Help from all you ballasting experts

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Kerrskountry, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. Kerrskountry

    Kerrskountry New Member

    Hi guys and gals,

    OK I'm beginning the chore of ballasting my double track mainline. Now I have read and read all about laying ballast and understand that it's a tedious chore. I did my first 12 inches or so of track and let me say it looks like _ _ _ _ _ _! I don't know how to ge it to look realistic. Ugh!

    I'm using a medium coarse gray, have rounded the edges of the cork roadbed so the steep angle is eliminated, carefully applied between the ties and am using alcohol wetting solution and 50/50 white glue. The real problem comes with the side slolpes. How do you get the ballast to stay nice and even on the sides and get the missed spots covered without screwing up the already applied stuff. Man what a flop. I really want to start again since I only did about 12 inches. Also, do you cover all of the ground between the two tracks with ballast or just the two traqcks and fill the middle with other ground material. In my first attempt I covered all ground with ballast. Maybe this is partially why it looks awful.

    Any hints and tips from you experts out there will be appreciated.

    Joe in Rockaway Beach (Missouri that is!)
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    #1 Woodland Scenics ballast is grossly oversize, I'm not sure about other brands. If you are using Woodland Scenics ballast, use their "n" scale ballast for ho.
    #2 After you get your ballast in position dry, use something with an extremely fine spray to wet it down with water with a few drops of soap in it. If you can find a perfume bottle with the squeeze bulb sprayer, they are perfect. Flood the ballast with water so that it is totally soaked.
    #3 Once the ballast is wet, don't touch it with anything. Use an eyedropper to drop in your adhesive of choice. I add the adhesive down the center of the ties and allow it to flow out to the edges of the ballast. You can use matte medium, I use white glue like Elmers diluted with distilled water about 1:1. Once the ballast is dry again, you can go back and add ballast to any areas that need more ballast until you have it like you want it.
    #4 One trick I use to keep turnouts working is to use a little plastic compatible oil on the turnout anywhere the rail slides over the ties. I try to get the oil on the ties only without having any run down between the ties. The glue won't stick to oil.
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I apply yellow carpenters glue to the sloped edges of the roadbed in a thin coat prior to putting the ballast down. This helps keep it in place when you later (after glue has dried) drench the ballast with alcohol/water mix in preparation of final glueing.

  4. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    At our club, we literally paint the sides of the cork roadbed with white glue. Apply the ballast and then use a foam V shaped brush to help form the ballast. Then spray with wet water and then soak with a 50-50 mix of glue and water. We use the white glue just in case we decide to change the track at a later date. You can drench it in water and the glue will loosen and you can remove the ballast and track. I don't think you can have the same results with yellow glue.
  5. Kerrskountry

    Kerrskountry New Member

    Thanks for all your advice. I'm going to get somr N scale ballast, remove the current mess and try again with white glue on the sides of the roadbed. Should be fun removing the old. I used 50/50 glue so I'l really soak it with water to loosen up the old ballast. I'm looking at my layout and wow, a lot of track to ballast (5/10 tabletop island). I'm scenicing a small section at a time between other projects for variety, Should be fun! :eek:

    Any comments about the ground between the two tracks? Is it normally done in prototype?

  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Ballast applied with white glue will come up rather easily, you shouldn't have a problem. I use white glue for almost all my ballasting, I recommended the yellow glue for the ballast shoulders earlier only because it won't release the ballast you spread when you later soak the remainder of the ballast with the alcohol/water mix. I only use it on the shoulder so removal has never been a problem.

  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If you're ballasting track on a flat surface, like plywood,foam, etc., don't be afraid to let a little extra ballast accumulate at the base of the slope on the edge of the cork: this will help prevent the ballast from being eroded from the shoulders of the roadbed when you apply the glue. If the ground at the sides of the track drops away to any degree, I usually apply rip-rap,followed by a generous application of coarse ballast, then cinders, and finally the finished ballast. The rip-rap is applied by first painting that area with full-strength white glue and then positioning the stone. The coarse ballast will fill the gaps between the individual rocks ( don't carry the coarse ballast all the way to the bottom of the rip-rap layer) and the cinders are mainly for visual effect. Once the rip-rap has been applied, you can leave it and come back later or, as I prefer, continue right along with the ballast. This should be done as one operation: dump on the coarse ballast, shape with a wide (3/4" to 1") soft brush, add the cinders, shape as required with the brush, and then add the final layer of ballast on the shoulders of the cork and around the ties. Brush what you can from the tops of the ties, then, holding the brush lightly near the ferrule, lay the handle across the rails and tap on it rapidly, moving down the track as you tap. Unless you've applied too much ballast, this will remove all stray ballast from the tie tops. Now is the time to implement the suggestion to oil the switch points and the ties on which they slide. Using a suitable spray bottle (plant misters would probably work well), saturate the area with water mixed with a few drops of dish detergent. If your sprayer's output is too forceful, don't spray directly at the ballast until it's slightly wet: otherwise the force of the spray will displace it. The more layers of stuff that you've applied, the more water you need to spray: it needs to be wet right down to the bottom. I use white glue, mixed about 50/50 with water, and apply it using a plastic bottle with a dropper top (I don't remember where I got it, but you could try a craft store). The glue mixture will spread as it hits the moistened ballast. I usually do the track area between the ties first, about 6' to 10' at a time, then come back and do the same distance on one side of the track, then the other side. Again, the deeper the fill under the ballast, the more glue mixture required, and subsequently the longer the drying time. If you have any amount of ballasting to do, it is worthwhile to purchase the white glue by the gallon: cheaper than the applicator bottles and way cheaper than matte medium. The important things to remember are to wet the area thoroughly and, once it is wet, do not touch it, for any reason.
    Good luck,

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