more ballast questions

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Lionelalltheway, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. Hello again.
    I have tried putting down some ballast on a small section of my layout. I used a mixture of white glue, water, and watersoftener to hold it down, but I can't get it to say on the sides. The sides are slightly sloped and the drip of glue just rolls off. What should I do? I have also realized that this doesn't hold down the ballast very strongly. Any suggestions on how to make the ballast permanent so that I could move the layout without it falling off?
  2. Iron Horse

    Iron Horse Member

    As far as the ballast sticking to the sides, I have "cheated" in the following way...just spread a layer of full strength white glue on the sides of the roadbed (not too thick). Your finger will probably work best. After that spread ballast everywhere you want it, sweep off the tops of the ties w/ a paintbrush (if you want). Then soak everything down with water + 1 or 2 drops of dishwashing liquid (some people also use rubbing alcohol instead). Make sure all of the ballast is wet, but don't cause a flood (lol).......then move in with your water/glue mixture (I start with 50/50 and thin it down a little till it flows evenly) + 1 drop of dish soap and make everything white. Leave don't need to hurry. You can take your time, do one section at a time. BTW....the dish soap breaks the surface tension of the water so you don't get the "beading" you describe. But you only need one or two drops. This should hold the ballast permanently. Anyone have any other suggestions?
  3. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I use Elmers white glue diluted at least 50 / 50 with water, maybe a little more water. The first thing I do after getting ballast where I want it is spray it with what is known as wet water. This is a spray bottle filled with water and a few (5-6)drops of dish detergent added. I spray it rather heavy then wait a few minutes and spray it again rather heavy. This gives the water a chance to soak in real good. Then I use a turkey baster. Yes a turkey baster. I do 3-4 feet of track at a time and an eye dropper takes forever. Now you have to be careful not to put the glue down too fast as you can was everything away with the volume of glue you get. But if you use an eye dropper that is no problem. I thoroughly saturate the ballast. I mean you can see the glue laying in it. Give it a day to dry and it will stay there. I use a small Dirt devil with a hose to clean up my layout and the scenery stays in place.
  4. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Very interesting article here:

    The author first uses undiluted yellow glue on the sides then spray the ballast on it. He then proceeds with the normal "ballasting routine" on the center:
    1) spread the ballast between the ties
    2) wet the ballast with alcoohol
    3) apply the mixture of water and white glue.

    I tried the process on my Fleischmann with the plastic ballast and I'm satisfied of the small scale test
  5. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I had the same problem and used a bit of carpenter's glue added to the glue/water/detergent mixture...worked like a champ. Are you using a snap track brand or cork roadbed?
  6. mr. bubbles

    mr. bubbles New Member

    i use 3 parts water 2 parts white glue and maby 5 or 6 drops of palmolive
    and i put it in a spry bottle
  7. abutt

    abutt Member

    I used Woodland Scenics prepared liqued glue because I'm lazy and that way I know the mix was always the same. As far as the ballast "slipping" down the slope of the grade, I ballasted the bottom of the slope first. When that dried I went back and completed the ballasting. That way the dried ballast on the slope bottom prevented the ballast from sliding down. I've since made some changes to trackage, and believe me that combination of the woodland scenics glue and ballast is like chizeling up concrete!:D
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Regardless of the method you choose, I find that prewetting the ballast with "pure" isopropyl alcohol makes sure that the glue and water mix gets right through all the ballast. By "pure" I mean straight from the bottle (I use a 50% solution from the Dollar Store).

    I also apply both the alcohol and the glue mix with an eyedropper instead of a sprayer.

  9. thanks, that is definately helpful!
  10. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    When I place ballast I use a small bathroom cup to place it. I shake the ballst where I want it from the cup. I then use a brush to move the ballast around between the rails and along the sides. I have to be careful along the edges as you can easily expose the roadbed material.

    Just like Andrew does, I "wet" the ballast with the "pure" isopropyl alcohol with an eyedropper. I then use a solution of 50-50 Elmer's white glue and water with a few drops of dish detergent. Again I use the eyedropper.

