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Painting acetal handrails

By Cody Grivno | February 17, 2021

Remote-control car body paint sticks to slippery engineering plastic

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Walthers HO scale Electro-Motive Division GP9s with (foreground) and without vertical handrails painted yellow

Slippery engineering plastic requires specially formulated paint that’s flexible and won’t flake off. Fortunately, the paint is most likely available at the same hobby shop where you purchase your trains. Flexible paint designed for remote-control (RC) car bodies is the perfect solution for locomotive handrails. RC paint is offered in a limited number of colors compared to model railroad paint, but it can be mixed to yield the color you need.

To match the prototype, I needed to paint the vertical railings on my HO scale Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Electro-Motive Division GP9s. 1. Although the railings were molded in blue plastic to match the locomotives’ body color, the vertical railings, which are painted yellow on the full-size engines to increase crew visibility, were also blue. Most vertical railings on locomotives are painted silver, white, or yellow, but it’s always good practice to check prototype photographs before committing paint to your model.

To remedy this, I turned to RC paint, 2. Badger Air-Brush, Faskolor, and Pactra, among others, offer acrylic (water-based) RC paint. Pactra also produces an organic solvent-based line. From this line, I used Sprint White and Bright Yellow for my DM&E Geeps. You might be asking, “Why two colors?” A white undercoat makes it easier for the yellow to cover in fewer coats.

I brush-painted the vertical railings white (silver would also work), 3. For best results, the paint should completely cover the railings and form a “jacket” around the part. Once the white had dried, I applied the yellow, 4. Since the Pactra paint is solvent based, I worked in a well-ventilated area and wore nitrile gloves.

Walthers HO scale Electro-Motive Division GP9s with (foreground) and without vertical handrails painted yellow

1. To match the prototype, I painted the vertical railings on my HO scale Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern GP9s with remote-control car paint. The flexible paint works well on acetal plastic.

Yellow RC car body paint from Pactra (acrylic and organic solvent-based), Faskolor, and Badger.

2. Pactra, Faskolor, and Badger are three firms that offer flexible paint designed for remote-control car bodies. All three brands produce acrylic paint, and Pactra also has an organic solvent-based line.

Using a paintbrush to apply Pactra Sprint White as a basecoat to the vertical handrails.

3. To give the yellow an even finish, I first applied Pactra Sprint White over the blue plastic. Two coats may be necessary for complete coverage

Applying Pactra Bright Yellow over Sprint White on vertical handrails

4. After the white paint had dried, I applied Bright Yellow to the railings.

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