Removing Lettering and Decals

Like a lot of people I purchased one of the Bachmann Sam’s Club Christmas special sets. It’s a nice Annie (Anniversary) engine with a combo car and a passenger car. But the Christmas decorations, especially the “snow frosted” windows did little for me and I figured it would be easy to remove same. Not so much as it turns out, the “easy” part that is. I tried nail polish remover and the like but is took huge amounts of elbow grease and damaged any paint it touched as well. But with some help here from the forum I finally figured out an easy way to remove the decorations.

 I picked up a tip on a degreaser called Castrol Super Clean that can be used to remove decals from Bachmann cars without eating the paint and plastic. At that point I knew what to do and got some of this degreaser chemical.

But knowing what to do, and knowing how to do it, are two very different things. I do not have a vat to soak something as large as a Bachmann passenger car in, nor do I want to purchase gallons of what is, after all, a fairly toxic chemical.

So I started with Q-tips, laboriously dipping and rubbing and much to my surprise it worked! But it was very time consuming. So I tried to figure out how to localize the Super Clean to only selected spots while at the same time allowing the chemical to stay on the areas to be de-Xmased for a good 10 minutes.

Here’s what I came up with.

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I used cotton to cover just the spots where I wanted to soak the Super Clean and using an eyedropper put just enough of the chemical to wet the cotton.




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10 minutes later I carefully, using tweezers, pulled up the cotton (you really don’t want to get Super Clean on your skin) and then cleaned up the goo with Q-tips and then wet (with water) paper towels. The results so far have been good and the process very fast.



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Super Clean has the consistency and look of Windex (but DO NOT get this stuff on your skin!) so it will run, but the cotton kept it right where I wanted it with the bonus of absorbing most of the decal paint making only minimal residual clean up necessary.



The passenger car on top shows the frosted windows and Christmas banner decals. The combo car on the bottom also had the banners and frosted windows and shows the results after the Super Clean and cotton treatment.

I use it full strength out of the bottle. I sprayed it (carefully) into a shot glass and used a eyedropper to wet the cotton that I placed over the (what I think are) decals making up the Xmas decorations on the Bachmann cars. The garlands, the wreaths, and the dreaded snow frosting on the windows. Also allowed me to take off selected areas of lettering so I was able to remove references to the North Pole and the North Star Express lettering. This stuff is very strong and I only would leave it on for about 10 minutes which dissolved the painted decorations but did not seem to touch the underlying paint.

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In the picture above you see the original passenger car with all the gaudy Christmas decorations on top, and the Super Cleaned combo car below.

I removed all the Christmas decals and paint from the passenger, combo, and the “North Star Express” lettering from the tender.

If you’ve tried Super Clean or have another solution for removing lettering, decorations, etc., without damaging the underlying paint, please leave a comment below!

(Originally posted 3/11/2011, revised 2/3/2012)

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6 Responses to Removing Lettering and Decals

  1. Michael F Looney says:

    First off the lettering on a model is not paint it is ink just like the type that is used in printing newspaper, and if you wanted to get the snow off the window why didn’t you take them out and then put them in 91% Isopropyl alcohol, this way it would remove the ink and not hurt your skin and you wouldn’t need to worry about getting it on the paint job of the model, a whole lot safer then using what you did and less elbow grease as they say, it also works if you want to remove the paint from the whole model and doesn’t cost a arm or a leg to buy, get it at Wal-Mart for about $5.00 a bottle or less

  2. TJ Lee says:


    Ink, paint, soak it long enough in Isopropyl or anything else and you’ll dissolve it eventually. I tried the 91% and found it took FOREVER to work, while the Super Clean let me do an entire car in single craft session.

    As I’ve said on the About the Site page, I’m not saying my way is the only way, or even the right way. It’s just the way I did things and I show you the results of my efforts on the site here.


  3. Ted says:

    Great advice, definitely has it’s place over simply removing everything using alcohol! I actually own the Anniversary Edition North Star Express loco and tender! A great G scale loco, the “Annies” IMHO are the best value in all model railroading. They are like 80-90% of the features of Spectrum at budget prices. I’ve bought 4 of the Christmas models on Ebay dirt cheap, and just re-sold one because it was a duplicate. I have quite a bit of the Christmas rolling stock as well. I also own White Pass and Pennsylvania “Annie” locos. I do own better steam engines, but these are great runners and look great with the upgraded motor, weights, trim and valve gear!

    Anyhow, I also have a Aristo 0-4-0 RC Cola set I picked for practically nothing. It actually runs well and doesn’t look bad. I blackened the wheels on the Loco and it only has a small logo on it, so I will use your method. The tender needs to be re-painted so I disassembled it and only have the shell. I will use your method to get the large RC Cola logos from it, then sand and repaint black. I’ll let you know how it goes. My Super Clean came in the mail the other day, got I good bargain on Amazon. Thanks for the detailed process, I’m off to get my q-tips!


    • TJ says:


      Thanks for the kind words. Let me know how your project turns out!


      • Ted says:

        I forgot to mention, I folded up paper towels and soaked them instead of using cotton. However, remember I was doing a small section on a Loco and the side of a Tender. I think this will work with different materials that you soak with Super Clean.

  4. Ted says:

    I never replied to this, but this method worked well! The graphics came off, wasn’t too hard required a little rubbing with paper towels after soaking. Worked well. I was able to get the logo off the side of the loco. I now have a nice looking unlettered black loco and tender. I plan on doing this soon to a brand new Aristocraft Tender for a Mikado to remove the numbers from a Southern Tender I want to run with a different loco. I also plan on using to turn an Xmas PIKO 0-6-0 to a different color and road name.

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