Three coats of varnish over the colour are necessary on a first-class coach. The first coat should be a hard drying varnish put on the fiat colour; the quick rubbing that some use I would not recommend, but one that will dry in 5 days (in good drying weather) sufficiently hard to rub, is the best for durability. After striping and ornamenting the car, and when thoroughly washed, give a coat of medium drying varnish. Let this stand 8 days; then rub lightly with curled hair or fine pumice, and apply the finishing coat, which is "wearing body;" this will dry hard in about 10 days, after which the car may be run out of the shop. It should then be washed with cold water and a soft brush, and is ready for the road. In varnishing, many will apply the varnish as heavy as they can possibly make it lie, when, as a consequence, it flows over and runs or sags down in ridges, and of course does not harden properly; this also leaves a substance for the weather to act on. It is better to get just enough on at a coat to make a good even coating which will flow out smooth, and this will dry hard, and will certainly wear better than the coat that is piled on heavily.
Varnishing, we claim, can be overdone, some painters' opinions to the contrary. We have heard of those who put 2 1/2 gal. on the body of a fifty-foot car at one application, and we have a so listened to the declaration, made by a member of the craft, that he put 2 gal. on the body of a locomotive tank. Such things are perhaps possible, and may have been done; but if so, we know that the work never stood as well as it would if done with one-half the quantity to a coat. In varnishing a car, care should be taken to have the surface clean; water never injures paint where it is used for washing; and a proper attention to cleanliness in this respect, and in the care of brushes used for varnishing, will ensure a good-looking job.
Perhaps your shop facilities for doing work are none of the best, but do the best you can with what you have. Select, if possible, a still, dry day for varnishing, especially for the finishing coat. Keep your shop at an even temperature; avoid cold drafts on the car from doors and windows; wet the floor only just sufficient to lay the dust, for if too wet, the dampness arising will have a tendency to destroy the lustre of your varnish. Of course we cannot always do varnishing to our perfect satisfaction, especially where there are 25 or 30 men at work in an open shop, and 6 or 8 cars are being painted, when more or less dirt and dust are sure to get on the work.
A suggestion might here be made to railroad managers, which is that no paint-shop is complete where the entire process of painting and finishing a car is to be done in one open shop. A paint-shop should be made to shut off in sections by sliding doors, one part of the shop being used exclusively for striping and varnishing. I know from experience that nine-tenths of the railroad paint-shops are deficient in this particular, and still we are expected to turn out a clean job, no matter what difficulties we are compelled to labour under. Many further hints might be given in regard to this matter of shop facilities and conveniences; but as it is not here my object to argue the point, I leave it with this brief mention.
In regard to the care of a car after it has left the shop, more attention should be given to this than is done on many roads. The car should not be allowed to run until it is past remedy, and the dirt and smoke become imbedded in the varnish, actually forming a part of the coating, so that when you undertake to clean the car you must use soda or soap strong enough to cut the varnish before you succeed in removing the dirt. Cars should be washed well with a brush and water at the end of every trip. This only will obviate the difficulty, and these repeated washings will harden the varnish as well as increase its lustre. We know that, in washing a car, where soap is required to remove the dirt and smoke, it is almost impossible to get the smoke washed off clean; and if it is not quite impossible, the hot sun and rain will act on the varnish and very soon destroy it.
Cars should be taken in and re-varnished at least once in 12 months; and if done once in 8 months, it is better for them, and they will require only one coat; but where they run a year, they will generally need two coats. Those varnished during the hot months will not stand as well as if done at any other time. Painting done in extremely cold weather, or in a cold shop, is more liable to crack than if done in warm weather.
Paint dried in the shop, where there is a draught of dry air passing through, will stand better than that dried by artificial heat; and you will find, by giving it your attention, that work which has failed to stand, and which cracked or scaled, was invariably painted in the winter season or in damp, wet weather. I have paid some attention to this matter, and know the result.