    Results can be seen at
  11. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    People in Ontario are very cheap. Here in Québec a "pure" rubbing alcohol is 70%.
  12. Relic

    Relic Member

    Don't they also call it alcool? ha
  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    You're right about that: I'm so cheap, I don't use alcohol at all, well, at least not for the train layout. :D :D However, part of the reason that some people have problems with ballasting is that they tend, for whatever reason, to skimp on materials. I use white glue thinned 50/50 with hot tap water (mixes faster), and water with a couple drops of dish detergent added as my "wetting" agent. If you have a slope that is so steep that the scenic material or ballast rolls off it, precoat the area with full-strength white glue. I use a 1" paint brush to apply it: being cheap, I make sure to wash it out after using, but you can also buy cheap throw-away brushes that will also work. I spread the ballast material and/or ground foam from paper cup and, in the case of ballast, use a 3/4" soft brush to spread it around to where I want it. Don't skimp on the ballast: if it rolls down the slope of the roadbed, add more until it stays where you want it. It's not really that expensive, and it'll improve the look of your roadbed. When you've got everything where you want it, flip that soft brush around, lightly grasping the ferrule between your thumb and forefinger, and with the handle laying across the rails, lightly and rapidly tap the handle with the fingers of your free hand, all the while moving the brush along the track. All of the loose ballast that's laying on the tie tops will "magically" bounce to where it should be. If the area that you're ballasting includes any turnouts, apply a bit of plastic-compatable oil to the tie tops over which the point rails move, then park the points in a mid-throw position.
    Now, using a good quality sprayer, capable of producing a fine mist, thoroughly wet the area. Start by spraying upward and letting the droplets fall onto the area until it is dampened. If you skip this step, you risk disturbing the scenic material with the force of the spray, and it 's not much fun to try to re-arrange wet scenic foam or ballast. When the area has been dampened, you can spray more directly. Thoroughly wet the scene: the thicker you've applied the scenic material, the more "wet" water is needed. You need to get it right down to the hardshell/foam/roadbed, or you'll end up with the glue mixture forming a crust on top, which is not bonded to the layout. You will find, on areas where the ballast is quite deep, that water will pool in low-lying areas, a sign that you've applied enough wetting agent. This step is as important as applying the glue mixture if you want to achieve a good bond.
    I use a plastic glue bottle to apply the glue mixture. It has a fairly small opening that allows the liquid glue to come out in drops, or in a stream, if I squeeze the bottle. Don't skimp on the glue. I used to use thinned matte medium, but for the price of two small bottles of the stuff, you can buy a gallon of white glue which works just as well. Because you've thoroughly soaked the area, those droplets of glue will spread readily throughout the landscaping material. Again, on thick areas, the glue mixture will pool in low spots. Don't worry about it: once the water evaporates, there'll be little residue left.
    Work in a pattern to ballast track. I usually work down the centre of the track, then go back and do each side in turn. Because of the run-off problem noted above, I usually do the trackside ground cover at the same time. When you've saturated the scene with glue, clean up your tools, and go do something else for a day or two. Scenery is like a pimple: if you keep fiddling with it, it'll get uglier.
    When the glue has finally dried, clean your track in the area. I find that there's not much in the way of glue on the railheads (the trains seem to run fine), but the tops of the rails are somewhat discoloured. Also check those turnouts to make sure that the points aren't glued to the ties in spite of the application of oil. A little back-and-forth action with your finger should free up any problem areas.
    On track with not too many turnouts, and fairly flat terrain close to the tracks, you should be able to do at least 15' or 20' of track in a couple of hours or less.

    Sorry for using an old picture, but the scenery elements around the track, including the ballast, sub-ballast (cinders), and rip-rap are over an inch deep in some places, all firmly fixed in place.

  14. matt fisher

    matt fisher Member

    better mixture

    hi guys
    first of all you 've got it all wrong , you take elmers white glue, water, ajax liquid dish soap , dont use detergent , and mix everything 50 50 , then just put your ballast down then spray your ballast , put it all in one spray bottle and then let it dry overnight , thats how i lay ballast and it works just fine.

  15. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    I have that Woodland Scenics foam junk and it will not hold the ballast no matter how I put it on. Just for kicks, I put a thin layer of white glue on full strength and when dry just peels off.
  16. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    matt, how the heck do you mix three things together 50/50?:) While your method may work well for glueing down the ballast, doesn't it also tend to render your spray bottle inoperable? I'm also not too keen on spraying glue all over my track and on buildings and other scenery that've already been installed on the layout near the track being ballasted.
    Clerk, if you spread full strength white glue down, then spread the ballast on top, you still need to spray the whole shebang with "wet" water in order to make some of the glue creep up into the ballast, thereby bonding everything together.

  17. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    That works fine except it still does not bind to the foam roadbed
  18. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I'm sorry, Clerk, I misunderstood you. Have you tried misting the foam roadbed with "wet" water before applying the undiluted white glue? (this may help the draw the glue into the pores of the foam) I'd still suggest more "wet" water after you apply the ballast, for the reason stated previously.

  19. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    Wayne. I tried soaking the roadbed with alcahol and that works much better.

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