Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by pupparo, Jul 21, 2001.

  1. pupparo

    pupparo Member

    Does anyone have a trick for installing ballast on the tracks?
    I have tried different ways ( puttin ballast down and adding glue, only to have it float and leave gaps. putting ballast down and then spraying with glue mixture glue gets all over the place ) I have the same problem with my other landscaping (grass and coal, dirt )
    Is there a better method? If so please let me know.
    Joe Pupparo
  2. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Joe,
    I took this off my website for you, hope it's what you are after, I have used this method for 40 years.
    Track Ballasting and Track Cleaning
    For those of you who have had a railroad before and have had to move a piece of track, how many times have you had to replace the length of track because you had ballasted it using PVA. White glue (50% Water and Glue.) Even a JCB would have had a hard job moving it. I have on many occasions in the past and looked around for some other easier way with less hassle should I require to move the track. So I sat and thought about it for awhile, then came up with the idea of using heavy duty wallpaper paste. Would it set hard enough? I thought. The only way, was to try a piece out on a separate piece of track on a small piece of insulation board. - IT WORKED, and dried hard and I could still remove all the track pins afterwards. For those of you interested in using this method, here is the way I mixed up this gooey mess.
    Mix up a little of the wallpaper paste and then add your desired track ballast into the wallpaper paste and mix it all up. The consistency should be that of thick porridge.
    Now the fun (Messy bit) begins. Dig out some ballast with your fingers, and spread it into the tracks keep on spreading the ballast until the tops of the sleepers are visible again. Next, run your fingers down either side of the rails both inside and out to clean off any access ballast. Clean the top of the tracks with a dry cloth. Now use on old toothbrush, running it inside and outside of the rails to clean it up a little. Finally, use a small piece of 600 wet/dry to clean off the tops of the rails so you can run trains later.
    The next morning, after all the ballast is dry, once again run the wet/dry over the tracks and check to see if there is any odd bits of the ballast floating around.
    The next job is to paint the sides of the rails a rusty colour, this gives the appearance of making the tracks smaller than they are, plus the added advantage of good looking track. So there you have it. A well maintained and good looking main line track.
    Now to Cleaning the tracks
    How many times have you said to yourself, "How am I going to get my hands in there to clean the track without removing the buildings. I have many times, and came up with two simple but effective solutions.
    One is to buy a roller, the kind used to roll the seams on wallpaper. They are just over one inch wide, and have a diameter of an inch and a quarter. Buy two pieces of wood about one foot six inches long and an inch and a quarter wide by half inch thick. Using one of the wood lengths, tape it to the wallpaper roller. Now cut up some 6 inch lengths of jiffy cloth and strip them down to just over an inch wide and rap it around the roller. Sew the seams together and apply Isopropyl Alcohol to the cloth. Now roll the roller over the track and see just how much dirt and filth comes off the track onto the roller. The other piece of wood is used in this way. Cut a piece of 6OO grade wet & dry paper into a 6 inch by 1 inch piece, now fold it in half (rough side out) and the in half again. Now rap the piece of wet & dry over the end of the piece of wood and tape the end around the wood with masking tape, so as not to lose the wet & dry when in use. Just grab the wood and start cleaning those awkward tracks you couldn't get at before without removing buildings.

    Have fun


    NARA Member #24

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 07-21-2001).]
  3. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member



    I learnt the same way as you are!. Firstly I tried mixing full strength PVA glue with the ballast them aplying it. When using the commercially available crushed rock, This was WRONG!

    Firstly I pour the ballast into a small milk jug about 1 cup at a time. Use the lip to run down the centre of the track, pouring a small mound down the middle. Use a 1/2" thin paint brush to light brush the dry ballast into place on the inside and outside of the tracks. Make sure you can still see the ties, and none of the ballast is higher than the ties. Watch out for the little bits that might be resting up against the rails. Take far more time pouring the dry ballast into turnouts, but use the same method. Practice on a piece of track nailed to a stick if you want to first. I use the commercially produced crushed rock for ballast.

    I then spray with water only to just dampen it down (wet thoroughly is you wish). I then use a mixture of 50/50 PVA glue/water shaken well, in and old glue bottle with a nozzle. Keeping the lid still on the nozzle, i just open it slightly, and drip the 50/50 mix onto the ballast. It with then run down between the ballast, because of the dampness of the sprayed water. sprinkle a layer of coal dust down the middle to represent weather/oil etc. Spray lightly with water again. At this point you will feel you have not used enough glue. Believe me, you have! Leave it over night, and rock hard ballast. Then use a hobby knife or similiar pointy device (I did not say screw driver!!!, cause they are meant for screwing) to remove any bits that may be stuck to the tracks. If you take time when brushing the dry ballast into place, this task is minimal. The 50/50 mixture can be dripped on the tracks. It doesn't hurt. A light sand of the track afterwards and your loco's will run fine.

    I "weathered" the track and ties first of course, with burnt umber acrylic paint for the ties, and a mix of burnt umber/red oxide (for the rusty rails). Use the straight paint, no need to water it down.

    For my ballast I used "medium" grain crushed rock ballast for HO Peco code 75 track. This is a bit course, so for N scale I would use the finest grain crushed rock you can obtain.

    Of course this method is for using rock ballast. Shamus has given you a method for other ballast types.


    For grass/coal dirt etc. Use a 1/2" flat brush and paint the undiluted PVA glue on quite thickly. Sprinkle whatever you need to sprinkle. Then spray with water until quite wet. The glue will soak up into your ground cover and set clear. This method there is no need to press the groundcover down into the glue, so what it looks like when you sprinkle, is what it will be like when it sets. It looks awful to start with, as the glue starts to soak up into the groundcover, as if you have had a blizzard (because of the white glue) but as it dries you will see the effect. I also drip the 50/50 glue mix over the larger clumps as well at this stage. With scenic material, you can never use too much glue. If fact, the more the better, as you will then be able to clean you layout with losing youre scenery! If more cover is needed, just repeat the process. (once the first layer has dried, otherwise you will clump up the glue brush). When finished and dried thoroughly, vacuum up the remnants.



    [This message has been edited by Woodie (edited 07-21-2001).]
  4. Catt

    Catt Guest

    Something else you can add to your water or water/glue mix is a few drops of dishwashing soap or even use window cleaner(the kind in a spray bottle).Make sure you get the kind with out amonia or you will definately hear about it from your better half. PHEW!!
  5. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Woodie! Wow! That scenery looks GREAT man!
    Keep those pics coming!
  6. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Papurro, I always soak the area of ballast, grass, dirt or whatever with rubbing alchol out of a eyedropper before applying white glue mix and this stops the floating you were talking about. Tyson Rayles
  7. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    One thing I forgot. If you are doing a large area with the rubbing alcohol keep a window open or you can take a trip with out leaving the farm!! T.R.

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