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Painting Kato Unitrack Rail

| November 11, 2015 More

Paint for Kato Unitrack railIn a recent article, I applied Kato ballast to HO, N and Z scale track and I was pretty happy with the results. Here’s the link to that article: https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/kato-unitrack-ballast-for-ho-n-z-scale. What I was less happy about was the rail itself, specifically my paint coverage of the rail sides, there was still too much underlying shine to the rails.

With flex track or sectional track without the plastic roadbed you can simply lay the track, paint the rails and then add your ballast. With Kato Unitrack in HO and N, and Z scale track from Micro-Trains or Rokuhan however we have a plastic roadbed with a gray speckled pattern that I didn’t want to paint over. This gray speckled pattern makes for a very good base color for the Kato ballast. In Z scale this good speckled pattern is visible on the Micro-Trains track and not so much on the Rokuhan track, but I wanted to keep all the roadbeds unpainted.

Trying to freehand airbrush (or hand brush) the rails on a piece of roadbed track, even when you’re being careful and going slowly, you just end up with too much overspray on both the ties as well as on the roadbed. Using blue painter’s tape to mask off the ties and roadbed makes for a good outcome in all scales. I had a roll of 1” blue tape in my toolbox and of course, this needed to be cut down in to thinner strips to fit between the rails for all scales.

As with all masking and painting, taking a bit more time and care with the masking tape yields a more precise result. With all of these tracks, of course you’re not able to get the tape under the rails because of the molded plastic tie plates / rail spikes. I found butting the tape right up against these molded bits worked pretty well.

For the paint, I used Tamiya Neutral Grey, XF-53 in a single action airbrush at high pressure. I tend to prefer higher pressure for finer atomization of the paint.

The Tamiya Neutral Grey, XF-53 is a light gray color and the paint that did end up on the gray roadbed isn’t too noticeable, it actually looks a little like a shadow from the rail. Some of the paint did end up on the ties, right next to the rails, because once you apply the masking tape there’s a small bit of tie not covered. This small bit of paint isn’t too objectionable, you could almost say this extra paint on the ties gives the appearance of individual tie plates… bonus!

This light gray rail color will also provide some good tooth to any weathering I apply after I add additional Kato ballast to the track. All in all the masking tape did a good job and once the track is ballasted and weathered a bit, it should look very good.

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