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Yard Ballast

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Yard Ballast
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 6:53 AM

I am in the process of completing the ballasting of my double mainline and preparing to start the ballasting of my coach yard and freight yard.

On my double mainline, I am using Scenic Express ballast which is real rock. I glue it down with a matte medium mix applied with an eye dropper. For the yards, I am going with smaller granule Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast. My yard tracks are already nailed down directly on the plywood surface, and the feeder wires soldered to the rails.

My question is how best to apply the glue to hold the ballast in place. I have thought of spraying Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement, but if I do that, the ballast will wind up being glued to the ties which I want to avoid. Any suggestions as to the best way to glue down ballast in the yards without getting it all over the ties?

Rich

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, May 22, 2020 7:51 AM

Great question since I too plan on starting ballasting.  Is there a way of having ballast not go over the ties?  On the previous layout, I used a 1" craft brush to spread the ballast.

Rich: How long were you testing track before ballasting?  Some said you should run the trains for weeks without ballast to ensure everything works properly. 

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 8:24 AM

kasskaboose

Rich: How long were you testing track before ballasting?  Some said you should run the trains for weeks without ballast to ensure everything works properly. 

I started my new layout way back in February 2018 and started testing the track work in mid-2019. At this point, no shorts, no derailments, no unintended uncouplings. I began ballasting the mainlines in early April of this year.

Rich

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Posted by peahrens on Friday, May 22, 2020 8:47 AM

I recently completed ballasting my layout.  I tested the track for about 7 years first (perhaps procrastinating a bit).  Ballast was real rock for Ariona Rock & Minerals.  I used white glue.

On the mainline, I followed Cody's advice of painting straight white glue on the cork roadbed sides and applying a light amount of ballast on the slope to create some tooth.  Then I added ballast to middle, using a small disposable cup and spreading with a 1" foam brush cut to just fit between the rails.  Then tapped the rails to settle the ballast between the ties.  Then wet with 50% alcohol (using a Walgreens spray bottle) and used a plastic pipette to add 50% white glue between the ties.  After a few minutes, sprayed some more 50% IPA to help the glue to wick everywhere.  (I did not want to spray glue on the rails as I worried about the sprayer clogging and I did not want to clean all the rails.)  Then I added the final ballast on the sides and applied IPA, 50% glue, IPA as noted.  (I may have done the middle and sides at the same time, after the initial roadbed slope light ballast application).  

If you want a nice limit on the ballast by the roadbed, apply some blue tape around 3/8" from the cork.  That creates a somewhat more moderate slope than the severe cork slope, which I prefer.  Remove the tape when the ballast and glue are still wet, so you do not much affect the desired ballast area. 

When all is dry, vacuum, then examine for any ballast particles atop the ties, particularly at the rail.  Nudge those loose and vacuum again.  (A dust buster equivalent is a handy tool.)

In my yards, with track caulked to 1/8" foam sheet and/or on plywood, I ballasted everywhere, then wet with sprayed 50% IPA, then added 50% white glue with pipette, than sprayed some more IPA.  

The pipettes (check Amazon) are much more convenient than the eyedropper IMHO.  Just easier to handle and aim. 

Rich, I'm not following your interest in not getting glue / matte medium on the ties.  I'm sure I got 50% white glue on some of the ties (though usually applied glue between them) but do not notice anything visually with that, if that is your concern.  Are you adding ballast just to the level of the ties (as on the mainline) or are you covering the ties somewhat for a different effect?  Or are you concerned about the WS fine ballast floating atop the ties?  Please clarify.

Paul

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, May 22, 2020 9:47 AM

I use Woodland Scenics ballast. I wet water it good with a fine sprayer and then use a matt medium mix and pipett to put on the medium. Secret is to use lots of wet water.

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, May 22, 2020 10:09 AM

First of all tracks do tend to be ballasted differently in yards versus main lines.  On the main the ballast tends to have a slight arch, so that the tops of the ends of the ties are exposed and the ballast almost reaches the part of the top of the tie between the two rails.  And ballast in a yard does not have to withstand the forces of speed and braking that is expected of it on the main, which is why slag and cinders and smaller rock can be used in yards.

In a yard a goal is to avoid creating a situation where a brakeman or other crewman walking around in darkness could trip. Thus you tend to see the ballast level with the tops of the ties at all times, and you do not see the same slope away from the rails that you see on the main. 

At a big yard in the Milwaukee area the C&NW managed this by using "chips" of its pink lady granite ballast.  I suspect its rock quarry operations produced plenty of "free" chips.

