Few items go directly to my layout without some sort of treatment. Most things out of the box have a plastic sheen to them that screams “toy.” Some new models, however, come with a beautiful matte finish that looks very realistic. However, most of those models have shiny pad-printed lettering applied. I use a product from Testor’s called Dullcote. It kills the sheen on any surface (although be careful, it reacts with isopropyl alcohol or CA glue to form a haze) and is probably Patricia’s least favorite smell. I use it outside.
Typical of what I do to a “new toy” is what I did today with a Bowser Penn Central N5 caboose I got on clearance at M. B. Klein’s in Cockysville, MD. The lettering scheme is not correct for the real Penn Central 19070, but it looks cool enough. Take a closer look at the car, and you can see a lot of things that need to be corrected. Start with the couplers; these Bowser cars still come with ancient 1970’s-era Rapido couplers. Note too the glossy sheen. Students of the Penn Central will also note that the handrails and steps should be yellow. Lastly, there is no ACI barcode plate, which was used between 1967 and 1977 to track railcars. Penn Central existed from 1968 to 1976, so all PC equipment should have ACI plates.
I started by replacing the couplers with Micro Trains knuckle couplers. I used a light wash of Penn Central Green to add a slight fade. I used MicroScale decals to add ACI plates and a COTS (Clean, Oil, Test, & Stencil, circa mid-70s), and then shot the car with Dullcote (I slipped the glass insert out with the roof to avoid “frosting” the windows). I used a paint pen to paint the handrails yellow, and painted the steps with Poly Scale CSX Yellow. The trucks and wheel faces were painted Poly Scale Railroad Tie Brown. I then weathered the car with acrylic craft paint washes.
While the result is a tad incorrect from a lettering position standpoint, the overall effect is typical of Penn Central cabooses at the time of the Conrail merger.