Ballast question.

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jflessne, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. jflessne

    jflessne Member

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    I have a small 4 x4 Christmas tree layout I'm working on. I ordered some supplies from my favorite online store. One of the items was ballast. I believe most people use different size ballast and maybe even colors... What sizes do you use for Ho? I bought fine and it seems too small. Should I buy a medium now with a minor variation in color? The ballast will not be exposed as much as most layouts... I'm covering it with woodland scenics snow.
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    The fine is about right for ho scale ballast. Remember that a piece of ballast 1/16 inch in diameter is the equivilant of a 6 inch rock in ho scale.
  3. Santa Fe Jack

    Santa Fe Jack Member

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    I have found that fine ballast seems right for HO as well. I have a bit of coarse and medium that I acquired at some point, but both look too coarse. I expect to use them for other landscaping items.

    As far as colors go -- well, you see it all out there on the prototype. Railroads will use whatever they have on hand, and it is often mixed up as well.
  4. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

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    I plan to mix mine, medium vase, with fine around the ties. If you look at ballast close, on well used lines, if it hasn't been done the larger parts are lower, and the stuff around the rails is more "ground down". At least thats what I've seen.

    However, not to hijack this thread, but, Mountain Modelcraft makes a ballast I'd like. The BNSF/UP grey ballast, its real rock, but on their website it doesn't show it, anyone know where I can get it besides on eBay? Also, what does everyone suggest for the pink ballast used on Cajon pass in various places?
  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

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    I use medium then apply a bit of fine on top. I use the same color as otherwise you get a salt and pepper look. I weather the ballast in the glueing stage, by mixing india ink with the wetting solution. This eliminates the monotone effect of the one color ballast.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    Arizona Rock makes all sorts of colors of ballast material including BNSF's pink ballast.
    www.rrscenery.com
  7. jflessne

    jflessne Member

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    I'm actually modeling the IC lines in Illinois for my main layout. (Still in the planning stage) I'm told that the the ballast was mainly "Slag" If I understand correctly slag is a by product from Iron works.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't remember seeing any iron works in Illinois. Why would they use Slag?
    When I was a kid in the 70's and 80's I remember a ballast that almost looked like volcanic rock. Also remember seeing some rock with shinny smooth sides (Maybe from a part cracked off)
  8. JAyers

    JAyers Member

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    You just described slag.

    Dunno where they got it, but plenty of iron ore came south form canada and Northern Michigan (and others I suppose). I'm sure there's smelters somewhere. Detroit's Ford River Rouge plant used to smelt its own steel....
  9. kitsune

    kitsune Member

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    Gary Indiana was a major steel center, and right across the Illinois border. Being a rust belt state, there were almost certainly other steel mills which were in Illinois. Plus remember that IC served other states, there's no telling if the slag came from Illinois or somewhere further south.
  10. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

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    The Copper Range, Mineral Range, C&H & Q&TL RR's from Houghton county, MI, used a varity of stuff, from "stamp sand" which is just crushed rock left over from copper smelting, to limestone (WHITE as white can be). The stamp sand looked like, well sand! So I'd say, again, anything from medium to fine.

    -Russ, I've checked out AZ rock & mineral, many times, but I'm not completely sure what color of red to choose. The Model Mountaincraft stuff is a neat grey mix.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    If you go to the link I posted, click on "Arizona Rock Scenery Catalog" and scroll down almost halfway. You will find a listing for "Atcheson, Topeka, & Santa Fe" that will be the correct color rock for the pink ballast the Santa Fe uses. I think I would order 1 package of both #1171 & 1172 to see which size is best for your use.
  12. Max

    Max New Member

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    Would it be unwise to use regular sand for ballast? Then paint it once it is laid?
  13. Santa Fe Jack

    Santa Fe Jack Member

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    I think if you used a sand of suitable grain size it should be just fine, but you'd want to screen it to get a narrow range. Railroad ballast is prototypically of a narrow range of sizes, too.
  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    You also want to be careful that you don't get any ocean beach sand. The salt would be very corrosive. If you are starting with childrens sand box sand, it would probably work. If you have a source for sand that you are digging up yourself, run a magnet through it as well to make sure there are no iron particles in it.
  15. Max

    Max New Member

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    I was originally planning to use builder's sand since I had 250 lbs of it already. I screened some down fairly fine, but then I heard the sand will get up in the locomotives and abrade the electric motors. My second plan is to use crushed walnut polishing media, which is what the Woodland Scenics ballast seems to be, but I haven't decided whether to dye it first or paint it after it is laid. The polishing media walnut is only about a dollar a pound, rather than 9 bucks for 32 oz of Woodland, but I haven't managed to make a gray dye yet.
  16. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

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    I've found that WS ballast is harder to glue down, as it likes to float. But if you're careful then you're fine.
  17. jflessne

    jflessne Member

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    Do you use a wetting agent (soap water?) first before gluing?

    I think some people use alcohol to wet the ballast first.

    The first time I saw this done I thought the guys were nuts.
  18. kitsune

    kitsune Member

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    It works. Straight alcohol, wetting it down. Once it's soaked through, very dilluted glue and 12 hours of drying time. Don't rush it! And don't do more than about 1-2 feet at once. It's the best most painless method I've ever used, and it made me stop hating ballasting.
  19. Santa Fe Jack

    Santa Fe Jack Member

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    I really don't think this would be a problem as long as you have washed it. Clean quartz sand will not harbor any salt. It's also well-sorted, though it may not be the grain size you want, and it may look -- well -- like sand.
    I also would not think the sandy particles getting loose and messing up the works would be a problem if it is all glued down.
  20. jflessne

    jflessne Member

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    I was going for this look.

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