Railway Preservation News

grained steel
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Author:  ted66 [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 7:07 pm ]
Post subject:  grained steel

Here is a question for those interested in passenger cars. Graining is a process where soft wood or later steel is colored to look like varnished wood.

I have seen it in Pullman cars and perhaps others covered over with conventional paint.

Has any railroad museum restored such a surface?

There sure are a lot of passenger cars out there!

Ted Miles, Western Railway Museum

Author:  Overmod [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 7:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

The father of one of my best college friends did this for a living. He is familiar with many of the brush techniques and paint overlays necessary to duplicate different colors and grains of wood, including inlays. It's quite an art, but there are also some good published guides on the subject. This is not actually trompe l'oeil, but some of the techniques of making the grain realistic are covered there.

If you provide pictures of what you want duplicated, I can see if he has any recommendations...

Author:  Pullman [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel


Go look at the OA&E 1020 the next time you go to the Museum.

Ask Pete Hinckley all about his work.

Author:  David Dewey [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

I used to do this for 30s vintage car interior trim. Some grains are fairly easy to apply, others are not as easy. Basically you apply a base coat, if doing mahogany an almost boxcar red color. Then you get some printer's ink, for this instance a very dark brown. Using cheesecloth you wipe the ink on the surface, depending on how you manipulate the cloth (short strokes, shaky hand, etc. until you get the finish you want. The ink never really dries, and you can wipe it off and start over again. Once you like what you have, you let it dry overnight, then clear coat it--if you don't clear coat it, it will wipe off!
That's a very basic instruction in "woodgraining,"

Author:  Dave [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

Turkey feathers make a very good grain in the hands of an artist in the technique. I know of an excellent artist in Savannah if you need one - she did some panels in the NC&O car for me.

Author:  Brian Norden [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

Not just steel Pullman cars. The early "Harriman" style coaches also had interior woodgraining.

I first saw an example of wood graining being done at an house restoration fair. Seems like 1) after being painted the original surface cannot be restored so wood graining is used to replicate the original look, 2) some houses were wood grained from the beginning.

It is a living art.

Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

When I was a kid, I spent a summer helping my Dad, who was a carpenter, on the renovation of a house in the old Italian neighborhood just west of Chicago's Circle Campus of the U 0f I. This large two story house dated to the 1880's or 1890's. All the large panel doors were softwood, and ALL had originally been grained to look like mahogany, with the panels painted to look like burls. The doors had subsequently received about ten coats of paint; they had led a hard life after the house became a tenement. I spent weeks with a torch removing the thick outer coats of paint. It was rather easy to get the paint to separate at the layer of shellac that had been used to seal the graining, but I could never get any one panel decent enough to preserve the finish, and certainly not the whole door. Every scar the door bore from it's seventy or eighty year life had left a mark in the original finish. The owner funding the renovation just chose to paint all the doors a reddish brown that more or less mimicked the original intended look.

On Edit:
I was wrong on the date, the house was built in 1871, and still looks pretty good. Sorry, couldn't find any interior pix.

Author:  David Dewey [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

yes, it was common for houses to have faux wood finishes;tat the time the labor to apply the finish was much less than the cost of the real wood species. The quality of graining varied too; in "high-visibility" portions of a home, the graining would be finer than in, say servant's quarters. It's a shame the owner of that house didn't opt for a touch-up job. Burl is actually one of the easier finishes to do as there is no real "pattern" Birds eye is also a fun one to create. The most difficult is the quarter-sawn grains, as there are at least two patterns at the same time. I did one once by applying the lighter cross grains, a thin clear coat and then the main grain. If you don't have a deadline, or a profit motive, it's actually a fun process since you can always "start over" until the clear coat is applied.
I have also managed to save original graining on metal where the loss is primarily the clear coat crazing and hiding the grain by a careful cleaning of the surface and then an application of new clear.

Author:  LiveWire [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 1:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

The museum in Duluth has a former Missabe business car with this done to great effect. I'm not sure where the restoration took place, however.

Author:  Randy Hees [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 2:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

Graining was somewhat common, both in railroad cars and in homes. In railroad cars it was part of the fire proof car movement... (steel doesn't burn) while in houses, it was both a way to use a cheaper wood, and a way of changing wood specie to match fashion. To some extent Victorians considered it playful to fool you by using graining.

At is core, it is a subtractive process. You first paint a base color (typically a tan or yellow) let dry, then apply a colored glaze, then remove most of the glaze with a mix of tools, including graining combs, graining rollers (for pine) or just a dry paint brush.

Added detail such as knots or "lights" (as found in quarter sawn oak) can be simulated using a feather, or burlap or a rag.

It was meant to be a quick and simple process, but in some cases people added an additional layer, with a black wash... in any case once done you varnish it...

As noted early steel cars frequently were grained. We have an 1882 wooden narrow gauge car at SPCRR which was originally grained as mahogany, but later c.1904 was grained as oak.


Author:  Steve DeGaetano [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 4:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

Not just homes and passenger cars: The North Carolina State Capitol building, completed in 1840, used graining on its interior doors.

Author:  Bob Davis [ Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

The reference to 30s cars (automobiles) with wood-grain finish reminded my of my dad's 1941 Chevy, with its fake wood-looking trim on the interior. Moving forward to the 1950s, as real "woodie wagons" disappeared from the showrooms, fake wood trim (much cheaper) was applied to station wagons. Getting into recent history: Not sure if this was a factory option or an after-market item, but I've seen several Chrysler PT Cruisers here in the Los Angeles area with fake wood trim. So if one is interested in applying wood-looking finish as part of a railway car restoration, it might be good to check with people in the vintage-car preservation community.

Author:  ted66 [ Thu Nov 10, 2016 12:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

Naturally I am aware of the SN #1020 at the Western Railway Museum that has grained steel. But I was looking for examples of other museums that have done that kind of work.

Further looking reveals the Canadian Museum of rail Travel at Cranbrook, BC has restored the grained steel in their steel cars.

As noted above, the painters who did the work, were almost able to reach the level of fine artists!

Ted Miles, Western Railway Museum

Author:  ted66 [ Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: grained steel

I looked at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth; which has a fine collection of mostly steel passenger cars.

They do not seem to have been discussed much in these pages. Among other things, they have a couple of restored street scenes in their train shed. One of the very few restoration villages as part of a railroad museum, as far as I know.

Ted Miles

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