Here is what I do after laying the track.  I use a variety of ballast types on the layout but for yards I use ballast meant for N or even Z if I can find it.  I have an old short piece of cork roadbed, maybe 3 inches long, that I use as a sort of bulldozer.  I run it back and forth between the rails so that the ballast is at or just slightly below the tops of the ties.  I do the same for the ends of the ties - run that cork bulldozer back and forth.  Then I use the flat end of that cork piece to "tamp down" the ballast between rails and outside the rails.  

I lightly spray "wet water" (distilled water with detergent, or isopropyl alcohol).  Don't spray to close or too forcefully or the loose ballast will "jump" to the tops of the ties again, or against the side of the rail.  If need be I tamp the ballast down again with the cork; on the main now is the time, with the ballast wetted, that I create the angle of slope away from the tracks.  Again on the main there is slope.  Not in the yard, at least not very much. Yards tend to be flat and uniform .

I then apply Scenic Cement or diluted white glue using a pipette or eyedropper, which is time consuming but is gentle enough again that the ballast is not disturbed.  Once it is all dried and hardened I go back again with my cork roadbed bulldozer and run it back and forth in case stray grains of ballast have attached to the side of the rail or to the top of a tie.  One or two such grains don't bother me.

A final spray with a mix of isopropyl alcohol and india ink to tone down the strong uniform brightness of the ballast.  It also tends to blend the tone of the ballast when I have used different brands of ballast, or different "dye lots" of the same ballast.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, May 22, 2020 10:59 AM

After a few minutes, sprayed some more 50% IPA to help the glue to wick everywhere.

India Pail Ale isn't one of my favorites.  Clown

And ballast in a yard does not have to withstand the forces of speed and braking that is expected of it on the main, which is why slag and cinders and smaller rock can be used in yards.

 favoRio Grande used cinders on the mainline but the yards appeared to be a finer type of ballast.

 

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Posted by NittanyLion on Friday, May 22, 2020 11:14 AM

Honestly, I don't worry so much about ballast getting on the tops of the ties. I don't mean completely covered, I mean like oh no there's three specks of ballast on that tie.  There's plenty of real ballast laying on top of real ties on heavy use, high maintenance mainlines.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 4:01 PM

peahrens

Rich, I'm not following your interest in not getting glue / matte medium on the ties.  I'm sure I got 50% white glue on some of the ties (though usually applied glue between them) but do not notice anything visually with that, if that is your concern.  Are you adding ballast just to the level of the ties (as on the mainline) or are you covering the ties somewhat for a different effect?  Or are you concerned about the WS fine ballast floating atop the ties?  Please clarify. 

As I say, my yards tracks are already nailed down on the plywood surface and the feeder wires are already soldered to the rails. I could apply glue with a brush between the parallel yard tracks and then sprinkle the fine ballast onto the glued areas. But that leaves the area between the rails where I would sprinkle loose ballast without gluing it down because if I spray WS Scenic Cement between the rails, then sprinkle the ballast, it will stick to the ties which to me would appear unsighly. Plus, if I spray between the rails, I cannot avoid spraying glue on the rails unless I tape the rails first - - lots of work.

Having read the replies that follow, some of the guys put down the ballast first then apply the glue mix. I hesitate to do that because there is no way to evenly apply the ballast.

With some portions of my ground cover, there are areas that I wanted to look like mowed lawns so I applied undiluted glue first, then sprinkled "grass" on the wet surface, and when it dried I vacuumed up the excess. But I did that on relatively large areas where there were no obstacles like tracks.

So, I am stumped as to how to apply fine ballast in the yards.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 4:08 PM

Having read and re-read all of the replies, it seems that the way to accomplish my objective would be to spray WS Scenic Cement over the entire yard, perhaps covering the rails first to save a lot of clean up later, then sprinkling the fine ballast between the tracks, but not between the rails. When the Scenic Cement dries, I can vacuum up the excess leaving a nice even surface for workers to walk on. Then, while the rails are still taped, I could spray the WS Scenic Cement between the rails to secure the ballast between the ties. Does that make sense?

Rich

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Friday, May 22, 2020 4:30 PM

Rich,

Have you tried tapping the rail heads with the handle of a foam brush, using the foam brush to knock the ballast off of the ties.  I would suggest using scenic express ballast over the WS, due to the WS having a tendency to float.  

I would do between the rails first, then outside of the rails.  

