Track Ballast

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by toys2nv, Jul 1, 2007.

  1. toys2nv

    toys2nv New Member

    My first attempt at ballast in over 20 years. I used a Medium Dark Brown. I am now thinking I should of used a grey or lighter colour. Maybe a finer grain also.


  2. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member


    First off, HAPPY CANADA DAY!

    Ballast color seems to change depending on the area that you are modeling. I grew up in California and modeled the desert where gray was the prevelent color, however brownish-red was used on some mainlines. Now I live in BC and notice some different colors. For one, there is coal being shipped to the docks and much spilled coal is on the ballast.

    I know its a lot to thing about, but it is important to know that the color of ballast tells a lot about the area being modeled and about what was shipped on the mainline. Is iron ore shipped along your lines? That might be colorful.

    Most important is to enjoy what you are doing.

    -Ed Acosta
  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I echo Ed's comments that there there are many different colors of ballast depending on where the railroad is located. You did a nice job laying it down, by the way.
  4. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Just an idea. Toys r' us has sandbox sand for about 10 bucks [or less] for 25 pounds of it. Enough for a club layout LOL. Looks to be a good colour and size. CHeck it out and see if it is what you wanted.

    As for colours though, railroads often used what was local for ballast as well as importing it from other places. SO colour is not particular unless you are modeling a 'specific' area.

    I hope that helps. :)

    Oh yeah, run a strong magnet through ANYTHING you use for ballast that is not specifically designed for ballasting. You don't want anything in the motor that can hurt it.
    Also I have used sand before and it came out pretty good.
  5. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    very cool lookin layout :thumb:.personally,i never care much for color cause i like the railroad used what was near (home depot :mrgreen:) or some masonry sand of any shade as long as its grey-ish.although with masonry sand it can be VERY cheap (4 bucks for 50 lbs) it CAN contain iron,so test it with a magnet,and if there is iron,you can sift it with a large magnet.hope that helped :p .--josh
  6. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I have the same type of ballast on my mining spur. I figured that the railroad could have used the mine tailings to ballast the track going up there. The mainline of my layout is a meduim grey ballast for contrast. Mostly I think it's up to personal perference. My advice would be to leave it for a week and see if it grows on you or if you're unhappy with it. If I ripped out everything that I didn't like right away my layout would still be benchwork with some track on it!
  7. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The CP mainline through Calgary has gray ballast, but recently some orange-brown ballast was added. I've never seen such consistently dark(ish) brown ballast as yours, but I can't say it doesn't exist.
  8. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Im with the others, I dont care what color the ballast is, I usually blend some light greys and dark greys together to make a more interesting color

    I think your brown looks good,:thumb: I would try and brush the ballast off the ties a lil more
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'm on the grey end of things, myself, but I mix them a bit plus a little pure black. I've used some really horrendous shades in the past!
    I know that in Toronto area, CN and CP have different ballast colours (can't remember exactly) and at West Toronto Junction you can see a line at the edge of one company's ballast where the other starts.
  10. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Just as an aside,,,,
    I made a [rather bad quality] video showing how to do ballasting.
    Maybe it might help someone out.
    You can check it out at another website I have here.
    FSM100 - Stephens Video Website 
    If the mpg's don't work for you then go to the photobucket link at the bottom of the page.

    I hope this helps someone :)
  11. LocoIndy76

    LocoIndy76 Member

    Ballast around here on our mainline headed east out of INdianapolis is a dark grey to almost black with some light grey mixed in. ON the local spurs near my work it is all light grey... I think it depends on what they have in the area at the time...

    You ballasting looks REALLY good!
  12. toys2nv

    toys2nv New Member

    the more I looked at the brown ballast, the more I hated it. So as of today it's gone. Sucked up by my shop vac. I am going with a medium grey in a finer grain.
  13. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    well luckly you didnt get the whole layput ballasted and then change your mindsign1
  14. toys2nv

    toys2nv New Member

    No I only did the one end to see what it looked like. Total investment about 9 bucks ( 2 bags of ballast ) and some water and glue.
  15. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    i beleive you should try either the play sand that has been dyed or the masonry sand ,but only if it has no iron in it.i find these 2 to be the biggest bang for the buck.--josh
  16. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Awesome videos!!! Thanks :thumb: and sweet ballasting job!!

  17. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    As a matter of interest ballast eventually goes brown from break dust anyway.
  18. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Depends on where you are from, the era you are modelling and what type of ballast the prototype railroad was actually using. One railroad, IIRC, used a type of "bluestone" of some sort that was very distinctive.

    Here in Colorado, modelling the late 1890's, a lot of narrow gauge track ballast was crushed rock that had been blasted away to cut in the grade. The stuff looked exactly like the rest of the ground, it was free, and it was constantly available as the work of cutting the right of way progressed, right on site.

    All I do is color the "gravel" the same color as the surrounding rocks and leave larger chunks visible where the detritus of blasting would have deposited it.
  19. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The CNW's ballast was known as "Pink Lady"...
  20. 0-4-0 Steamer

    0-4-0 Steamer New Member

    I used the brown mixed with light gray and a small amount of black added in and I'm extremely happy with mine. The color variations in the ballast look cool. The gray mellowed out the darkness of the brown and since I'm running mostly steam the black looks like lost coal. But, do what you like the best. It's your world and that's the most important thing.

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