help ballasting track

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Edavillenut, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. Edavillenut

    Edavillenut Member

    does any one have any tips on ballasting track
  2. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member


    ...I had the pleasure of watching a CSX crew rebuild a grade crossing for a week now. Seems to me you have to start early. Very cool/cold (snow flurries when I left the house this morning) weather is always appreciated so you can cup your hands around a mug of java (unless you're the one doing the work). Then ya hafta place the ballast carefully against rail, and tamp it into place- much like "firming" a plant. After letting the wind whip around you, you make sure that a backhoe re-tamps while you shout for various tools. Tomorrow I expect the actual ballasting.

    I'll let you know what I find out- if it's not too cold.


    P.S. I hope you don't mind my kidding- but I truely am watching a gang work the RR X-ing out back of our shop.
    P.P.S. Oh yeah- as far as help- it takes like 10 trucks and at least 30 men. Not to mention great old buildings for a backdrop, the guy from the factory next door- who's name I don't know but we talked about playing with trains as we both went wide-eyed while watching the performance the past few days.
    P.P.P.S. Perhaps you'll be settling back and admiring your handy work soon too!
    P.P.P.P.S. I usually just do the- Lay the ballast with a paper cup so it pours as I go. Wipe it with my fingertip then spritz with a water mixed with a drop of liquid soap- then eye dropper on dilluted Elmers White Glue. I know it's low tech in this day and age- but that's the way I'd do it!- kinda thing.
  3. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Rather than use water with soap in it I like to use rubbing alcohol. It breaks the surface tension of the thinned glue just as well and dries in a few hours...a whole lot faster then the "wet water"

    I don't know if its still there but Shamus had an article either in the Academy or on his web site on how to use wallpaper paste to apply ballast. I tried it on a small test piece and it worked great! See if you can find it or drop him an PM.

    PM me your e-mail address and I will send you complete instructions on using the wet water method.
  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

  5. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    I modifed Shamus's method, and just mixed balast with white glue (only the rich folk here at the Knob use wallpaper, and the paste is special order) until it was the consistancy of oatmeal (we don't have porage in Cobbler's Knob). Then I spread it over the already weathered track that was temporarley held in place with pins.

    I also did this on a test area, and it worked well.
  6. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    The Wet Water Method



    White Glue or Artist Matte Medium
    Liquid Dish Detergent or Rubbing Alcohol
    Spoon...To apply ballast
    Spray Bottle
    Large Eye Dropper
    Small Brush...To shape the ballast


    1.These instructions assume that the track is in place and has been fastened down using track nails or glue.

    2.Prepare a 50-50 mixture of white glue or matte medium and water. This mixture should be "watery" thin. If the initial mixture seems too thick add more water. This mixture will keep for several weeks if stored in an air tight jar. Mix well so that all of the glue disolves
    in the water. **

    3.Fill the spray bottle with water and add 5-6 generous drops of liquid dish detergent.
    Shake this mxiture well.

    3a.I prefer to use rubbing alcohol instead of the water and dish detergent. It makes the applied ballast dry much faster. If you use the alcohol do not add the detergent to it.


    It is very important to not try to do a large amount of ballasting at one time. I like to complete 3 - 4 feet at a time and then continue on after the section I have done has dried. This way I can check to see if my glue mixture is right and that the ballast is bonding properly. After you have gotten your glue mixture right you can do longer areas.

    1.Using the spoon place some ballast between the rails. Then take the brush and arrange it so that the ballast is just to the top but not on the ties. Continue doing this until you have done about 3 or 4 feet.

    2.Next do the outside of the rails and ties. Use the brush to shape the ballast into a more or less uniform distance from the ends of the ties. If you are using cork or similar roadbed use the spoon and the brush to shape the ballast up the sides of the roadbed until the desired shape is achieved.


    1. Now using the spray bottle throughly wet all of the ballast that you have arranged. Spray gently so that you don't dislodge the ballast or cause it to "float" away but be sure to get itthroughly wet...NOT JUST DAMP BUT WET!!

    2.Using the dropper apply the glue mixture to the ballast between the rails. You will see the glue mixture flow through the ballast, under the rails and out to the sides. If it does not do this then wet the ballast again and apply more glue mixture. Don't worry about getting glue mixture on the will not show up when its dry.

    3.Using the dropper apply more of the glue mixture to the ballast outside of the rails. If any of it "washes" away just push it back with you fingers.

    4.Allow the ballast to dry...will take 8-12 hours.


    After the ballast is completly dry check to see if it has bonded. It should not crumble when you touch it. It should be quite hard. If it did not bond correctly then your glue mixture was too thin. Add more glue to your mixture, re-wet the ballast and apply more glue mixture as above.

    No doubt you have gotten some of the glue mixture on the rails and now you don't have a good electrical contact with them.....not a problem...simply clean them with an abrasive track cleaning block or some very fine emory paper.

    If you have ballasted around a turnout/switch and the movable points are stuck from the glue mixture just "pick" around them with a sharp Xacto knife until you get them free.

    ** White glue is more or less permanant once it has dried. If you think that you will be taking the track up at a later time use the artist matte medium instead of the white glue as it does not "bond" the track to the underlying material as tight as white glue does.
  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    Just to add to what you said. After ballasting for the first time using basically this same procedure with white glue and wet water, I had several joints and turnouts shift slightly on me. Obviously, I didn't have my track as secure as I thought. :eek: I didn't find this out until I tried to run trains and got many derails (just ask Pete and Ray):rolleyes: . Anyway, I found that if I soaked the ballast with warm water and let it sit for a bit, I could then move the track back into alignment. I used heavy brads to hold it in place until the ballast dried.

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you have turnouts to ballast, one trick is to put a drop of oil on the points and on any ties they slide accross. Be careful of getting too much oil on and getting it between the ties. The oil will keep the points from sticking.
  9. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    "Shifty Joints"...Been In Some!!!

    Its rather important to have your track and turnouts and etc. secured and operational before you begin the ballasting operation.

    Any where there is a track joint either on sections of track or at turnouts I always add some addtional fastenings to maintain alignment. Of course flex track and turnouts don't have enough holes in them to to this so I use a small wire size drill to make about 2-3 holes in 2-3 ties on each side of the joint and then fasten the track down.

    Since I use Homasote over 1/2" plywood for roadbed I've always felt that tracknails were just some what "overkill" to fasten the flex track and turnouts down. I use the Micro Engineering "small" spikes to fasten down my HOn3 flex track to the Homasote. Users of Atlas or some similar flex track might want to use the "medium" size as they are just a bit larger in diameter and would hold the track just a little better as the "nail holes" in that kind of track are a bit larger. BTW...HON3 flex track does not have nail have to drill them all.!!!

    Another plus to using the spikes rather than the track nails is that you can just push them in with a pair of pliers and once installed you have to look hard to see them.

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