next check on the Microscale website for suitable decals


There is a search engine on the Micro Scale site where you can easily find what you are looking for. When ordering the dacals I recommend ordering an additional set, just in case. Also purchase a bootle of Micro Sol, which is a decal softening liquid that make the decals wrap around the tiniest details. I have never found any need for Micro Set.

Basically you are now set for your repaint, except for some


What you need is obviously an airbrush. For our first attampts do not purchase a 100 Dollar dual action joystick multiples jet super dooper brush. A cheapo (in Germany there is one by Sogolee from Conrad Electronik) like one for 15 Dollars will do. After all, you do not know if this hobby is for you.

You will need a compressor. There are special airbrush compressors and spraybooths etc. I use a off the shelf multi purpose compressor for the DIY Store, which I can also use to clean my garage door, inflate my tyres etc. Mine cost 100 Dollars new, but I got it as a gift froma  friend and it is rather banged up but still suitable for all I have to do. The only thing important is, that you have a small gauge that shows you at how much pressure the thing is running as this is important lateron. I do not recommend the use of so called liquid propellands in a bottle.

Aditionally you will need the usual tools like a small screw driver, some scissors, pliers and a small hobby knife. If you want to put Micro Trains Couplers on your locomotive, now would be a good time to do so since you are taking the locomotive apart anyways. The same goes for digital decoders.


Buy the right paint. I recommend Pollyscale Water based paints for the uncertain as they are offered railroad specific. On top you will need gloss varnish and matt varnish. I use Revell Airbrush Colors for that. It mixes well with the Pollyscale paints. If you use Revell Airbrush colors I recommend glossy colors as decals will otherwise look awkward on a matt surface.


Your model should be free of grease, like grease from thumbs and fingers. Work in aclean environment, keep those potato chips for later. Wash your hands before you tough the model. In the box of your locomotive, underneath the plastic/foam you will find an explosion drwaing of the model. This is good because it shows you how to reassemble the locomotive and if you break a part what the number for reordering it is.

Have a box ready to put the parts in so you don’t loose anything.

First take out the couplers by turning the locomotive on its back and putting the small screwdriver into the little plastic bridge in the front that secures the coupler. NOTE: If it needs force YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. All parts should go off the locomotive without the use of force.

Once the couplers are off (if it is a Kato locomotive I recommend ordering MTL Couplers now as putting the copper springsheets back on these Kato couplers is hell) it is time to remove the body of the locomotive.

Take the hole thing of including cab, handrails everything. Put the locomotive on its wheels and grab the body in the middle pulling outwards. Okay a little force might be justified here. Wiggle the locomotive beack and force and shake the chassis out. Of course once it starts sliding out of the body I would move a little closer to the table and not let it drop from 1 yard to the floor, you will need it later on ion working order !!!! Use a felt tip pen and mark the front of the chassis with an F (Germans can also use V for Vorn) and the back with a B (Germans will be allowed to use H for hinten)

If needed you can now remove the tank from underneath the chassis for painting (and mark this item also with FRONT and BACK as it is difficult to establish which was which lateron). Use caution if you have to paint the sides of the trucks Wiggle the trucks of the wheels but be carefull wheels and cogwheels do not flay all over the place. There will be some copper parts on the side of the wheels that will fall off. Don’t worry the will go back on easily. Just rest the loco on its back so the wheels don’t fall out.

Next take the body apart. First remover the cab. Carefully pull out the handrails from the cab sides so they don’t break. Then push the cab sides in and wriggle the cab out of the body. Next take the windows out of the cab and the headlight cover. Use caution not to break anything and study first how it is held together before traying to take it apart. Remember, all should go easy. Except for Kato SD90MAC and Kato SD70 it should all go pretty easy.

Next take the handrails off the body and seperate them from the walkway. Start by bending the stairs out of the walkway.

Finally do not forget to take off the light glazing in the back of the body using pliers and removing the horn and brake wheel. Store all in a box so you don’t loose anything.


The big moment is coming near. Preparation is everything because anything you have to do whilst actually spraying will be stressful.

Assemble your airbrush and attach to the compressor. Shake the color glass well before using.Do not fill the airbrush glass full but only half full otherwise the brush will not be able to suck the color. Check that there is an airhole in the lid of the glass on the airbrush, ie. it is not clogged.

