Stripping Paint from a Decorated Model (Version 1)

Using 91% Isopropyl Alcohol

Have you ever wanted to paint a locomotive, freight car, or other item, in your favorite, or custom paint scheme, but the cost or availability of undecorated models are interfering?  Have no fear, you can easily remove paint from models without damaging the underlying plastic.

This article features a Life-Like Proto 2000 GP20, however this concept works equally as well with other Proto 200 models as well as Athearn.  Kato requires a slightly stronger paint remover, which will be covered in future articles.  Other manufacturers I don;t have much recent data with, so I cannot speak for them at the time of this article.

I prefer to use 91% Isopropyl Alcohol for most paint stripping as it dries fast after, and does not leave any trace residue.  However as you can see in the photos, and a later article to come, Pine-Sol will also do the trick.  Avoid the brake parts cleaner idea once toted by hobby magazines, as it can often attack the plastic.  And definitely avoid spray, or brush on paint strippers from hardware stores, they will quickly turn your plastic model into goo.

Begin by removing any fragile parts, such as plastic grab irons and details, and clear window glazing.  Remove any metal parts, such as screws, and lighting/DCC that may be attached to the shell.

I place the models in a glass jar, old Tupperware container, or a tall cleaned out and cut off, empty shampoo bottle.

With the Proto 2000 paint you can often begin to brush the paint off the model in 5-10 minutes.  Most of the red on my Burlington decorated GP20 came off after 10 minutes, however I experienced toughness with removing the white lettering.  I left the models for around 30 minutes and was able to brush it away with a stiff, wet brush.  If you don't have a stiff cleaning brush, check local dollar stores for one, and grab a firm toothbrush while you're there.

As you can see in the following photos, nearly all of the paint was removed.  I use an Xacto knife, and a small jewelers file to remove any remaining traces, that might interfere with future paint.

Now you have your very own undecorated model to work with.  I'll begin detailing the model to match my chosen prototype, BNSF 2010 here soon.  Stay tuned for more articles discussing this GP20 and many other models!

© 2019, Josh Baakko,