cheap ballast

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by bigsteel, Mar 15, 2007.

  1. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

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    Does anyone know where i can get some cheap ballast?im starting to gather supplies for my new layout and i dont want to pay 9.00 bucks a canister for woodland scenics stuff.id end up having 200 bucks in just ballast ad im cheap as heck :D .i was thinking masonry sand but im not sure about size of the grains.so could someone post a pic of there ballast so i can get an idea of size.thanks for any help and maybe this could be a sticky someday for cheap ballast! :wave: thanks.--josh
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    I think sand would work fine. Is masonery sand available in colors beside white? I think I would wash it thoroughly to make sure there is no salt or other corrosives in it, and when it is dry, run a magnet through it to make sure any iron is removed.
  3. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

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    isnt sand a littlefine or is there really coarse stuff?and i think masonry sand comes in a few colors.and i thought that iron would be a problem but i guess ill just check it with a magnet.
  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    I started a thread right here in Tips and Tricks about "free" ballast. For less than $2 and some screening, I've still got about 80# in the bag and enough ballast left over to go into business.
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    In ho scale 1/8 inch is just a little less than 1 foot. If you look at the medium grit Woodland Scenics ballast material that they reccomend for ho scale, it is closer to 8-10 inches for each rock. The fine ballast that Woodland Scenics reccomends for n scale is a better choice for ho ballast. I think the sand will work great for ballast as far as size goes.
  6. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

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    You have builders sand and soft sand. Builders sand is coarse while soft sand is fine. Both are available from home improvement stores. If you can't find builders sand, play sand good substitute.
  7. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

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    Kitty litter, before the cat gets to it, not after. sign1
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    Kitty litter would need to be crushed and sifted to make it fine enough for ballast. As it comes out of the bag the pieces are probably about 12 scale inches in diameter.
  9. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

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    Sifted, yes. Crushed, no. Tidy Cats brand, as an example, runs from about 12 scale inches down to about 2 scale inches, and it is already a nice grey color. As cheap as it is, crushing the larger stuff wouldn't be neccesary.

    Somewhere, I saw a thread that claimed some of the commercial ballast (Woodland Senics brand, I think it was) was nothing more than repackaged kitty litter, and purported to offer proof. I just wish I could remember where I saw it.
  10. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

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    i don't want a layout smelling like mint! LOL

    ill try the builders sand since it sounds like it will be perfect for the amount ill need ans some left over, and as a guide if 1/8=12in then i should get sand about 1/16in? if so sounds like i got some shopping to do! also do i just glue it down like reg. ballast? anyway sounds like sand is cheap and plentiful LOL.--josh
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    The ballast out here on the BNSF & UP is about about the size of a baseball +/-.
  12. J. Steffen

    J. Steffen Member

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    I was looking at the bucket the other say thinking the same thing. The stuff I have is real fine but I'm sure it's made of clay and i don't want to have to sift out the blue crystals.
  13. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

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    I am a COMPLETE newb but I got an idea about the magnet and iron thing.
    Put the sand in a bowl and put a few magnets in there and twirl the borl and let the magnet move all around inside the sand.
    It will be easier i think to find iron in there.
  14. jasbourre

    jasbourre Member

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    You can always try Michaels, The Arts & Crafts Store.
  15. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

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    im gonna check out home depot today,if they got iron fre sand ill get ti and try it out.and if i cant find it there ill try a local hardware store on my street.--josh
  16. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    Got my masonary sand at Home Depot and checked it with a magnet. It's clean. Remember, you can sift it as fine as you want. I have four or five different grades ranging from ballast for N scale, to course (right out of the bag) that I can use for N scale talus. I just used several different strainers and screens to get what I wanted. The finest grade came from using a piece of plastic sun screen which you can also find at Home Depot.
  17. J. Steffen

    J. Steffen Member

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    Does it come in different colors besides tan/light?
  18. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    No, the color ranges from medium tan to specks of black, but I'm going to use an india ink wash to darken it. I would imagine that you could use a paint wash plus an india ink wash to change the color. The play sand came in a light tan, but the grains were too consistent and so was the color so I opted for the masonry sand.
  19. Old_Bob

    Old_Bob Member

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    If you go to a building supply yard you should be able to find several sizes of sand. There is also the very fine grit sold by paint stores for adding traction to floor paint. Then there is the sand sold to make sand texture on drywall, if you can still find it. Basically, if you look around you should be able to find all sorts of cheap sand for ballast.
  20. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

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    alright headen out tomorrow and going to see what home depot has,and if they oonly have light sand ill just do what Ezdays does and give it a wash.and ill probably sift it with some metal screen with 1/16in holes for my size ballast and good size ranges.and play sand ill probably use as my sandbars in my river.well looks like you guys save me about 150.00 bucks!--josh