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What Makes a Train Paint Booth Different?

Trains and rail cars are exposed to harsh environments which affect the paint and finish over time. They require durable and long lasting paint jobs that can withstand the elements. Varying weather and cargo can strip away protective coatings leaving your equipment vulnerable. Accudraft thought of this when designing their train and rail car paint and refinishing booths, creating the ideal environment for applying paint coatings. Temperature, humidity, and exposure to compounds are tightly controlled in order to meet code for safe and efficient operating conditions.

A light rail vehicle (LRV) inside an Accudraft paint booth with 3 axis painter’s lifts

Designed to Fit Your Needs

The height, width, and especially length of train cars plays a part in the overall shape and layout of the train paint or refinishing booth. Booths can be designed to conform to the locomotive or rail car to reduce the overall volume of the interior of the paint booth. By making a design that accommodates the body of the train car, the overall airflow needed is reduced, thus minimizing the overall heat, cooling, humidity and control capacity required. Not only is the size of the air handlers needed reduced and more affordable, the overall energy needed to condition the paint booth is greatly reduced. This translates to saving on energy every day for the life of the installation.

An example of a train paint booth designed to fit the body of a locomotive

Train paint booths with a conformed design are more efficient work spaces since hoses, reels, electric, air, and water can be installed closer to where they will be needed. Curtains can also be integrated into the design of the paint booth, and can be drawn down to isolate the train painting spray area or make several areas for prepping parts, substrates or spraying paint coatings. If radiant heat technology is used to heat the paint booth, the sections are closer in proximity to the body of the train car or locomotive being painted. This offers better heat distribution as well as the painters or workers working in the booth.

Air Temperature and Humidity

When spraying paint coatings on large rail cars inside a paint booth, the size becomes a major point of analysis by engineers. When conditioning air to such a degree of exact standards (usually imposed by the paint coating manufacturer in order to ensure proper performance of the coating) it is important to understand exactly how much energy is used to achieve these near perfect air conditions. Train paint booths require the addition of heat and/or cooling as well as humidification or dehumidification to get the air inside the paint booth to the specifications required.

A locomotive engine inside a heated paint booth

Enhanced Filtration

Many train paint coatings contain hazardous elements that must be filtered and neutralized to adhere to emissions standards and regulations. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP, dictates that filtration must meet minimum efficiency requirements in order to be allowed to operate. Method 319 is a test that uses potassium chloride and oleic acid to simulate chromate paint overspray and ensure filtration is up to code. Our NESHAP filter arrays consist of multiple stages of filtration to meet industry standards, and can be condensed or expanded into separate chambers to allow pressure readings to be read between each filter section. Carbon filtration may also be employed to help neutralize certain elements found in the chemistry of paint coatings and materials.

Exploded view of a four stage NESHAP filter wall

Airflow and Recirculation

Moving the air through a train paint or refinishing booth can be challenging due to the requirements for temperature, humidity, and speed. In addition, the shape of the locomotive or rail car can affect the airflow pattern and, if not addressed, can result in unfavorable spraying conditions. By keeping the airflow moving freely, overspray is minimized and operations run more efficiently.

Getting air to flow properly is important, but so is recirculation in paint booths that are spraying train paint coatings. The MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standard is a level of control to reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions, and must be met to ensure recirculated air is safe to work in. Airflow and air speed lfm requirements for paint booths required by OSHA, NFPA, and the department of environmental protection can be met with the use of recirculation while still saving the facility energy.

Airflow diagram of a train paint booth in a downdraft configuration

Another reason air recirculation is important is heat reclaim. On a large train paint booth, reclaiming heated air can save thousands of dollars per month. There is no need to exhaust all of the used air and draw in fresh every cycle. The bigger the train or rail car painting application, the more the user will save with the addition of heat reclaim.

LEL Monitoring

LEL stands for Lower Explosive Limit, and must be monitored using a device that detects hazardous levels of a combustible gas or solvent vapor in the air. Train and locomotive paint booths must meet MACT standards for airflow and air speed. Several authorities dictate the airflow standards to maintain a safe environment in which to spray paint coatings. Airflow throughout the train paint boot must be maintained such that the LEL is not exceeded.

A standard LEL monitor

LEL is one of many factors that come into consideration when designing a train paint or refinishing booth. Many train paint coatings contain VOC’s and other compounds that must be monitored in and around the paint booth. Many locations throughout a train or rail car painting facility must be monitored in different ways. Where the paint coatings are being sprayed, a few different compounds or levels must be monitored. Paint kitchens or train paint storage areas must be monitored separately and for different compounds or different levels of hazardous train coating compounds present in the air.


Standalone control panels for train paint booths provide heating, cooling, re circulation, and humidity control at one convenient location for the paint booth operator. Train paint booth control panels that include BMS (Building Management System) integration capability allow several paint booths or train coating application systems to be joined onto one local network. This network can be controlled by the larger building management system employed throughout the train or locomotive maintenance facility. These building management systems can control several aspects of the facility including the paint booth or train painting area, hvac systems, pump systems, fire alarm, security alarms, critical facility infrastructure and emergency announcement systems, to name a few. Engineering a train paint booth that can be its own BMS or integrated into an existing building management system is critical to some of the worlds most advanced train painting, maintenance, and corrosion control facilities.

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