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Tool Review
British Railways
British Railways Livery Shades
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Lifecolor, a division of Astromodel of Italy, offers a huge selection of acrylic paints including XS06, British Railways. This set of six paints features prominent colors seen on England's post-war railroads.

British Railways
Set XS06, British Railways arrives in an attractive flip-top cardboard box with the six 22ml plastic bottles held in individual compartments. The bottle caps were molded with an internal rim which both provides a small palette cup as well as inhibits paint fouling the bottle cap thread.

These paints are made with very fine ground pigments. They have no noticeable odor. I find most of them them to be thinner than other brands I am used to, almost like a heavy wash. These paints are not formulated for one-pass brushing, rather for multiple passes and airbrushing.

There are no instructions other than as printed on the back of the box, plus six printed color chips. Lifecolor reminds us that these can be mixed with Tensocrom Medium to create washes and glazes.

This set includes:

UA 813 Rail Blue
UA 814 Standard Loco Green
UA 815 BR Maroon
UA 816 Rail Grey
UA 817 Fitted Freight Bauxite
UA 818 Unfitted Freight Grey

What are these British Railway (BR) colors based upon? As the box indicates these colors were developed in partnership with George Dent of Model Rail Magazine and The Airbrush Company. A shamble through sites dedicated to prototype preservation and modeling of United Kingdom railroads produced a great deal of information, including the meaning of "Fitted" and "Unfitted", which categorized whether a freight car had automated brakes or relied on the braking of the locomotive, with or without a "Brakevan" (Think of it as a caboose specifically intended to manually set brakes for the train). The following excerpt offers a glimpse into the gargantuan diverse topic of English railroad liveries;
    The Second World War reduced much of the goods rolling stock to a generally dilapidated state. Following nationalisation in 1948 the remaining pre-war liveried wagons were usually repainted as they passed through the workshops for maintenance and repairs.

    Initially British Railways adopted an official basic goods livery of grey for unfitted stock, that is for wagons with only a hand brake, and a red-brown called 'bauxite' for fitted stock, that is for wagons fitted with a vacuum brake. British Railways adopted the vacuum brake as standard and following the 1955 Modernisation Plan, they fitted this to most new stock (other than the steel mineral wagons). The flexible brake pipe connections were red. Some wagons with only a hand brake had pipes and connectors for vacuum brakes, this allowed them to be marshalled into a train of 'fitted' stock. These 'piped' wagons were painted bauxite with white pipe connections.

    Originally the unfitted wooden bodied wagons were unpainted, although the wood had a slightly silver look to it when new due to the use of an aluminium primer. This idea was abandoned by the mid 1950's and they were then painted grey. It should be noted that many unfitted pre nationalisation wagons, principally open types, appear to have all paint removed (or worn off), and some had markings reduced to the number painted in the lower left hand corner, generally in black but sometimes white on a black patch. The standard was black underframes and running gear much as used on the LNER, however the solebars, particularly on unfitted stock, were sometimes painted body colour.

    Van roofs were initially white, as usual greying in service. According to Dave Larkin's book on
    British Railways Standard Freight Wagons many vans had black roofs by the late `60's, however I have not traced any official instruction regarding this colour being used and it could perhaps have been simply a very dirty grey. *

Rail Blue was a predominate color of diesel locomotives and some passenger cars from the 1960s on. The Lifecolor hue is a beautiful peacock semigloss hue.

Standard Loco Green was used on steam locomotives (BR allowed some regional variations) after consolidation in the 1950s. It also carried over onto diesels.

BR Maroon was used on many express (passenger) steam locomotives after consolidation in the 1950s. It is also known as "Crimson Lake".

Rail Grey was used with Rail Blue as passenger livery.

Fitted Freight Bauxite was used on freight cars, as touched upon, above. (Freight Brown replaced Fitted Freight Bauxite sometime in the 1970s.)

Unfitted Freight Grey was used on freight cars, as touched upon, above.

These paints were airbrushed onto models of unprimed black or gray styrene, and sealed scale wood.

Lifecolor instructs that for airbrushing, use low pressure. Not surprising they also recommend using their own thinner but state water will suffice. I sprayed them with my Aztec airbrush. I used both the acrylic general purpose (black) nozzle and the High Flow Nozzle .50mm (Turquoise) nozzle. Air was regulated from a reservoir between 20-40 psi. Paints were shot straight from the bottle onto a smooth unprimed white card sample swatch. Pictured are the swatch in natural (cloudy) light, as well as scanned on a scanner.

Airbrushed coverage is excellent. The two grey paints and Bauxite covered with complete opacity. These were sprayed onto a wooden model and onto a (dreaded) black plastic model. All three covered perfectly and smoothly. The paint dried flat. None of the colors ran nor puddled.

However, the three "flagship" colors gave me trouble. Stirred as all of my paints with an electric paint mixer, all three wrapped a film of semi-cured paint around the mixing wand. That happens with other brands at times but has not caused trouble. The paint was nice and thin when I piped it into the spray reservoir. But all three - especially the green and the blue - constantly clogged the acrylic general purpose nozzle. Eventually I reverted to the high flow nozzle; the paint gushed out but so did scores of very small globs that pimpled the finish, and twice the high flow nozzle began to clog.

In attempting to spray the blue and green I tried a combination of tricks: high pressure, low pressure; thinned with water, with Lifecolor Thinner; straight from the bottle; airbrush cleaned with Lifecolor Cleaner; water; Simple Green. (That last product tends to quickly rid my airbrush of any acrylics.)

Interestingly, while all of these are considered matt finish, the blue, green and maroon dried with a pleasing gloss.

Excellent! Due to the subjects I painted it is not practical to test it with tape. Instead I simply scratched on the colors with my fingernail. Results - no nicks or scratches on most. The green gave up some small scratches while the blue tenaciously holds like the others, although it discolored slightly. Excellent adhesion!

These are fine acrylic paints. As such they are less hazardous than solvent-based products, hence happy with young model makers.

Adhesion is awesome! The bottle design is great, as is the packaging. These paints cleaned easily with Lifecolor Cleaner or water.

Lifecolor states they should be thinned with the brand thinner, which I also tested. Three paints performed exceptionally well via airbrush. The three locomotive colors are pretty and inspirations for my freelance livery. Once sprayed they cover as well as the others, yet they clogged the airbrush and defaced the model with gobs of paint. Hopefully this is just a bad batch. I will try again after the paint settles and report back.

I did not try these with handbrushing.

Despite the disappointment of the three locomotive colors, these are quality paints and I recommend them.

Please tell retailers and vendors that you saw this review here - on RailRoadModeling.

* Smith, Mark. "British Railways (1948/64) Livery." Goods & Not So Goods, An overview of railway freight operations for modellers. N.p., 2003. Web. 27 May 2014.

Smith, Mike. "British Freight Locomotive Liveries." Goods & Not So Goods, An overview of railway freight operations for modellers. N.p., 2003. Web. 27 May 2014.

Multiple contributors. "Wagon Paint." National Preservation. N.p., 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 May 2014.
Highs: Easy to use and adhesion and coverage is awesome. Three paints performed exceptionally well via airbrush.
Lows: Three colors had poor spray characteristics.
Verdict: This set should allow models of post-war British railroads to create the most common liveries.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: XS06
  Suggested Retail: $24.50, 18,00
  Related Link: Lifecolor BR Set
  PUBLISHED: May 27, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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