Tips on Ballasting

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by OnTrack, Oct 17, 2006.

  1. OnTrack

    OnTrack Member

    I can lay my ballast fine, but i cant get it to stick well...ive used elmers glue, woodland scenics spray adhesive, and it will only hold a certain amount of the ballast in place, even after a 2nd coat or two to finalize it. Could you guys tell me how you tend to lay ballast the procedures, and even what adhesives you may use? It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks:)

    One other, which tends to look better fine or medium? Or is that more of a prefrence question?
  2. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    I like to paint straight wood glue on the sides of the subroadbed before flooding with fine ballast. I press it down and leave the excess in place. After the glue sets, I finalize how I want the ballast to lay beside the track and in between the ties. I use an old car with a piece of foam roadbed glued to the front with slots cut for the rails to do most of the "regulating." A small paint brush helps with the rest of the task of uncovering the ties. Then I spray with rubbing alcohol and then drizzle a 50/50 mix of wood glue and water over the rest. The glue/water mix must be oozing out beneath the ballast in all places (plan accordingly for other scenery items).

    I let that dry for a couple of days. Then I brush off/vacuum off the excess (I use a small vacuum dedicated to the task to save on ballast). This exposes any bad areas and I reuse the recoverd ballast and repeat the process on a small scale.

    The ballast (actual small grain granite in my case) sticks permantly and I've had no issues.

    The hardest part has been to stop picking at it on first application. Undoubtedly some of the ballast bunches up and goes where you dont want it to. Let it be for a day - it will pick off better than being pushed around while still goupy.
  3. Alan Bickley

    Alan Bickley Member

    Yep, a 50/50 mix of water and PVA wood glue works fine. I have also added a drop or two of washing -up liquid to the mix, as that helps to break down the surface tension of the water.
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    You're probably not soaking it enough to penetrate all the way thru to the sub roadbed. The key is to get it wet without getting it drippy wet. I use Woodland Scenics N scale Ballast and Cinders for my work. It's a bit finer than normal but I compensate for it with sifted and demagnatized parking lot dirt.

    Attached Files:

  5. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I use water with a few drops of dish detergent in a spray bottle known as wet water. Spray it very liberally on the ballast get it good and wet. then use a Turkey baster, yeah guys that's right a turkey baster to glue with Elmer's glue mixed with water. Ii don't have an exact % of mix but it is more water than glue. I use a small dirt devil vacuum with hose attachment to clean my layout and everything stays in place.
  6. Play-Doh

    Play-Doh Member

    I found when ballasting my layout that I had to apply the wet watter quite liberally to make the 50/50 white glue/water mixture hold. I then had to soak in mixture thoroughly, even when I thought it had enough. A little extra never hurt anyone.
  7. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    I have a video on how to ballast for free if you wanna go watch it. It might help out.
    On my site.
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    OnTrack: I too had trouble with ballasting until I read an article by Joe Fugate in a special MR publication called "How to Build Scenic Layouts" (or something to that effect). The article and issue was very helpful. I haven't read all of the responses here, but this is the solution that worked for me.

    Basically, you position the ballast onto the track and then shape & position it correctly with a small paint brush and your fingers. Then, using a dropper, you place rubbing alcohol onto the ballast until it is pretty much soaked with the alcohol. Then, you drop a 50-50 mixture of white glue and water onto the ballast. The alcohol-soaked ballast then immediately absorbs the glue/water mix and stays exactly in its original position.

    This works extremely well. The alcohol (for some reason) holds & retains the ballast in place. It totally prevents the ballast & glue from running away & making a mess, which was my previous problem. Obviously, I strongly recommend this. I've also heard that diluted dish detergent will work in place of the rubbing alcohol.

    All the best!
  9. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Oh, I also add a few drops of dish detergent to my white glue-water mixture as well. I forgot to mention that! So I still soak the ballast with rubbing alcohol, and then I cement it with my dish detergent/white glue/water mixture. All of this is described step-by-step in that MR special issue. Rob
  10. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Are you laying ballast on cork roadbed, a foam product, or plastic roadbed?
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I use the method that Robert describes, with cork on plywood. I use an eyedropper (from kids' medicine) or a glue syringe to apply the liquids - not a sprayer.

  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member


    FYI, I also cement my ballast onto a cork roadbed which in turn is mounted onto plywood.

    I also use the eyedropper or syringe method, as it seems to offer more control & be less messy. I'm no expert at all on this at all, I just simply came across a method that worked and got really excited about it. It's great when that happens!

  13. richhotrain

    richhotrain New Member

    Good advice from everyone so far, I use similar methods myself.

    However, instead of Elmer's Glue, use Matte Medium. It produces a much quieter sound as engines run over it. With Elmer's Glue, it sounds like you are operating within a drum - - - a very loud, hollow sound.

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