By Bill Denton
There is an article in the November/December 2012 issue of N Scale Railroading about modeling Solex glass using clear green acrylic paint. The tinted windows shown when compared to the plain clear glass that comes in most passenger car models are pretty effective and add a nice finishing touch especially when used in dome cars. One minor point of contention I have however concerns the noticeably green tint. To my eye, the green color used in the article more closely reflects the tinting in modern commuter cars I have observed running on Chicago area railroads. While the glass used in vintage passenger cars appears to be more bluish green in comparison.
One of the best products I have seen that simulates this bluish green tint is called “Proto Correct” glass by Railway Classics, a one time importer of finely detailed brass passenger cars and trains. According to their web site: “Proto Correct glass has been specially manufactured for Railway Classics to match the lightly tinted blue green prototype glass that was and is used in streamlined passenger cars. This glass is being used by other importers with our blessing.” Though they are no longer in business importing passenger car models, their web site is still active in order to sell off existing stock and accessories. Fortunately the “Proto Correct” glass is still available for $15.00 per sheet which will do quite a few N scale passenger cars.
Unfortunately, while the Railway Classics “Proto Correct” glass works great for most passenger car applications, the material is thick enough that it will not bend in order to conform to the contour of a dome car. This was the problem I ran into that had me searching for another solution, preferably one that I could spray onto the curved glass of a dome. Like author Scott Lupia, I also tried using a clear green acrylic paint although I choose the Tamiya brand. I found it difficult to apply and it tended to “bead up” on the surface of the clear plastic. I finally gave up since I was getting inconsistent results with spraying the acrylic formula.
As luck would have it, shortly before receiving my copy of NSR, I discovered Alclad II Lacquers had released several transparent finishes to their fine line of paints. I initially bought ALC-404 Green and tried it on a piece of clear styrene. While the Alclad transparent paint sprayed wonderfully, I found the green tint not to my liking, as it was well, shall we say, too green and didn’t match the shade of the Railway Classics “Proto Correct” glass. Since what I was really after was a bluish green tint, I thought about adding some blue to the transparent green. Fortunately, Alclad also has ALC 403 Blue and one of my local hobby shops even had a bottle in stock.
I began by using a one to one mixture of the Alclad transparent blue and transparent green colors. This mixture when sprayed on clear plastic looked real close to the “Proto Correct” glass that I was trying to match. In addition, I didn’t find it necessary to spray on a clear gloss coat to protect the blue green finish. Regardless of the type of paint chosen for application to the clear glass, it is essential to use light and consistent application in order to achieve good results. One or two passes with the airbrush should be sufficient to get complete coverage of the window; any more than that and the window will start looking opaque. Remember you are not painting the window, only trying to tint it and you want to still be able to see the interior once the application is done.
Once I was satisfied with my results, I found it easiest to spray the windows of my California Zephyr set in small batches rather than one car at a time or all at once. I ended up disassembling four cars at a time, spraying the glass, waiting about an hour for the tint to dry and then reassembling the cars before starting on the next batch. This worked well for me but to each his own and you may choose differently. It wasn’t difficult to do the whole set in less than half a day and the results were very pleasing.
So there you have it. I don’t think my method for tinting windows is superior in any way, shape or form but rather gives the modeler another approach to achieve similar results. It may boil down to whether or not you prefer acrylic paints over lacquers or maybe some other factor. The point is that there is generally more than one way to skin a cat or in this case, to tint a window. The more choices we have to achieve the results we are looking for, the better chance we will have of finding a method that suites our own needs and comfort zone. I only hope I have added another successful option to the mix. Happy Modeling!