Weathered Ballast

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Drew1125, Sep 8, 2002.

  1. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Thought I'd share a little technique I figured out, that allows you to bond, & weather your ballast in one step...
    I bond my ballast with 50/50 white gle & water, & a wetting agent.
    I've always used gray ballast on my mainlines, because, in this part of the world, crushed limestone is thje most prevalent type of ballast on the mains.
    After a lot of observation, it seemed to me that my model ballast was a little too pristine lacked that grimier look of the prototype.
    (I hope these pictures do justice to the color differences)
    Here's the unballasted track on cork roadbed...

    Attached Files:

  2. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Now here's the Woodland Scenics ballast spread, & ready for bonding...

    Attached Files:

  3. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Now, instead of just using "wet water" to wet the ballast, I use rubbing alcohol, with a few drops of India Ink, to make a black wash...this not only wets the ballast, allowing the glue to flow through it, but it also darkens the ballast, & gives it that grimy look I was shooting for.

    Attached Files:

  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    I don't know if these pictures really show it, but by weathering your ballast, it really blends it into the surrounding scenery more realisticaly

    Attached Files:

  5. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Charlie I couldn't agree with you more on using the India Ink & alcohol mix to give the ballast "grit". For the Class 1 mainline trackage into Tellico Gap (owned by the Southern and used by the Southern and L&N) I use ballast only. For the Nantahala Midland (a poor shortline with deferred maintenance) I use a 50/50 mix of ballast and dirt, for the sidings and yard pure dirt. When done with the ballast on the shortline and sidings I go back and add some "weeds and grasses". When all that is done I use the India Ink mix, then go back with dirty paint thinner and drip it between the rails on the mainline for both the NM and the Southern.
  6. marty w.

    marty w. Member

    That's a great step saving idea.
    I'll try that. I'll about ready to start soon.
  7. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Great tip Charlie, I've use alcohol for years but it never dawned on me to tint it with india ink:eek: :) :) :)
  8. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    This is how I did the ballast (orlack there of) on my switching layout...I just scenicked right over the track with dirt, & other ground cover...Later I added some cinders to fill it in a little.
    I wanted really trashy looking track. for an industrial branchline.

    Attached Files:

  9. jmarksbery

    jmarksbery Guest


    Great looking track on both parts, I dare say, darn good tips indeed.
  10. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Right on the money Charlie! Excellent work! :cool:
  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Great idea, Charlie! I too never thought of putting India ink in the alcohol. Have a small ballasting job coming up soon, will give it a try. Thanks!

  12. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I've seen people spraying the new ballast with "Windex", as a wetting agent, I wonder if Windex can be tinted with India Ink, the same as alcohol. I like the industrial track, looks just right.
  13. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Much to my surprise, when I went to the Michaels in my area they did not have india ink, nor does the hobby store I frequent. I was wondering if I could use black water based paint to color the alcohol instead. Any opinions?

  14. billk

    billk Active Member

    Gary - Michael's not having India ink surprises me, too - the one near me has it. Michael's having it and not knowing that they have it wouldn't surprise me, though. India ink is probably too "generic" for a hobby shop, you might try a WalMart-type of place, or an office supply.

    BTW, does India ink come only in black, does anybody know? A wash made of brown ink might be usefu, for example..
  15. You can buy inks in a variety of colors, Bill. Higgins is one of the more prominant brands as is Winsor and Newton. It's usually available in the art supply area of Michaels. Look for it on the same aisle as pastel chalks, colored pens/pencils, and charcoal sticks.

    Inks, chalks, brushes, acrylics, plasters, molding materials, etc. can also be ordered on-line from Dick Blick at if you don't have access to anything locally.
  16. NYCentral

    NYCentral Member

    I also use burnt Umber and a brown. My Michaels carries a number of colors and kinds.

    Nice site Mike!
  17. billk

    billk Active Member

    Trivia lesson for the day - I did a little web-searching re: India ink - by definition, it is always black.

    They make inks in lots of colors, but they're not necessarily India ink, even if black. I guess what make India ink different from 'plain' black ink is that it has a very high carbon black content, so is more black or opaque or whatever.

    Of course, there's no reason we couldn't mix any ink with alcohol or water to make washes, etc.
  18. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Question: Why is ink preferred over thinned paint?
  19. billk

    billk Active Member

    I dunno - maybe the particles that give it it's color are much smaller with ink, so they can accumulate in smaller cracks and crevices, or have a more transparent effect if used as a light wash?
  20. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Another source for good black ink is a graphics supply store, the kind architects and engineers used to go to, to buy drafting ink. Staedler Mars makes ink in a number of colors.


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