Put your model parts on pieces of small wire and select a place you can hang them to dry. For the body I recommend a stick. Wrap tape around the stick to increase the thickness until the body of the locomotive firmly sits on it. Remember air-brushing means a strong current of air that will blow your locomotive of the stick if it does not sit there firmly, and usually it lands in some dirt that will be attached forever to it. However don’t overdo it. If the body bends your paint will later crack.

Now that everything is set, put on rubber gloves (the medical type), which will save you a lot of scrubbing of your hands, doorknobs and bathroom appliances lateron. Take off your glasses if you are wearing them, as paint will eventually be distracting if you have it on your spectacles.

Also put something over your mouth, as inhaling fine paint is not exactly healthy. Do your airbrushing in a well ventilated place but not in a drafty or windy one as the paint will fly away.

And naturally a living room or marble floor is not the place as, use some cover as not to soil your floor and walls.

Okay, now put the compressor up to 6 bar. If the paint becomes to misty and thin lower the pressure, if it gets to “fat” raise it. If no paint comes out, switch on your compressor !!!!!

First spray a sample on some cardboard to test if it works. Next start a thin layer on your model. ALWAYS OPEN THE BRUSH by spraing next to the model and then let the spray walk over it. CLOSE the brush away from the model. You might get some paint drops in the first bits of spray that you do not wish to have soiling your model. Once a THIN COAT is on your model, not necessarily covering the underneath set aside and start the next part. Once you’re through start again with the first part and so on. Aplly several thin layers rather than one thick one otherwise you will hide all the details or get one of those feared teardrops. Eventually COME TO A CLOSE, do not get tempted to add just one more layer, if really the model is good.

Let everything dry for at least 24 hours. Do not TOUCH IT. Hands off, no testing no fingerprints.

If you are using Pollyscale colors apply a coat of gloss vanish over all parts that will receive decals. Otherwise you will always see the glossy edges and in betweens of the decals giving the model a horrible appearance. Again let it dry thoroughly.

The orange stripe in the Rio Grande Units along the side was done using a normal brush and some paint. The small area would not have justified the airbrush use.

Finally clean the airbrush, which is a long and tedious process. Want to know a secret ? Guess what I do with my 15 Dollar airbrush when I am done. Bye bye


Now it is time for the decals. Prepare a shallow bowl with warm water. You need a sheet of kitchen paper towel (not toilet paper as it sucks water to fast). A pair of scissors, a small knife and a small screw driver, a brush, the decals and the Micro Sol.

Most important in this business is patience. I recommend doing only one side at a time so you don’t wipe decals of whilst grabbing the locomotive or resting it on wet decals.

Cut out the decal you wish to apply and dip it into warm water for a few seconds. Then take it out and wit until it slides easy. Lay the decal with the paper onto the lcomotive next to where you wish to apply it. The slide the decal of the paper onto the loco using the small screw driver or another pointy object. Take way the paper and then slide the decal to its final position. Put the kitchen paper next to it and suck up any excess water.Whilst doing that hold the decal in place with the screw driver. If it has settled in the wrong place simply dip water on and slide it where you want it.

Once you are satisfied with the location and the decal sits where it is supposed to and there is no water under it, brush a bit of Micro Sol on it. After that DO NOT TOUCH as the decal will become extremely soft and fragile due to this liquid. It will now wrap around all the little details and look no more like a decal but like painted on. Let it dry. Brush Micro Sol on again etc. Do this a few times until you are satisfied.

What to do if your decal dried in the wrong place ? Removing decals is easy. Put Micro Sol on thickly, leave it for a minute and then pull the decal off. Use a new decal from the second set you ordered.

Applying decals is not time consuming, but a task with a lot of pauses that can take a few days. Once you are done, let it all dry again for 24 hours.


Now it is back to the airbrush with matt varnish. Spray paint the whole thing again using Revell Matt Varnish. This prtects the decals and keeps them in place and also takes that unrealistic shine of your locomotive. Before reassembly use some White Paint to paint the handrails in the stairway area.


You may wish to spend about 10 minutes in order to stun your audience with these parts. I use JNJ Windscreen wipers and MUS hoses. Simply drill a tiny hole above the windshield and into the front pilot and then dip your superdetailing parts into some glue and stick them in the hole. First painting them helps. The effect is awesome, the amount of work 10 minutes.


