Affixing ballast & Track - Fun with Latex caulk

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by LongIslandTom, Jan 21, 2007.

  1. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    I am building a small commuter rail station module for my layout, representing a fictitious stop in New York State's Hudson River valley. I heard all sorts of wonderful things about latex caulking, so I figure I experiment with it on this module to affix track and ballast.

    It turned out to be a process in which you can affix track AND ballast all in one shot. I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out, so here are the photos:

    Photo # 1: The module before track and ballast is laid down. The cork roadbed is actually affixed to the plywood using latex caulk too. :thumb:

    Attached Files:

  2. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Photo # 2 and # 3:

    Laying down a bead of the latex caulking, and spreading it out with a plastic buttering knife. The trick here is to make sure the caulking is REAL THIN. If the layer is too thick, it gets squished between the ties and leaves no space for the ballast.

    Attached Files:

  3. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Photo # 4:

    Sprinkling on the ballast. I used Woodland Scenics' fine ballast. The grains are all about 0.5mm wide, which translates to rocks about 2 inches in diameter in HO. It's actually a bit oversize, but I think it looks good enough.

    The ballast is heaped on generously, then I use finger pressure to press the ballast into the caulking under it.

    Attached Files:

  4. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Photo # 5:

    I then used a 1-inch paint brush to brush away the loose ballast (which by the way can be saved for use again later on). I gotta say I'm pleased with how it looked and how easy it was!

    Before, I used to ballast using an eyedropper to apply the Elmers/wet water mix. It was tedious, it was messy, it took a long time.

    To ballast the station module, which has 4 feet of track, it took me all of 20 minutes.

    I think this is how I will affix track and ballast from now on. :D

    Attached Files:

  5. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Tom, this track really looks good! :thumb:

    I never worked with this caulking stuff, so I have two questions:

    1. Is this material getting hard after some time, or does it stay rubbery 'forever'? If the latter is true: Isn't there a danger for the track slowly sliding away - say, if you are storing the module standing on edge?
    2. Can you paint the track afterward (e.g. for weathering) with water based paint (acrylics) without the ballast coming loose again?

  6. hiscopilot

    hiscopilot Member

    very cool! Thanks for posting this!!!!!!!!!!
  7. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Heya Ron,

    The latex caulking I used is DAP's Dynaflex 230 (bought it at Home Depot), used for caulking building exteriors. It's a gooey paste when extruded with a caulking gun. Once it sets (takes a few hours), it becomes a rubbery solid (which has only a little bounce to it). It anchors the cork roadbed and the track very solidly-- No danger of it sliding whatsoever. :thumb:

    I don't see any reasons why not to paint after fixing the track and ballast-- The caulking is waterproof after all, so the ballast shouldn't come loose. :cool:
  8. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Thanks for the description, Tom.
    Although we have different brands of caulking materials here in Europe, from your description now I see clearly what type you used. I think I'll give it a try.

  9. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    I hope it works out for you! :thumb:

    Now that I got the track and ballast out of the way, I just have to finish building the station.. Which is turning out to be a lot more difficult than I thought because scratchbuilding materials are rather difficult to find in my area.. Seems like nobody around here on Long Island sells sheet styrene or styrene shapes (I-beams and square rods, etc.). Grr.. :(
  10. Tom, a friend gave me a box of what appears to be plastic I-beams. I think there is a label on the box if not I can give him a call and let you know this evening. Will post here whether I find it or not.
  11. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Yea I've been looking at photos of Metro North stations and it seems I need pretty thin beams and structural members.. Stuff that's like 6 HO-scale inches wide (which translates to 1.75mm!). Heck, I'm not even sure if Plastruct or Evergreen make structural beam shapes that small. :(

    Anyway, if you do have structural beams that small, you best hang onto it yourself, because when you build your subway layout you are going to need A LOT of those! :D

    I might just bite the bullet and solder together some brass strips to get those tiny I-beam shapes.. hamr
  12. Sure thing. Well I will check out if there is a label in the event others need the I-beams.
  13. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Tom, thanks for posting your method, I really like the "quick simplicity" of it, and it is giving me options for my ballasting. Could you be so kind as to comment on the following questions?

    Would you do turn-outs with the same method? It seems that it would work well, and would minimize the chance of getting glue in the mechanism.

    What of the time-honored tradition of laying the track without ballast, then running it for several months to detect any track problems before finalizing it with ballast? Are you confident that your trackwork will be without problem when you lay it? Or, if there is a mistake, you just peel up the whole mess and redo the bad section?

    Understand this is my first go-round, hence my questions.

  14. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Heya Gary,

    Yep this method should work very well with turnouts precisely because you can control where the caulking goes-- With Elmers/Wet Water, you can't really control where that stuff will spread due to the detergent! :D

    I think you will probably want to spread the caulking very thin on the turnout section of roadbed so when you press the turnout into place, not much of it squishes out between the ties.. And you need to be real careful in the roadbed area around the switch points and the actuating tie to prevent fouling. (the tie that moves back and forth).

    And yep re-do's are easy.. Just grab a putty knife, wedge it under the roadbed or the track to separate and pull them apart.

    I hope it works for you as well as it did for me! :thumb:
  15. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Thanks for the thoughts, Tom, I'm going to give it a try.
  16. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Tom do you think that will hold flex track through curves?

  17. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Heya Rick,

    After the latex caulking set, if I want to pull up the track to re-do it, I would have to use a putty knife. That's pretty darn strong, and I think it will have absolutely no problems holding flex track curves in place. :thumb:

    The key is to hold the flex-track in place temporarily using pushpins while the caulking is setting.. Once set and you remove the pins, it should stay in place no problems.

    You might also consider putting in a little bit of superelevation on your curves while you have the chance.

    Good luck!

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