Removing lettering from freight cars

Removing lettering from models can be a challenge – so I thought. Here is an easy way to strip lettering off unpainted* railroad cars.

Required tools and materials

  • cotton swabs
  • tape
  • nail polish remover
  • paper towels

Preparing the car

Start by masking areas where the lettering should stay intact. Even if there is no lettering directly around the area that you are trying to strip, it is a good idea to apply tape. This prevents unwanted discoloration of the plastic.

Once the masking is in place, put the car on a sturdy and level surface. Keep some paper towels handy in case there is spillage.

Removing the lettering

Take a cotton swab and dip one end in the nail polish remover so that it is evenly wet. Apply a little bit of nail polish remover to an inconspicuous area on the car and double check that the solution does not damage or discolor the plastic.

If the plastic stays unblemished, you can go ahead and spread the nail polish remover over the area you want to strip using the wet side of the swab. Let the solution soak in for about five seconds and use the dry end of the cotton swab to carefully scrape the lettering off the plastic. Use the wet side of the swab to apply more solution as needed.

Repeat this process a few times and you should be able to remove the lettering completely. Finish by dabbing the area with the dry side of the swab to remove excess debris. Let the car dry and take off the masking tape. Done!

PIKO Tds with the car number stripped in the center section.

PIKO Tds with the car number stripped in the center section.

*I would refrain from using this method on painted models, as the nail polish remover may inadvertently strip or damage the paint.

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