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Removing Lettering from Passenger Cars

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  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: St. Paul
  • 719 posts
Removing Lettering from Passenger Cars
Posted by garya on Monday, September 16, 2019 1:14 PM

I have several passenger cars from which I would like to remove  the lettering.  They are all Pullman green, so I was hoping to remove the road names and possibly the number and decal for my road.  I have three different makes:


Bachmann Spectrum:


Yes, I've used search Confused  I've searched and found a variety of methods proposed, depending on if decals or paint are to be removed.  I believe the lettering here is pad printed.  I would like to remove just the lettering, if possible, but if I have to touch up the paint I can do that.  Any advice for these items?


  • Member since
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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, September 16, 2019 3:33 PM

Can you dismantle the cars?  If it's not too difficult, consider a serious upgrade by adding lighting and passengers.  Removing just the lettering might scar the car sides somewhat, and they would look a lot better with a fresh paint job before new decals.

These passengers are inside the car and hard to see, so on models like this I start with cheap unpainted seated figures, paint them with craft paint and glue them in.  You might touch up the car interiors as well.

Cutting off the legs to make them fit doesn't hurt, really.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Franconia, NH
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Posted by dstarr on Monday, September 16, 2019 3:50 PM

That looks like factory lettering, hot stamped.  I would get some Pullman green, Floquil if you can find it now a days, and paint over the  factory lettering.  Then decal the cars for your road and press on.  I have had good luck using Floquil paint that matches the factory paint closely.  If you have to use a lesser paint brand, check how well it matches the factory paint.  Paint some on a  dark material and let it dry overnight.  Check the color match under daylight and under layout light. 

  • Member since
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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, September 16, 2019 4:24 PM

I agree with both Mister Beasley and David.
I had a blast doing up my heavy weights last year.  I airbrushed my passenger cars SP Lark Grey and installed interiors then loaded them up with passengers.
This is what they looked like before.
I made 8 interiors from Styrene sheet stock.  The Passengers are Mel's resin castings.
After the airbrush.


That was one of the most satisfying projects I’ve done an many a year.
My Model Railroad   
Bakersfield, California
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
  • Member since
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Posted by wjstix on Monday, September 16, 2019 4:28 PM

I've done a fair number of ones like this, I just use Walthers Solvaset and a pencil eraser. The kind on the end of a #2 pencil works great and is easy to us. Just put down some Solvaset and rub the eraser over the lettering. When you start to feel a little friction, add more Solvaset. You don't need to push down hard, just keep sliding the eraser over the lettering and be patient.

This Walthers FM switcher came as a Wabash unit, I removed the lettering and striping and relettered it NYC.

  • Member since
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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, September 16, 2019 7:52 PM

I rarely find that one method works for every conceivable combination of paint and lettering out there.

I do have good results with this product, ELO from Testors:

Sometimes, though, the pad-printed lettering is so thick that any amount of abrading will remove more base paint than the lettering. You simply have to experiment. I dampen a cotton swab with the ELO and allow it to pool over the lettering which will soften it slightly. Occasionally, I've had luck by using a "scraper" trimmed out of an old credit card which sometimes helps to reduce the thicker applications of some lettering.

As far as repairing the area where the lettering was applied I often use Microscale Trim Film in a "close-enough" color. They offer a Pullman Green that suffices for many shades of coach green. Even if it isn't a perfect match there were many examples of instances where the railroad painted out lettering and the paint didn't quite match.

I lay down the trim film and allow it to dry for a day or two before decaling over it.

Here's a Tuscan PRR sleeper where I used trim film to blank out previous lettering:

 IMG_0009_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

I didn't bother to remove the "PENNSYLVANIA" lettering because when I saw these "patched out" paint jobs you could still see the latent image of the old lettering.

 IMG_0011 by Edmund, on Flickr

Here, the Pullman lettering has been painted out, a common sight after 1968.


Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, September 16, 2019 8:05 PM

I saw a You-Tube video where the guy stuck some really sticky scotch tape over the lettering and pulled it off. Each time he did it, it took a bit of the lettering off but not the paint of the car. It took about ten times of sticking the tape on and pulling it off to get the lettering all off but it did come off. I am sure it depends on the make off the car you are doing it to, but it may be worth a try. Just do it carefully the first time to avoid unwanted consequences.


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, September 16, 2019 11:37 PM

In my limited experience removing lettering, the Athearn lettering was easiest to remove using a little methyl hydrate on a clean rag.  I had more difficulty with the Rivarossi lettering, but the same method eventually worked.  As has been mentioned, sometimes the car's paint comes of easier than the lettering.

However, in most instances, I was intending to redo the cars for either my freelanced roads or for the Canadian National, and I found it easier to dis-assemble the cars and simply strip all of the paint from them.  No experience with the Bachmann cars, but their steam locos are easy to strip.

This is a Rivarossi 12-1 Pullman, modified, using New England Rail Services parts, to represent a solarium/observation....

After the modifications were done, I primered it using Floquil Gray Primer, then painted it using SMP Accupaint, both applied with an airbrush.
The lettering was done with C-D-S dry transfer alphabet sets, one of about 90 home-road passenger cars.


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Posted by BN7150 on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 12:15 PM

Thanks for Wayne's tips. I bought a small amount of alcohol stove fuel at the home center. The composition is 95% methyl alcohol and 5% ethyl alcohol. After putting this in a cotton swab and rubbing the lettering of the model, it was as shown in the attached photo. The model is an old AHM/Roco box car.

removing model lettering

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 2:57 PM

I saw a youtube video where a fiberglass brush was used to rub away the lettering.  The bristles are stiff, and wear away the paint.  Touch up was needed, but the advantage over painting over the original lettering is there is no chance you can see the old letters.

Not sure whose video it was.


COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 3:44 PM

As stated before, there is no one technique that will work on all cars.


I have had best luck with Solvaset and Tamiya "Q-Tips".


However, when I tried to get the lettering off of Walthers Mount Vernon Flatcars, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, would get the lettering off of these cars. I eventually just painted over them.




Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by CNCharlie on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 3:53 PM

I've had good luck with a product called 'Goo Gone'. It is used to take marks such as crayon off of paint. I bought it in the paint department. 

I've tried other methods, some mentioned but this stuff works best for me. I used a Q tip and go gently. 

CN Charlie

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    January 2001
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Posted by EMDSD40 on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 6:25 PM

I had good luck with 3M Automotive scratch remover. Use a wooden Q-tip and rub lightly. The lettering will come off leaving a polished surface to easily apply decals. Paint entire coach with Dullcote.

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Posted by hdtvnut on Monday, November 4, 2019 1:31 AM

I was able to remove the lettering on MTH Southern Pacific Daylight cars to update them to the later company name using Solvaset, pencil eraser and patience.  No disturbance of the body paint, and virtually no sign of modification.


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