Ballasting question?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by trainsteve2435, Jan 19, 2007.

  1. Hello everyone, im in the process of ballasting some of my track and i have a question.... I have ballasted the centers of my main lines and they turned out good. The next step is to apply ballast to the shoulders. Im useing HO scale cork with the beveled shoulder, so is there any secret to ballasting the shoulders? It is difficult to get the ballast to stay put on the shoulder, plus it seems to take quite a bit of ballast to cover them. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    A great suggestion that I got a while back (can't remember the origin) was to wipe full strength glue along the bevelled edge of the cork with your finger first. Don't make it a super-thin coat either...! That way, the initial application of ballast will stick and support whatever additional ballast you think you need. Once it's all in place, you can go back with the wet water and thinned glue to cement everything in place.

  3. Andrew, thanks for the suggestion, that really makes sense, and I'll give it a try.
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If you're really having a problem with the ballast rolling away, you can use a 3/4" brush to "paint" full strength white glue on the shoulders of the cork, then apply the ballast, arrange it with a clean, soft 3/4" brush, then spray with wet water followed by an application of diluted white glue. The "wet" water will draw some of the glue up from the cork into the ballast, making for a complete bond. Generally, it's much faster (and cheaper, too) to ballast the entire track at one time, and the same goes for areas where there are multiple tracks. The diluted white glue, after application of the wet water, will travel readily from the area between the rails to the area outside of them, requiring, over-all, less glue and less time spent. Essentially, you're ballasting each area twice. :D
    Personally, unless the "ground" really drops away at the side of the tracks, I prefer to let it find its own slope; after all, a container of ballast goes a long way, and is not really that expensive.
    In the picture below, the diesels rounding the curve at Hoffentoth Bros.' yard in South Cayuga are on a fill. I painted the slope below the tracks with white glue, then dumped rip-rap (broken plaster) alongside the track. This was followed by some coarse ballast, then a lot of cinder ballast. Finally, the regular ballast was applied. Each successive application of material was allowed to find its own slope, then the entire scene was soaked with "wet" water and diluted white glue was then added. The unfinished field at the bottom of the fill became a lake of diluted glue, and the whole area took over a week to dry, and even longer to fully solidify.

  5. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    I am experimenting with latex caulking right now, and I think I have found a good solution..

    Basically I lay a bead of caulking on the roadbed, then spread it out using a plastic knife (the kind you get from fast-food restaurants). Then I lay the track on top of it, and then sprinkle on the ballast. The ballast sticks to the caulking, even on the shoulders. :thumb:

    You will have to go back and touch up spots where the latex caulking is exposed, but it's certainly no biggie.
  6. hiscopilot

    hiscopilot Member

    can you explain a little more in detail this process or post images of the steps? I think I understand, but this seems to make great sense and I would like to try it!

  7. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    I handled this rather prototypically, I think.... I saw a photo of it done, here or on some other forum. I did "two tone" ballast. FIrst, I ballasted from the table up to the edge of the cork roadbed with sifted dirt. Then, when that was dry, I added a second layer of WS fine gray ballast from the center of the tracks out to the first layer of ballast.


    See the results on the track the PRR h16-44 is setting on?

    I got the idea here;​

    I don't think PandLE RR will mind....

  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Looks good, Kyle, but you could've done it all in one combined step: you would have saved some glue, :) and a bunch of time, :D and the layout would've been out-of-service for a shorter period of time.:D :thumb:

  9. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    hey kyle,

    Cool H16-44! is that HO? if so, how did you get those lights in there? i've been trying to find a good way to make red markers that work on my commutere locos, and i don't want to be just fidgeting with stuff if there are better supplies and methods out there.
  10. IAIS 604

    IAIS 604 Member

    It's an Atlas loco, and comes with the marker lights. I have the RI H15-44, and they are cool locos!

    Great looking layout, Kyle !!!

    Thanks for the great ballasting tips, everyone !
  11. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    I have found that it's easier to have the ballast adhere to cork if you round off the angle at the shoulder, and then use the full strength glue along the shoulder first and finish off with the ballast under (around??) the track. It also makes for a more "natural" look to it. I use 80 grit sandpaper to round off the shoulder BEFORE laying the track.

    Good luck...!!!
  12. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member


    As ballasting seems to only work dry, I was afraid the second layer of ballast would get wet through the magic of capillary action, and never tap into place. Hence I did it in two stages. You're probably right....
  13. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    I got a project I'm working on right now that I'm experimenting the procedure with... Gimme a few days and I'll post some photos and a writeup. :thumb:

    Gotta wait until I got some free time on Sunday to do this-- I work saturdays unfortunately. :(
  14. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Actually, I meant that if you'd applied all of the dirt and ballast before wetting it, then it could've been done in one operation. In the picture that I posted here earlier, all of the material was applied before spraying with wet water, then diluted white glue was applied until it started to weep out of the bottom of the riprap. I dumped some ground foam into the glue puddles, the sprayed some wet water on it, so it would soak up the glue.
    The only time that I have to clean track is after applying scenery close to it, so I try to minimize the number of times that this occurs. :D

  15. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member


    Of course!.... I could have put down both layers dry... then sprayed... I will next time.

    Here is the atomizer I spray my 91 proof alcohol with;


    And here is what it looks like when I am glueing down rip rap with a pipette.


    May I say I love your scenes, Wayne. :thumb:

  16. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Hey Hiscopilot,

    Here's the photo writeup as promised. :thumb:

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