My new method for Ballasting Neatly

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Conrail, Sep 5, 2005.

  1. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    I was working on a method to create a more efficient way for me to ballast my track. Ballasting has always been a headache for me as it never seems to turn out quite like I had hoped. It always seems like if I use the method as suggested by Woodland Scenics and use a dropper .... I end up with ballast stuck to my ties no matter how careful I am. I always seem to use way to much ballast and end up with a really sloppy look. So incomes my new method. It takes me only slightly longer to do, but I use way less ballast than my prevoius method and I end up with what I think is a much nicer result than I had achieved prior. I thought I would post the method here just in case anyone wants to give it a whirl.

    Supplies you will need:

    Shop vac

    Elmers Glue All (7.625 FL OZ Bottle to start more may be required)

    I used a 1" camel hair paint brush but the size is your choice

    Your favorite Blend of Ballast

    Disposable Gladware bowl or similiar

    Some AC Glue

    A couple of small ( I used two strips of 3/16X1/4X1" & one strip of 3/16X1/4X1.25") Balsa wood

    A hobby razor knife

    Masking Tape

    First I took the small bowl and used a hobby knife to trim a 33mmX10mm opening on the outside edge of the bottom of the container and placed the three pieces of Balsa wood around the inside edge of the opening with AC glue as pictured.


    I then cleaned out my shop vac. I made it as clean as I could possibly get it.

    Basically what I did was after I had the cork road bed laid out and tacked down, I used the masking tape to mask off the sub road bed about a 1/4 out from the bottom edge of the cork road bed.

    Then I took a mixture of 2/3 Elmers Glue All and 1/3 water and brushed it over the road bed pretty heavy.

    Once the glue was slathered down I then tacked down the section of track. I filled the bowl with small section cut out of the bottom about 25% full. You can fill the bowl more if you are working with a larger section of track.
    I then placed the bowl with cut out at one end of the track and tilted it forward so that the ballast starts to pour out of the opening and then slowly pull it down the track until just about the entire track is covered with a mound of ballast as pictured. Note the Masking tape.


    I waited overnight to make sure the glue was completely dry and then I used the shop vac to suck off the addittional ballast. Since the shop vac was cleaned out I can now recycle the ballast. I tried to stay as far away from the ballast with the vac as possible so I didn't suck everything completely up . Next I gently pulled up the masking tape. The end result was a pretty decent looking lay down of ballast. It was a little thin in the center of the track but I can easily go back and lightly sprinkle some loose ballast down to fill in the light spots. I am more than pleased with the results and I have no ballast stuck on top of my ties. :thumb:

    Now after I gave it some thought. I suppose I didn't really have to make that crafty little bowl. I guess so long as you just about completely cover the track it doesent matter how you actually lay the ballast out. I just found it to be a simple way to load up a good ammount of ballast and be able to keep a semi consistant patteren.
  2. Joepomp

    Joepomp Member

    WOW!!! It looks great. You save the rest of my layout. Unfortunatly I completed ballasting the yard, but like you said it never looks quite neat enough. I never thought of puttinng the glue down before the track! It makes perfect sence.
  3. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    This piece of track looks better in person. The photo does it no justice. I just added a few pinches of loose ballast along the center and it is as good as it gets. The center line looks worse in the photo than it actually was because it has a dried line of glue all the way down the center from trying a diffent method that didnt work so well. That is why the ties have a squiggley darker line running the center. It's just a scrap piece I was practicing on.
  4. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Nice tutorial on ballasting Conrail!
  5. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    There are only 2 problems I see with this method. First, is that it's probably only realistic to use for a new layout. Otherwise you will be dragging a shop vac hose across your beautiful scenery creating a horrible mess. Second, it requires a good ammount of intial ballast to work, since you are pretty much covering the entire piece you are working on, although I think I will save ALOT of ballast and mess in the long run on my new layout. I plan to do six foot sections at a time as I am laying out my track. I'm sure there is a way to not use a shop vac. My grandmother let me have her old rechargable dust buster and I'm going to try that once I get a chance to clean it out real well. If it works, it would make things even more simplified. Also MLR Manufacturing makes a ballast speader that can be had for about $9.00 at and that might work better than the old Gladware method I used. I just ordered one of MLR's track laying kits that comes with one of these ballast spreaders so I will give it a try and see how well it actually works.
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    There is a much easier way to do ballasting: check out my reply in the thread
    "help from all you ballasting experts". One of the key points in my long-winded explanation is the use of a wide, soft brush. First, don't put on so much ballast in the first place: you can always add more if needed. Second, if you do get too much in one spot, use the brush to move it to where it's needed. Third, use the brush to get the majority of the ballast off the ties and to shape the shoulders of the roadbed and tidy up the edge of the ballast line. Finally, use the handle of the brush as described and you will remove all of the remaining ballast from the tie tops. Then you can apply the "wet" water, followed by the glue mixture as described. Hope this is of some assistance.

Share This Page