laying ballast

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by twilight, Dec 5, 2003.

  1. twilight

    twilight Member

    Please share your secrets, on laying ballast. I started on mine last night and it looks kind of clumpy! I used thinned white glue, 4 to 1 mix. :confused: And used a spoon to apply the ballast(Woodland Scenics).

    Any suggestions
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    A spoon will work fine for applying ballast. Then use an acid brush to clean it off of the tops of the ties. How did you apply the glue? To keep the ballast from clumping, you need to use a little (1 or 2 drops) dish soap to make "wet" water; and you need to use a fine sprayer or mister to keep from disturbing the ballast when the water /adhesive mix hits it.
  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    Here's some tips:

    - Before spreading the ballast, 'paint' a thin layer of tacky glue where you want it to go (except between the ties) - the roadbed outside of the ties and the surface the roadbed is secured to, to the width you want. I use Aileene's Tack Glue. This helps the ballast stay where you want it during the rest of the process.

    - A bone-dry soft brush is pretty handy for moving the ballast around while you getting it just where you want it.

    - Before soaking it with the watered-down glue, mist the ballast with "wet" water (water with a little liquid soap or alcohol added) until it's pretty saturated. Wet water has much less surface tension than regular water, so it allows the glue mixture to flow through the ballast without disturbing it. I use a sprayer and spray over the area I'm ballasting, allowing the mist to settle gently down onto the ballast, so as not to disturb it.

    - Apply the glue mixture as gently as possible, also so as not to disturb the ballast. Keep adding it until it runs out the bottom, in other words, soak it.

    << There used to be an article in the Archives from Shamus about ballasting, using wallpaper paste or something. Where'd it go??>>
  4. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    That's how I've done it, but 1:1 glue/water.

    What kinda ballast? I've done this with good results with medium WS as well as window screen sifted crushed limestone (hey, dat's what we got's in IN).

    I've also placed the ballast dry, got it how I liked it, and added the glue on top. Using this method you want to add dishsoap or alcohol to the mix and/or prewet the ballest before adding glue. Some folks use alchohol/water to prewet. I find this method tends to use a lot more ballast than above.

    I also also just mixed the glue and balast together. Shamus recommneds wallpaper glue for doing this, but I did water/white glue and it worked well. Then I just mudshed it in place and molded it by hand. That was for a small diaramma and it worked out well:*mack*
  5. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    What about goobering up the rails?

    I've never ballasted, but it seems as though there's a potential problem to spraying with a glue/water solution: you'll goober the rails with the glue, which theoretically should lead to all sorts of conductivity issues.

    Am I imagining things?
  6. twilight

    twilight Member

    I'm sorry I should have added that I did put two drops of dish soap in. I'm going to give it another try tonight. I want to try it with a soft mist bottle this time.

  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I still like Charlie's method best, after applying dry ballast and removing it from tie tops, etc., spray it with water/alcohol with some acrylic paint added (a sienna or umber as appropriate) then apply adhesive with a pipette or similar method. This combines wetting and weathering steps. Thanks Charlie!

  8. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Re: What about goobering up the rails?

    You can just run a dry finger down the tops of the rails after spraying to remove the glue. If you miss some, forget, or wait too long, it comes off about as easy once dry, just use your fingernail. Cheap tools :D
  9. Arlaghan

    Arlaghan Member

    Here's a link that I came across earlier this year when I was in the "research" mode and had nothing better to do at work. :D

    Great How-To for ballasting, and of course, a bunch of other How-To's there as well. Worth checking out - I have it bookmarked.
  10. billk

    billk Active Member

    Re: What about goobering up the rails?

    I think you imagined anyone saying the glue/water is to be sprayed - it should be 'dribbled', like with a pipette as suggested. Just the initial wet water should be sprayed. But, like JM said, it's not hard to clean up.
  11. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Here it is again

    I've posted this before but I don't know where so here it is again. Hope that it helps:)



    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 willkeep 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 complete3 - 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.

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