 

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Posted by selector on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:06 PM

Rich, I would spray the broader expanses, but with the rails taped over completely with masking tape.  Then, when your yard soil is dry, go back, remove the tape, groom the same fill up to and even over the ties between the rails, and DRIBBLE a light glue mixture over that stuff.  You won't have to do a weird taping job of only the two rails in any one spot, and when you dribble the glue you only have to give the rail tops a cursory wipe with a dampened sheet remnant or something like that for insurance.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:08 PM

My error in ballasting is putting too much between the rails.   If there is too much, you necessarily have ballast on top the ties.

I mist with alcohol in a eye glass cleaner spray bottle which puts out an ultrafine mist.  I use one of those testors plastic droppers with dilute Elmers very close to the ballast. 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:13 PM

Hello All,

richhotrain
Any suggestions as to the best way to glue down ballast in the yards without getting it all over the ties?

Check out this thread...Instant Track-Tackit Ballast Adhesive Questions

To summarize the above thread...

I use DAP® Weldwood® Plastic Resin Glue to adhere the ballast on my pike.

This product is a fine powder that you can mix with any dry ingredient. This mixture can be easily manipulated before adhering. You can even vacuum it up before finalizing.

I mix 1-part glue powder to 4-parts ballast.

Liquid activates the glue.

To set the ballast/glue mixture simply wet with your favorite wetting solution- -minus any glue or adhesive.

For the wetting solution I use 91% isopropyl alcohol with a few drops of India ink; to cut down on the sheen of the powdered glue once dried.

I have had to remove sections of track ballasted with this method.

All I had to do was re-wet the section(s) in plain water and they released easily. To clean the track I simply soaked the sections in warm water.

Doing this, I was able to strain the soaking water and recover the ballast to serve another day.

Hope this helps.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:39 PM

BMMECNYC

I would suggest using scenic express ballast over the WS, due to the WS having a tendency to float. I would do between the rails first, then outside of the rails.   

I did use Scenic Express ballast, a 50/50 blend of light gray and dark gray, on my double mainline. I do prefer Scenic Express over Woodland Scenics, but I decided to go with Woodland Scenics Fine Dark Brown Ballast for the yards because there wasn't much color to choose from with Scenic Express, mostly shades of gray.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:39 PM

selector

Rich, I would spray the broader expanses, but with the rails taped over completely with masking tape.  Then, when your yard soil is dry, go back, remove the tape, groom the same fill up to and even over the ties between the rails, and DRIBBLE a light glue mixture over that stuff.  You won't have to do a weird taping job of only the two rails in any one spot, and when you dribble the glue you only have to give the rail tops a cursory wipe with a dampened sheet remnant or something like that for insurance. 

Thanks for the reply. Yeah, that may be the way to go.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:46 PM

BigDaddy

My error in ballasting is putting too much between the rails.   If there is too much, you necessarily have ballast on top the ties.

I mist with alcohol in a eye glass cleaner spray bottle which puts out an ultrafine mist.  I use one of those testors plastic droppers with dilute Elmers very close to the ballast. 

 

On my mainlines, I have been able to keep ballast off the ties though careful grooming. I could do the same in my yards and then spray glue over the settled and groomed ballast. But I am first looking for a method where I can apply the glue first and then sprinkle ballast. My problem with that approach though is how to keep the ballast off the wet ties so it doesn't stick on the top of the ties when the glue dries. I am beginning to wonder if I should pull up all of the yard track, spray Woodland Scenics Cement over the entire area, then sprinkle the ballast over the glued area. When it dries, vacuum up the excess ballast a nail down the yard tracks once again. Ugh, that would surely be a lot of work.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, May 22, 2020 5:48 PM

jjdamnit

Thanks, I will take a look at that thread.

Rich

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Friday, May 22, 2020 6:28 PM

richhotrain

 

 
BMMECNYC

I would suggest using scenic express ballast over the WS, due to the WS having a tendency to float. I would do between the rails first, then outside of the rails.   

 

 

I did use Scenic Express ballast, a 50/50 blend of light gray and dark gray, on my double mainline. I do prefer Scenic Express over Woodland Scenics, but I decided to go with Woodland Scenics Fine Dark Brown Ballast for the yards because there wasn't much color to choose from with Scenic Express, mostly shades of gray.

 

Rich

 

Check Arizona Rock and Mineral as well.  They have many different ballast colors, and its also real rock.  The Scenic Express Dirt turns a darker brown when you use Isopropyl Alcohol and diluted white glue.

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, May 22, 2020 6:49 PM

richhotrain
But I am first looking for a method where I can apply the glue first and then sprinkle ballast.

