This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
[Footnote: A paper read before the Master Car Painters' Association, Chicago, September, 1883.]
By JOHN S. ATWATER.
The subject of locomotive painting has been pretty well discussed at the former meetings of the association, and we have heard many excellent suggestions regarding the use of oils, mineral paints, and leads from gentlemen of long experience. But as the secretary has invited a display of my ignorance I will endeavor to explain as clearly as possible the methods I pursue, which, though not new or original, have been productive of good results.
If time enough can be had we can prime with oil alone, or in connection with the leads or minerals, and be sure of durability; but in these days of "lightning speed," "lightning illuminations," and "lightning painting," we must look about for something with "chain lightning" in it, which, unlike the lightning, will remain bright and stick after it strikes. We all have to paint according to the time and the facilities we have for doing the work.
The scale on iron or steel is the only serious trouble which the painter has to contend with. Rust can be removed or utilized with the oil, making a good paint, but unless time can be given it is better to remove the rust.
If possible let tanks get thoroughly rusted, then scrape off scale and rust with files sharpened to a chisel edge, rub down large surfaces with sandstone, and use No. 3 emery cloth between rivet heads, etc., then wash off with turpentine. This will give you a good solid surface to work upon.
For priming I use 100 pounds white lead (in oil), 10 pounds dry red lead, 13 pounds Prince's metallic, 8 quarts boiled oil, 2 quarts varnish, 6 quarts turpentine, and grind in the mill, as it mixes it thoroughly with less waste. I mix about 250 pounds at a time (put into kegs and draw off as wanted through faucets).
This o-le-ag-in-ous compound can be worked both ways, quickly by adding japan, slower by adding oil, and reduce to working consistency with turpentine.
Without the oil or japan it will dry hard on wrought iron in about seven days, on castings in about four days. When dry putty with white-lead putty, thinned with varnish and turpentine, and knifed in with a "broad-gauge" putty knife. Next day sandpaper and apply first coat rough-stuff, which is, equal parts, in bulk, white lead and "Reno's umber," mixed "stiff" with equal parts japan and rubbing varnish, and thin with turpentine. Next morning, second coat rough-stuff, made with Reno's umber, fine pumice stone, japan, and turpentine. At 1 o'clock P.M. put on guide coat for the benefit of the small boys, which is rough-stuff No. 2, darkened with lamp-black and very thin. The addition of fine pumice to rough-stuff No. 2 encourages the boys in rubbing, and prevents the blockstone from clogging.
By the time the last end of the tank is painted the first end is ready for rubbing, though it is better to stand until next day.
After rubbing sandpaper and put on very thin coat of varnish and turpentine (about equal parts). This soaks into the filling, hardening it and making a close, smooth, elastic surface, leaving no brush marks and being more durable than a quick-drying lead. This can be rubbed with fine sandpaper or hair to take off gloss, and colored the next morning, but it is better to remain 24 hours before coloring.
Upon this surface an "all japan color" would, before night, resemble a map of the war in Egypt, but by adding varnish and a very little raw oil to the "japan color," making it of the same nature as the under surface, will prevent cracking.
If I sandpaper in the morning, I put on first-coat color before noon. Second ditto afternoon, and varnish with rubbing varnish that night; rub down, stripe and letter next day, though I consider it better to stripe and letter on the color, and varnish with "wearing body varnish."
The tank is then ready for mounting. When mounted I paint trucks and woodwork, two coats lead, color, "color and varnish," and finish the whole with "wearing body varnish." Time, from 14 to 16 days.
On cabs I use the same priming as on tanks, let stand five days, putty nail holes and "plaster putty" hard wood, and give two coats lead, mixed as follows: 100 pounds keg lead, 19 pounds Reno's umber, 3½ quarts japan, 1½ quarts varnish, 6 quarts turpentine. I call this "No. 2 lead," and allow 24 hours between coats, then apply a coat of No. 2 "rough stuff" at 7 A.M. Rub down at 10 A.M. two coats color, and varnish before 6 P.M. Striped and lettered next day and finished on the following day if it is not taken away from me, and put on the engine. Time, eleven days. Can be done in five days.
