A dash of paint and some aftermarket railings and barrels brings life and realism to this classic Lionel Accessory


Recently we have been doing upgrades on several O gauge accessories; these upgrades have brought toy train animated accessories to a near scale appearance. The surprising thing for me is how these simple out-of-the-box toys can be transformed into something totally different with just some paint, weathering, and a little detail added here and there. Let’s take a look at one of these projects, the Lionel Oil Drum Loader 6-22997.


Lionel 6-22997 as seen in’s promotional photograph, straight from the box

First here is what the loader looked like before the modifications (picture- right).

As you can see, this model looks like most O gauge accessories, very plastic with no hint of realism. In this form it’s a toy! Now what did we do to make it look like an operating scale model?

  • First, I removed the little yellow house and took a wire brush and began to scribe the wood siding to make it look more like wood grain. Don’t hold back on this procedure, there are plenty of lines in wood grain and the more you make, the more convincing it will become. I masked off the roof (it is not removable) and spray painted the walls with Testor’s Afrika Mustard #1955. I then hand painted the windows, and roof Forest Green by Americana (however any contrasting color will do here).  Once the paint dried I gave it a good black wash and then let dry. After the wash had dried, I dry brushed the walls and windows with Folk Art 708 Dove Gray, for weathering. The dry brushing gives the wood a really good aged look. The roof was weathered with a dry brush of black and a slight hint of the gray.
  • Next step was the base; First I masked the light tower, and the electronic parts and motor. I then spray painted the whole base with Testors’ #1930 Flat Gull Gray. Next, I painted the wood planking on the ramp with various shades of browns and sienna. This technique is something that must be repeated several times in order to get a color you are satisfied with. When I had a good base color for the wood, I gave the whole base (including the ramp) a good black wash and let dry. Once dried, I gave the ramp the same dry brushing I did on the yellow building. On the side walls that are concrete, I brushed black streaks down the sides. Don’t overdo this technique; be subtle. I followed this with streaks of white and then went black and then dry brushed all the concrete areas white. You can weather with more black and white streaks as well as rust streaks and stains.
  • The fork lift and the light tower: The fork lift was very easy, just a good black wash and some rust was all that was needed. The light tower takes more effort. I started by painting the base which is the same color as the other concrete parts. However I did not use any spray paint, only the Folk Art Dove gray, and a black wash, followed by a white dry brush. Once I was satisfied with the base, I moved to the tower and the light shades. I gave them all a wash with a mixture of black and sienna. I finished the light tower with some rust weathering.
  • Detail parts. This consisted of two projects: extra oil drums on pallets, and hand rails on two sides of the platform and the ramp. The extra oil drums can be any O scale oil drum; there are several companies that make them. You can paint and weather them to your personal liking. You can even have some un-weathered, as you do occasionally see some new drums. I put our oil drums on pallets. This again is optional. It’s a matter of what you like. The pallets are also available from several model companies. For hand rails, I used Plastruct O scale hand rails # 90473. I first cut them to fit the areas I wanted them in, then I spray painted them with Testors’ Gunmetal 1455. Last, I weathered them slightly with some rust. “Warning”, do not place any hand rails along the loading (back) side of the accessory, you do not want to interfere with its mechanical operation.

As you can see from below, the oil drum loader looks totally different from when we started. Gone is the molded red and yellow plastic accessory and in its place an operating scale model. It is amazing how a little time (about 8 hours) and effort can transform a toy into something you can be very proud of, a real show piece!  

A dash of paint and some aftermarket railings and barrels brings life and realism to this classic Lionel Accessory

Another view of Lionel 6-22997 detailed and weathered to go on the client’s layout

— Ray Del Papa


Reposted from our September Newsletter


  1. Anonymous on November 1, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Wow, This is amazing. I wish more details on the techniques would be posted but then again it always looks easy when accomplished with talent.

  2. Admin on November 1, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for the kind words. We covered the actual color choices and methods here. The basic skills of washing and dry-brushing are available in articles across the net but if there is a demand, we can certainly write a column on them ourselves.

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