Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Starman, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. Starman

    Starman Member

    Sep 21, 2006
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    Is there a tutorial out on how to ballast track,i am getting ready to do this and would like to get some information before i do so can read about it before i do it.Can someone help with this.
  2. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Oct 13, 2005
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    Do a google search on the net, or search here on the gauge, you should find some stuff. Google something like "Ballasting track model railroad" or such.

    Alternatively, there are several books detailing the process, available at your LHS.
  3. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    Dec 12, 2006
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    like gary said...GOOGLE!.thats where i found this site :mrgreen: ! so i know it does wonders :thumb:.--josh
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Sep 7, 2005
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    This isn't a tutorial, but it's the method that I use for applying ballast.
    Before you start to ballast your track, first paint the
    sides of the rail. I use Polly Scale water-based paints,
    usually brown, applied with a fairly stiff paintbrush.
    After I've done about 10' or 12' of track, I go back and rub
    the paint off the top of the rail with a rag wrapped around
    my fingertip. (The paint is dry to the touch, but not yet
    hardened, so it comes off easily). Allow the paint a couple
    of days to fully cure before going on to ballasting.
    When ballasting track, I try to apply all of the scenic
    materials before doing any wetting or glueing: in other
    words, rip-rap, sub-ballast or fill, cinders, and finally
    ballast. I often do a little bit of the ground cover along
    the right of way at the same time, too. If the slope of the
    trackside terrain or the sub-roadbed is too steep, use a
    cheap brush to paint on full strength white glue, before
    applying the ground cover, ballast etc.: this will help
    hold it in place. I use a paper cup to spread the material
    along the track, then, with a 3/4" or 1" soft brush, spread
    the material to the contour that I want. Use very little
    ballast around the moving parts of any turnouts. I usually
    use a brush to apply grimy black paint between the ties of
    turnouts before ballasting, as these areas usually get pretty
    greasy, and it helps to hide bare spots where the ballast is
    thinner. I also apply a little plastic compatible oil on the tops of
    all of the ties where the switch points move, to prevent the
    glue from sticking everything together. Once you have the
    contours that you want, take the 3/4" soft brush, lightly
    grasping it by the metal ferrule, and lay the handle across
    the tops of the rails. Then as you move along the track,
    use the fingers of your other hand to lightly and rapidly
    tap the handle. This will cause all of the excess ballast
    that's laying on the tie tops to be bounced off and into the
    spaces between the ties. This is much more effective than
    trying to remove each bit of stray ballast with a brush.
    For wetting the ballast before applying glue, I use a large
    sprayer bottle, filled with tap water and a few drops of
    liquid dish detergent. This is cheaper than alcohol, and
    just as effective. Aim the first few spritzes upward and
    let the droplets fall onto the ballast: this helps to avoid
    having the force of the water blow scenic materials all over
    the place. Once everything has been dampened a bit, you can
    spray directly at the area. Wet it thoroughly, and remember
    that the thicker the layer of ballast, the more water is
    required. The scenic material must be wet right through, in
    order for the glue mixture to penetrate.
    I have used matte medium in the past, and while it works
    well, it's too expensive for this simple task. White glue
    works just as well and around here, I can buy a gallon jug
    of it for about the same price as 8 ounces of matte medium.
    I use a 10 ounce plastic bottle to mix the white glue with a
    similar amount of hot tap water, as this seems to mix a
    little faster. Once the glue and water are thoroughly
    mixed, I pour some into a small plastic applicator bottle,
    the top of which allows me to dribble a fairly controlled
    amount of the mixture along the track. I usually go down
    the centre of the track then work back along one side, then
    back down the other. Pay attention to where you are if you
    have to stop to refill the applicator bottle, as the glue
    mixture will soak in almost instantly: if it doesn't, you
    haven't used enough "wet" water. Do not touch the ballast
    at any time while applying the glue, as it's very difficult
    to tidy it up when it's wet. When applying glue around
    turnouts, try to place it only between the ties, and don't
    overdo it. Anywhere else, don't be shy with it: if you get
    it on the tie tops, it will dry clear and flat. Try to not
    get any on the rail tops. If you had areas where you first
    applied full-strength white glue to keep the material from
    rolling away, the glue/water mixture will help it all bond
    together. When you have applied the glue mixture to
    everything, put away your tools and materials, then leave the
    layout room for a couple of days, or longer, if the applied
    materials are particularily deep. Don't poke at or disturb
    things while they're drying. And don't be alarmed by what
    you see after you've finished applying the glue: I had
    several areas where there were puddles of glue gathered at
    the bottom of slopes. Simply sprinkle a little ground foam,
    or ballast over it and leave it.
    When the glue is finally dry, gently try moving your
    turnouts: you may have to free sticking areas with a little
    finger pressure, until everything works smoothly. It's
    unlikely that you'll have any glue on the tops of the rails,
    unless you were careless with the applicator. Nevertheless,
    rub the railtops with whatever you normally use for track
    cleaning. I have a small pad meant for cleaning electrical
    contacts that was given to me by a friend. Many modellers
    swear by the BriteBoy, available at hobby shops. Generally,
    the only time that I have to clean track is after ballasting
    or doing scenery near the track.
    I hope this information will be of some help to you with
    your ballasting. If you have any more questions, please
    feel free to ask.
    Here's an example of the finished work:

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Oct 31, 2002
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    Scroll down to the bottom of this page. The "new & improved" Gauge (now featuring Zealot functionality... ;)) has a fantastic feature that searches out similar threads and displays 5 likely links for your perusal.

    Good luck!

  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    May 8, 2001
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    I ballast just as Doc Wayne does, with one exception, I paint my rail after ballasting. This due mainly to the fact I handlaid for years, it was so easy to ballast prior to laying rail I got in the habit of painting afterwards. Look at much prototype trackage (not all, I know) and you will seee the rust/grime has been washed by rain onto the ballast and ties. There will often be a fairly straight line of rust color running on the ballast right next to the rail, only an inch or two wide.

    Oh, I also put some india ink or just black paint in my wetting solution, it weathers the ballast, just don't overdue it.

    Andrew, thanks for pointing out that feature, it's cool!
  7. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    Dec 12, 2006
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    if you want your turnouts to look more ballasted than they really are,go to home depot,Lowe's,etc and buy a can of "stone creations" spray paint that matches your ballast.this stuff sprays particles real rough and looks like ballast and fills in the turnouts and anywhere you need the look of "deeper" ballast and doesnt interfere with points.i spray my whole cork roadbed with the stuff to hide any spots that may flake off or pop out in the future--josh
  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Oct 11, 2006
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    I completely agree with the painters. Paint the rail either before or afterwards...just be sure to paint it!

    EDIT: I like Floquil's rail brown for mainlines...although I'm probably going to find...or mix...a rust for sidings.
  9. Dayton

    Dayton New Member

    Jul 27, 2007
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    You can also mix different colors of ballast to achieve your own look. I mix dark brown with about half as much gray and add a little bit of black to it and I really like it. Of course it would depend on your layout as to what colors you would want to use.
  10. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Jun 25, 2006
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