On castings, same priming, putty and "No. 2 lead" if time is allowed. I use rough-stuff No. 2 on all flat places, rub down and give two coats of No. 2 lead. Also painting inside of all castings, and sheet iron casings; and inside of boiler jacket, with "Prince's metallic."
All castings I get ready for color before they are put on the locomotive, except such as have to be filed or fitted on outside edges. As there is very little time given to finish a locomotive after the machinists get through, I usually finish it the day before it is done.
As a sample (one of many), an 8--17--C. locomotive boiler tested Saturday afternoon, August 12, boiler painted, with 120 pounds steam on, wheels put under, boiler covered, cab put on, and finished Monday, August 14, at midnight (did not work Sunday); primed, puttied, colored, lettered, and varnished same day. After 10 o'clock at night the painters have a chance, and it is their glorious privilege to work until morning. The machinists have all the time there is, the painters have what is left.
So much for the ordinary way. For a quicker method of painting tanks I send a sample marked No. 1. Time, including first coat varnish, five days. Priming, 1 pound Reno's umber to 2 quarts pellucedite; two coats rough-stuff, composed of umber and pellucedite, rubbed down, and thin coat of pellucedite; one coat drop black, one coat rubbing varnish; exposed to weather (southeasterly exposure near salt water) March 12, 1879; revarnished one coat, finishing September 1, 1879; remained out until March 22, 1880. Total exposure, one year and one and a half weeks; thrown around the shop until August, 1882; has been painted three years and six months. This is not a sample of good work, but of quick and rough painting. Considering the time and usuage it has experienced it has stood much better than I expected, though I cannot safely recommend that kind of painting when any other can be followed.
Sample No. 3--Time, including two coats varnish, 14 days. Painted as described in first part of this article; exposed in same places as No. 1, April 3, 1880; total exposure, six months; has been painted two years and five months.
The above are not exactly "Thoughts on Locomotive Painting." What my thoughts are would require several dictionaries to express; but that is owing, not to the kind of work, but having to produce certain results in a time that will not insure good, durable work.
For removing old paint on wood I use a burner. From iron, I have found the quickest and most effectual way is to dissolve as much sal soda in warm water as the water will take up, and mix with fresh lime, making a thick mortar; spread this on the tank, about an inch thick, with a trowel; when it begins to crack, which will be in a few minutes, it has softened the paint enough, so that with a wide putty knife you can take it all off; then wash off tank with water. This takes off paint, rust, and everything, including the skin from your hands, if you are not careful. Plaster one side of tank, and use mortar over again for the other side.
Engine oil used to brighten smoke stacks, no matter with what painted, will cause blistering. Tallow and "japan drop black" mixed, and apply while stack is hot, with an occasional rubbing over with the same, will remain bright a long time.
Rust always contains dampness, and will feed on itself, extending underneath and destroying solidly painted surfaces. It is, therefore, necessary, in order to secure good results, that the rust should be killed before priming, or that the priming be so mixed that it will assimilate with the rust and prevent spreading.
Steel tanks will not rust as rapidly as iron, but the scale is more apt to flake off by the expansion and contraction of the metal, taking the paint with it.
Heated oil, or heated oil priming, will dry faster and be more penetrating than cold. I consider heated "boiled oil" and red lead the best primer for iron.
In regard to ornamentation, my taste is governed by the fact that I work "by contract," and get no more for a highly ornate locomotive than I do for a plain one, therefore I like the plain ones best, and I hope that our "good brother Burch's" prophecy, that "the days of 'fancy locomotives' will return," will never be fulfilled until after I go out of the business. There is a happy medium between a hearse and a circus wagon, and the locomotive painter, when not tied down by "specifications," can produce a neat and handsomely painted engine without the "spread eagle" or "star spangled banner." My own ideas are in the direction of simple lines of striping, following the lines of the surfaces upon which they are drawn.
Finally, take all the time you can get, the more the better, and use oil accordingly.