I guess I'm not understanding what the difficulty is. All my yard tracks were laid on flat sheet cork, painted, then I used the usual ballasting technique of spreading (I used Highball and Scenic Express fine cinders) as Paul said, lightly tapping the rail to settle the ballast between the ties and to level it out.

 PRR_6514_U25C by Edmund, on Flickr

In the yard I purposely allowed more cinders to lay on top of the ties just to make it look like "secondary" trackage.

 IMG_7814_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

The main line is in the foreground with two sidings beyond and the yard in the distance.

 IMG_7802_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

In this area where my Hulett ore unloaders are there is a lot of taconite and iron ore on the ground:

 PRR_Ore-dock4 by Edmund, on Flickr

I see there is a little thin spot in the foreground track. Easy to go back and add a little rather than try to temove ballast after having too much!

 PRR_Ore-dock3 by Edmund, on Flickr

Sprinkle, spread and level the ballast, stone, cinder or ore, very lightly mist with wet water then give it a liberal soaking with  cement (I like Mod-Podge, but everyone has their favorite) or matte medium.

I've never had reason to "spray" scenic cement. Lightly mist, but generously soak the scenic material, then dribble the glue on allowing capillary action to draw it into the material.

Again, I don't see the real issue with ballasting yards that is any different than ballasting main lines.

Hope that help, Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, May 22, 2020 8:20 PM

richhotrain
On my mainlines, I have been able to keep ballast off the ties though careful grooming. I could do the same in my yards and then spray glue over the settled and groomed ballast. But I am first looking for a method where I can apply the glue first and then sprinkle ballast. My problem with that approach though is how to keep the ballast off the wet ties so it doesn't stick on the top of the ties when the glue dries....

Rich, you're making more work because you're trying to do things in an awkward order.

Once the track is down and tested, dump some ballast on and around the track, and use a soft, 3/4" brush to level it out, dragging the brush with the handle almost parallel to the rails - this avoids firing ballast all over the place, as would occur if the brush were held vertically. 
Once you have the ballast spread and levelled to your particular standards, flip the brush around  and grasp the ferrule lightly between your thumb and forefinger, with the brush-handle laying across the rails.  Use the fingers of your free hand to lightly tap the bush handle, at a point fairly close to the hand holding the brush, as you move along the track.  Almost all of the ballast laying atop the ties will bounce off, landing either between the ties or outside of the rails.
I'd suggest doing this step for the entire yard, then spray the whole shebang with "wet" water - I know that you prefer alcohol and matte medium, but for a job that will be continuous and perhaps rather lengthy, alcohol evapourates too quickly, and you will lose its benefits.  You mentioned that Lake Michigan water is too hard, but I doubt that it's any harder than that here in Lake Ontario, which is only a half-mile or-so from here.  You can get a gallon of distilled water at any supermarket, likely for less than a buck, so add some dish detergent to it, and save your alcohol-buying dough for alcohol that you can enjoy while you're sitting in the layout room, admiring your work.
Once the entire area is wet - and I mean wet, not damp or sorta wet, but wet as in running-out-from-the-edges-of-the-ballast wet, it's time to add the diluted white glue.  You can still use the matte medium, though, if you wish, as it works perfectly well with "wet" water, too - I used it on an early portion of my layout

I don't have any modelled yards on my layout - all are staging yards, so no painted rail, and no ballast there, either.

However, I recently did some ballast and groundcover work on part of the upper level of my layout, and while it was done over several days, the sessions were pretty-much continuous.

I'll close this for now, but will attempt to come back soon with some pictures.

Wayne

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, May 22, 2020 9:53 PM

I had intended to show this dropper-type bottle that I use for adding the diluted white glue...

re-sized

I don't know its origin but have two of them - simply pull-up the cap which seals it, tip it over, and the droplets come out - also squeeze-able, when doing large areas or simply for faster applicatrion of the glue.  Since I can't recommend a source, a squeeze-type ketchup or mustard container should offer similar performance, with less-frequent re-filling.

Here's my basic supplies for adding ballast or groundcover, with, from left, a gallon jug of white glue, a gallon jug of diluted white glue, a smaller squeeze-able container that originally held matte medium, now filled with diluted white glue, followed by the dropper bottle for applying the diluted glue, and a good quality sprayer for pre-wetting everything before adding the diluted glue.

 

 

 

It's easiest to pour the diluted glue from the jug into the matte medium container, and when the dropper-type bottle requires re-filling, I simply pop the cap on the matte medium bottle and use the small opening in the lid to re-fill the dropper.

