And now for the most terrifying step of all: painting the rails.
The idea here is to make the rails look more realistic by taking away most of the shine, except for on the railheads. This makes the tracks look well-used and rusted. When’s the last time you saw real railway tracks with nickle-silver rails and black plastic spacers?
I consider this an important step, although many modelers skip it. If done carelessly, it can result in globs of paint and poor connectivity, especially on turnouts which require the stock rails and switch rails to be metal-on-metal.
To paint the rails I used Rust-oleum Camouflage Brown spray paint, which covered the rails nicely with a single application and which is dead-flat, with no gloss at all. Last time I painted rails I used a semi-gloss, which didn’t look half this good.
I taped off the turnout points and the adjacent sections of stock rail. I also masked the turntable with painters tape. I painted a section of track at a time and cleaned the railheads with a paper towel soaked in denatured alcohol before moving onto the next section. Then I toggled the turnouts to make sure they don’t stick. (They always do at first, but they loosen up after a few toggles.)