Once it is all dried, reassemble the locomotive.

Now you are the proud owner of a unique model. People will ask you where you got this model, that they never new Kato produced such a model and with an envious smile ask how you did it. Everybody wants to paint locomotives but nobody dares to, even though it is easy.

A final word: A repainted locomotive however well done will loose its resale value on Ebay and the likes. Keep this in mind if you plan to resale parts of your collection one day.

Below you find a selection of models that we painted. I would be proud to present yours.



Type: EMD SD7 Roadname: Rio Grande Original Model: Atlas Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

This locomotvie was created from an Atlas SD7. I run a modern day layout but until recently this SD7 was switching at Denver. Initially a Large Speed Lettering unit was planned but research found that none existed and thus a Small Speed Lettering unit resulted at the last moment (the decals had already been applied and were removed using Micro Sol)

Type: EMD GP40-2  Roadname: Rio Grande/Union Pacific Original Model: Atlas Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

Union Pacific has started patching” older Rio Grande locomotives, as it consideres their life span as too short in order to facilitate a complete repaint. Being a Rio Grande fan I wanted to run these “Rebels” too and repainted a pair. To save work I masked the front with the warning stripes and left it as is.

Type: Extended Vision Caboose Roadname: Rio Grande Original Model: Atlas Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

An Easy repaint, ideal as a beginners project. The Grande ran these Cabeese mainly in Orange as the single stripe painting of the Atlas Model was expensive.I also slighlty aged and weathered this model using chalk.

Type: GE CW44-9 Roadname: Southern Pacific Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sven Heger

A repaint done by Sven Heger (see above The Railwaypainter). If you are from Germany, you can drop Sven a mail and he will be glad to do repaints for you. My experience is that he has always delivered excellent work at a very modest price.


"Railwaypainter" ,  Albertistr.5, 78628 Rottweil, shaegar@web.de.
"Preis und Lieferzeit auf Anfrage" (Please enquire about Price and Deliverydate)

Type: GE CW44-9 Roadname: Union Pacific Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sven Heger

Another excellent repaint done by Sven Heger. On this occasion Sven painted two UP units for me, aged, weathered and superdetailed them.

Type: EMD SD90-43 MAC Roadname: Denver Creek Branchline (phantasy Railroad) Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert, Decals by NScale Steve  http://www.nscalecorner.com/

This unit started life as a phantasy paint scheme for my Denver Creek Branchline. It was a simple Red / Grey job. Somehow I got bored with it and added stars and lateron these ladies which I downloaded from the internet

Type: EMD SD70MAC Roadname: Denver Creek Branchline Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

My second DCBL unit, the one that pioneered the “Star Scheme”. The Denver Creek Decals were done by NScale Steve, the stars come from a MicroScale set of the United Way UP SD40-2. Fitting the front windows back into these and the Kato SD90MAC is pure hell.

Type: SD70MAC Roadname: Union Pacific Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

I wanted one of the flag units but so far none have appeared on the market. Only just now did Kato announce a AC4400 for April 2004 as a flag unit. Couldn’t wait that long, had to do my own version.

Type: GE U30C Roadname: Southern Pacific Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

Ages ago I bought a couple of U30C which I painted into UP using Spray cans. That was in 1993 and any kind of detail on these fine runners remained hidden underneath the thick spray paint. An attempt to take off the paint using brake fluid failed miserably, the shells were completely destroyed. To my good fortune even in 2003 Kato had replacement shells available which I painted into SP using airbrush colours. I closed the gap between the stairs, once a trademark of old locomotives to give way for the huge Rapido Coupler with a MTL conversion kit which includes a plough.The result is two fine looking locomotives that are still excellent runners.

Type: AC4400 Roadname: Southern Pacific Original Model: Kato Repaint: Sebastian Daeunert

When Kato released the AC4400 I was thrilled because it is THE locomotive on the Moffat Road. Unfortunately no SP Unit was released, so I took an undecorated and airbrushed it into SP colors, including UP Patches. The main problem however was the non-availability of fitting decals for the Southern Pacific letters. The battery compartment on the locomotives left side is too long to accept using Micro Scale CW44-9 decals, so I settled for SD40-2 which is closest in size.

I found the model a little challenging to dimantle and resurrect.

Last Update: Mar 1st 2008

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