It usually takes me a couple, or a few hours to get all of the dry material applied and tidied-up, while wetting everything takes only a couple of minutes.  Adding the glue goes fairly quickly, but drying times are anywhere between a day and four or five days, the latter when the material is thickly applied - like an inch or more, as on this rock and ballast fill...

Upper level track photos... 001

Here's an over-all view of the area covered with ballast and ground cover...it's about 10' long and just over 2' wide.

 

While ballast, both rock and Woodland Scenics, along with real dirt (so fine, it's more like powder) and various  colours and sizes of ground fom are added before the pre-wetting, I also did quite a few areas with static grass.  It's applied after the area is pre-wetted and the diluted white glue (or matte medium) is applied..

A few photos...

An access road (Durabond) behind the roundhouse, along with some ground foam and static grass...

Views_at_Mount_Forest_service_area_9

...with a small parking lot for employees and deliveries...

Views_at_Mount_Forest_service_area_10_

...and cinder ballast on the roundhouse tracks...

 (two screens wide, as I

 

That's all for now - the text is being re-distributed at random, and the pictures sometimes moved from where I have placed them

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, May 22, 2020 10:15 PM

Well, this is the tracks at the roundhouse...

Views_at_Mount_Forest_service_area_11

 

...and the service area...

Views_at_Mount_Forest_service_area_12_

...the north end of the Waterous Engine Works, with the Mount Forest teamtrack in the foreground - real dirt and gravel, and lots of diluted white glue...

Waterous_Engine_Works_north_end

...and the south end ...

Waterous_Engine_Works_south_end

Here's the stuff that should have appeared in the previous post (it was there, but disappeared)

Basic_supplies_and_tools

Sorry, Rich, but things are spiralling out of control, both here and with  photobucket.

Wayne

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 23, 2020 5:16 AM

BMMECNYC

Check Arizona Rock and Mineral as well.  They have many different ballast colors, and its also real rock.  

Good idea. I did use Scenic Express real rock ballast for my mainlines, but I was disappointed in the lack of colors other than gray, so I reverted to my old choice of Woodland Scenics ballast. But I do prefer real rock so I am looking at Arizona Rock and Mineral. Lots of colors to select from. Thanks for the suggestion.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 23, 2020 5:20 AM

gmpullman
 

I guess I'm not understanding what the difficulty is. 

I've never had reason to "spray" scenic cement. Lightly mist, but generously soak the scenic material, then dribble the glue on allowing capillary action to draw it into the material.

Again, I don't see the real issue with ballasting yards that is any different than ballasting main lines.

Well, maybe there is no real difference between ballasting the mainlines and ballasting the yards. I am just looking for the best way to apply the yard ballast evenly. Lots of good ideas in the replies. I just have to make a final decision and then run with it.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 23, 2020 5:42 AM

doctorwayne

Rich, you're making more work because you're trying to do things in an awkward order.

Well, I am sure trying to do things in the right order; hence, this thread. This is my 3rd full layout since getting into HO scale back in early 2004. I did nothing right on the 1st layout, but then did a lot of things right on the 2nd layout. My goal with this most recent layout is to do everything right. I was not at all happy with my yard ballasting attempts on the first two layouts. So, on this layout, I am looking for relatively smooth surfaces, and I am looking for the best way to do it.

doctorwayne

I know that you prefer alcohol and matte medium, but for a job that will be continuous and perhaps rather lengthy, alcohol evapourates too quickly, and you will lose its benefits. 

For my mainlines, I have continued to use 70% isopropyl alcohol as a wetting agent, followed by a glue mix of matte medium/water. But on this layout, I have used white glue for ground cover, mainly because of the cost difference. I have flirted with the idea of using white glue for the yard ballast as well.

doctorwayne

You mentioned that Lake Michigan water is too hard

Not exactly. I did mention elsewhere that Lake Michigan water is relatively hard at 8.0 pH, but there is no need to soften the water at that level. So, not too hard, just hard.

Rich

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 11:00 AM

Woodland Scenics Ballast products are made from (I believe) crushed walnut shells.

This makes them very light.

My best advice is to soak them with a fine mist of water and a thinning agent, I use Kodak Photo-Flo, before applying glue. This needs to be applied in avery fine mist from above since the light ballast will move out of position easily.

Then I soak the area with white glue thinned about 10:1 with water and thinning agent added.

I stopped using Woodland Scenics ballast after I had a much easier time using ballast from Arizona Rock and Mineral.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 23, 2020 3:29 PM

I think you guys are right about Arizona Rock & Mineral versus Woodland Scenics.

I will look at some color samples from Arizona Rock & Mineral.

Rich

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