Free ballast...

Discussion in 'Tips & Tricks' started by ezdays, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    ...Well, almost free. I was getting desperate for some ballast and so I stopped off at my LHS. No big tubs of ballast in my size, the only fine ballast they had were those little bags, about 1/2 a pound for around $4.00. I bought two bags, but that wasn't going to be even close to what I need, so about a week later I went to Home Depot and bought a 90# bag of masonry sand. I chose that over play sand because play sand was too course and consistent. The regular sand was a mixture of from course to fine, plus it was only $1.68 a bag, or about once cent a half pound (you do the math, but I think that comes to about 40,000% difference). Now all I needed to do was to sort out the big chunks from the little ones.:rolleyes:

    I used three kinds of screens, a window screen, a sun screen and a kitchen sifter, each one had a little finer mesh. It took less than an hour and I had a big container of very course talus, (ideal for N scale), and three containers of course, medium and fine ballast. The fine grade is as fine and consistent as the Woodland Scenic stuff I bought for N scale ballast, and the med and course grades should be good for HO ballast. The thing is, I've still got about 80# of sand left over that I can either sift to get more ballast, or I can use it in the mortar to build my wife a nice garden wall.:D As far as the HO grade stuff, anyone within distance of me is welcome to it.:wave:
  2. Knighthawk

    Knighthawk Member

    Now you know why the Woodland Scenics stuff is so expensive...gotta pay all those people to sift itsign1 ! Great deal on what you got though:thumb: !
  3. zedob

    zedob Member

    I thought you lived in Arizona! Can't you just walk out the door and find sand, or dirt?:D
  4. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Excellent idea! :thumb:

    I just wonder if a trip down to the local lumber yard or something would be worth it. Maybe you could get a smaller amount?
  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, but for less than $2 I got it in a bag and it was clean. It's hard to find clean sand here after all the critters have done what they do and the plants do what they do. When we lived in Wickenburg, we had a wash running behind the house and I could get loads of sand there. The problem was that it had black iron oxide mixed into it. Not the best thing to use around tracks.

    And 2-8-2, you could probably go to a construction site and get a shovel full for nothing if you asked. It would have been easier had I found a smaller bag (kinda tough to move a 90# bag when you're still under doctors orders not to lift heavy things), but for $2, I didn't even try.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It may be hard to find any sand in Arizona, Nevada, or Utah that doesn't have iron oxide in it. You know all of those beautiful red rocks like you see in Don's photo of the Chapel in Sedona, the red coloring of the rocks is because of the iron content. Fortunately the iron content isn't rich enough to be of a commercial grade, or some greedy people would have long since ruined all of those gorgeous red rocks, but it probably is enough iron to cause havoc with electric motors.
  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    You're right, it runs anywhere from those attractive red rocks to solid black. I had a vein of black sand behind our house in Wickenburg and thought it would look great on my layout. Black ballast, coal piles, coal loads, you name it. So I filled up a bucket and hauled it up the hill, a very steep hill... heavy, very heavy but thinking it was worth the effort to get this really rich black sand for nothing and I had tons of it.:D Well, I wanted to test it, so I got a magnet near it to and almost sucked all of it out of the pail.:rolleyes: :rolleyes: Sheesh, no black ballast, no coal piles, no coal loads.... I just dumped it out and let the rain wash it back down the hill..hamr
  8. ejen34

    ejen34 Member

    Hmmm long again I used to think about going down to the coast and grabbing some pail fulls of beach sand, however coarse it may be, living in Maine there are plenty of spots. These days with all the Medical waste, red tide, etc...I stay clear of the beachs...perhaps I should think about the lakes :hmmmmm:
  9. Hi Don, as a newbie to RR modeling, it appears to be a good idea, but one small question. Here in Connecticut the ballast is charcoal to black in color, would it be advisable to paint the sand?

  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Hi Jeff, I thought the same thing, in some areas here the ballast is gray, and some it's red. Since I'm doing N scale, I use the fine ballast and I'm not too sure how it would look. I would be more inclined to try to dye it before putting it down, paint would tend to make it clump together and wouldn't go down right. Painting it afterwards would be difficult and would fill in between the individual grains. That's just my opinion, and it's dark enough, especially after soaking in the 50/50 glue solution, that I'm going to leave it natural.
  11. Hi Don, Thanks for the information.

  12. hiscopilot

    hiscopilot Member

    this sounds like my kind of thing! Thanks!
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The Kona Coast of Hawaii is known for black sandy beaches. Just don't forget a small container when you plan your trip!

    Seriously, though, this isn't a problem in Arizona, or other parts of the country away from the ocean, but if you use beach sand, be sure to wash it thoroughly. You don't want any salt residue anywhere near your tracks or electrical connections.
  14. John P

    John P Member

    Did you run a magnet through the sand to see if there was any metallic particles in the sand. The reason I ask is because I just went out last week and picked up some Play sand from the local Home Depot and spent hour sifting and thought I had the Ballast world by the ass only to run a magent through my finished product and found all kinds of stuff sticking to it:curse: . If masonary sand doesn't then I will try it myself.:wave:
  15. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I had that problem when I dug some of that black sand out of the back of our house when we lived in Wickenburg. It was iron oxide. But no, this masonary sand did not have anything in it that was attracted to a magnet and I've got a very large magnet that I tried it on. I saw the play sand and thought the particles were too consistant and too large for N scale balast.

    And as far as getting it darker, I will use an ink wash to darken and dirty it up, but the glue helped to darken it as well.
  16. Russ - My wife loves the idea of going to hawaii to get the darker sand for the train layout, but I think it may be a little less expensive to by Woodland Scenics black ballast or contact someone who is going to get it for me.sign1

  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I don't think it is too late to use the play sand. Just get an old cake pan or somehting to put it in and put in a couple of cups of the play sand. Run your magnet through it and then clean the particles off the magnet and run it through again. Repeat the process until you no longer get stuff sticking to the magnet. 2 cups ought to do a lot of ballast. When you run out, pour out another 2 cups and repeat the process.
  18. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    I suggest using sandblasting grit, its quite cheap and I use it as coal piles and coal loads for my wagons. The grit comes course and fine.
  19. Justin

    Justin Member

    Got any pics for us?
  20. aboyette

    aboyette New Member

    Gray ballast

    I didn't like the light color of the sand.

    Go to your local tombstone dealer. They have a machine there where they engrave the words on the stone. The granite dust is pure, clean, and just the right color for grey ballast. Best of all, they throw it away and you can get a whole bucket full for nothing.

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