On Sheet – Paint of Infamy

On Sheet – Paint of Infamy

his isn’t really a bit on ops, but on scenery, model railroading, and weird coincidences.

So I was getting ready to put my one paved road on the Tuscarora. It was to run from an N-scale scene in the front, across a grade crossing (engineers will be expected to sound warning the first time through, then a crossing guard takes over) and then drop down to Z-scale (where appropriate buildings are tucked into a tight wooded valley). That was the plan.

I got the grade crossing in okay. For the road, I looked at a lot of ideas online and in magazines and finally went with what I like best – spackle applied with a putty knife 20-scale-feet wide. You carefully spread it at the correct length, try to get it just above ground level, then trim the edges.

For painting, I looked around the hobby shop shelf and found a Tamiya color called “J. N. Grey”. Looked just like sun-baked asphalt. Great. I actually found a darker color, wasn’t sure, so I did a test road and painted half dark, half light. Added the striping with an art pen and decided that JN won the day.

I even (on my long bike rides) studied the pavement to see just how asphalt cracked. Got good ideas and carefully carved them in (sure, the groves would, in reality and scale, twist your ankle but in N-scale you need to exaggerate the details). But it looked good. While out at the club for maintenance, I took a moment to paint the road and let it dry while I worked.

At 11pm that night, right before going home, I stepped over to the Tuscarora to see how it came out. Magnificent? No. Breath-taking? Maybe. But really, the word I would use is….


It was a light grayish green. I just stood there looking at it, wondering if that’s really what I was seeing. Then anther guy, done for the night, walked past on his way out. “Looks green to me.”

Da fug?

I pulled out my test road. It looked great. But then I took it out into the room proper and looked at the small piece I’d done under hard lighting. Green! I could now see it, once I wasn’t distracted by my efforts of road striping and cracking.

I gave it a final look, decided it was unsatisfactory, and painted it a lighter straight gray. Next time at the club, I checked it. Good enough.

On the way home, I thought about my Tamiya paint – I really like the brand and wondered why it looked greenish. Then it hit me. Japanese paint. “J. N. Grey”. Japanese Navy Grey!

The next day at the hobby shop, Jim the counterman confirmed it. A WW2 aficionado, he told me all about how the Japanese Navy tested all sorts of colors for their coming war in the Pacific, and how they picked this color because it would fade into the misty background at sea (which is fine, since they didn’t anticipate radar-directed guns). But yes, they painted a number of their ships in this color.

All I could do is nod my head and this weird causality that would start with Japanese Naval trials and end at my little spackle road in make-believe Tuscarora.

Interesting end note to all this – a guy at the club lost one of a hatch strips off a beloved covered hopper. Depressed, he looked through the scrapped car box and found an ATSF hopper, same model, but painted that brownish/red they used to use. Then he remembered my night of hysterics at the club. Curious, he borrowed my paint, popped the top of his hopper and painted a little on the inside to see how it matched. Not perfect, of course, but close (I guess the Reading & Northern didn’t want to be seen transporting grain across the Pacific Ocean or something). Anyway, he used it and was satisfied. So yes, in that, it was a success.



The newly-painted road and the reworked hopper, all working together. Getting there! (Photo: Mike D)