Coal train from Peco kits

Coal Train

The image shows a group of 4 steel wagons (two bauxite and two grey) forming a short coal train ended by a brake van. All are made from low cost Peco kits. The construction of the brake van is the subject of a separate article.

This article discusses building the steel mineral wagons from the Peco KNR-44 Butterley Steel Wagon kit. The Butterley wagon was an early prototype of steel wagon which was built in limited numbers so it is not correctly representative of the 16T BR steel mineral wagon that became in widespread use. An excellent discussion paper on the 16T steel mineral wagon and how accurate the various N gauge ready-made wagons and kits come to accurately portray the standard wagon can be found in reference 1 below. The main difference in the Butterley wagon is the end door, but since the end door is not so visible in a train formation, I think you can get away with it.

The fitted wagons (Bauxite colour)

fitted mineral wagons

The underframe of the kit was painted in matt black enamel first followed by two washes of a brown earth-like colour (Wilco Nutmeg Spice acrylic testpot) to give it a rusty weathered appearance. The plastic Peco wheels were replaced by sturdier Graham Farish (Bachmann) wheels which have metal axles.

The bodies were painted with Humbrol BR Bauxite enamel, sadly no longer in the Humbrol range. The sides needed a white stripe and data plates. The white stripe was a thin strip of copy paper attached with Johnson's Klear. The data panels were created in Paint Shop Pro and reduced for printing out. The tiny panels were printed out and stuck onto the body with Klear. The smaller ones were more difficult as it required a lot of manipulation to get it in position in the course of which the softened paint came off. I took them off, repainted the bauxite and tried again. Success the second time.

Left plate      Right plate

Left and right data plates for body

The wagons were assembled and then weathered - a dilute matt black wash first followed by my earth colour (Nutmeg acrylic watered down. One was given a wash of a greyer acrylic (Wilco Flintstone) over both body and underframe. This suggests that this wagon has been to other places, a little more chalky.

Do these stuck-on panels and stripes work? The weathering washes help to disguise the edges of the paper. It looks OK at normal viewing distance but with a closeup lens or closeup viewing the extra layer is obvious. I feel OK about the result.

The unfitted wagons (grey)

unfitted mineral wagons

Two further wagons were bought to make as unfitted wagons which were grey.

The underframe was painted matt black and then weathered as before. The body was first painted white (enamel) as a light background and then painted with Humbrol 87 Steel Grey Acrylic. White stripes were added from paper stuck with Klear. The side information panels are different from the bauxite ones. I found a side-on image of the Bachmann 00 gauge wagon on the internet which I copied and adjusted it to print out on paper the right size. I cut out the panels from this and fixed them to the body with Klear.

unfitted wagons painted

Wagons before weathering

Rust spots were added by dry brushing Track Colour in patches on the sides and ends. A matt black wash was then added as dirtying. I am pleased with the result.

Coal Loads

To all of these wagons, coal loads were added. For very little cost, I bought a bag of "coal" from eBay (Ref. 2 below). This is not coal but a mineral (?galena - lead sulphide) which is very heavy. One load was foam-based from my Lima coal wagon (which is out of scale and will not be used). Some of the "coal" had come off and was threadbare in places. I covered it with PVA and sprinkled on new "coal". The others were based on a card base supported about 5 - 7 mm from the floor of the wagon. These were covered in thick PVA and the "coal" sprinkled on. In all these cases, I needed two goes to get satisfactory results.


The Peco kits allow you to build mineral wagons for little money and allow you to develop your painting, finishing and weathering skills in the process.


  1. "N gauge History - 16-Ton Steel Mineral Wagons" -sorry this article appears to have been removed from the internet.
  2. Eezy Loads. Supplier of simulated coal for N gauge.
  3. Peco Website (KNR-44 Butterley Steel Wagon kit)

Article dated: 30/04/2013. References updated 12/11/2019