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Ballasting turnouts

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  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 14 posts
Posted by UES Nscaler on Monday, July 17, 2017 9:54 AM

Meanwhile, I have completed the ballasting of my N scale freight yard layout. Here’s a summary of what I did and what I have learned when ballasting hand-laid turnouts and crossovers. 

I always worked in small batches – I did one turnout at a time and finished it before proceeding to the next one. In case something goes wrong, you need to focus 100% on that problem and you can't deal with multiple issues at the same time.  I worked carefully and with patience (following Cody Grivno’s advice in his video). I used appropriate tools to apply ballast, isopropyl alcohol, and glue in a very targeted manner (forget the spray bottle!). I always started with the outside of the turnouts, working towards the center. By doing the shoulders first the more delicate parts of the switch get walled off from wandering glue. Perhaps even more critical than controlling the flow of PVA glue is the controlling of the isopropyl alcohol as it acts as a fluxing agent to the glue. The smaller the amount of isopropyl alcohol and diluted PVA glue that your tools can apply, the better. I switched from my syringe to a pipette as it allowed me to better control the amount of alcohol and glue. 

I covered painter’s tape to cover the throw-bar and the hinges of the turnout, but only while adding ballast. As soon as began to apply alcohol I removed the tape. You need to see where the stuff flows and you need to be able to step in immediately when alcohol or glue spreads where it shouldn't! I used a cotton swab and a micro brush to absorb glue and to clean ties and rails that should stay dry. 

For the outside of the turnouts and the area between turnouts, I always followed the sequence ballast-alcohol-glue. For ballasting the inside between the rail and ties I switched to the glue-ballast sequence. The amount of ballast that will stick to the roadbed is smaller but that’s okay – it matches the prototype. 

After the ballasting procedure, I cleaned up the web of the rails from glued ballast. Also, I removed all ballast between guard and wing rails and the frog immediately by using a tooth pick or even a small screwdriver. As it was suggested here, lubricating the throw-bar and the point rails with an oil or graphite powder also helped avoiding sticky turnouts. I used both Labelle 108 and Kadee Greas-em graphite in small amounts. A word of caution, though, when using graphite. In one case of lubricating a throw-bar, I must have applied it a bit too generously and it caused a short. I let Peter (HO Velo) comment on his tests with graphite and his conclusions. I had better follow his suggestion for using a non-conducting lubricant like Molykote Z instead of graphite. 

Ballasted tracks, turnouts and crossovers

Thanks again everyone for your valuable help. I did not need to resort to some of your suggested techniques, like using textured spray. It was good to know that there would be a plan B in case things went wrong. That gave me the confidence to ballast my layout without wrecking it. Check out my blog if you are interested in more details and photos.  

Regards, Andreas

www.harlemrivercrossways.com/blog

 

  • Member since
    November, 2007
  • From: California
  • 934 posts
Posted by HO-Velo on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 1:50 PM

UES Nscaler

Meanwhile, I have completed the ballasting of my N scale freight yard layout. Here’s a summary of what I did and what I have learned when ballasting hand-laid turnouts and crossovers. 

I always worked in small batches – I did one turnout at a time and finished it before proceeding to the next one. In case something goes wrong, you need to focus 100% on that problem and you can't deal with multiple issues at the same time.  I worked carefully and with patience (following Cody Grivno’s advice in his video). I used appropriate tools to apply ballast, isopropyl alcohol, and glue in a very targeted manner (forget the spray bottle!). I always started with the outside of the turnouts, working towards the center. By doing the shoulders first the more delicate parts of the switch get walled off from wandering glue. Perhaps even more critical than controlling the flow of PVA glue is the controlling of the isopropyl alcohol as it acts as a fluxing agent to the glue. The smaller the amount of isopropyl alcohol and diluted PVA glue that your tools can apply, the better. I switched from my syringe to a pipette as it allowed me to better control the amount of alcohol and glue. 

I covered painter’s tape to cover the throw-bar and the hinges of the turnout, but only while adding ballast. As soon as began to apply alcohol I removed the tape. You need to see where the stuff flows and you need to be able to step in immediately when alcohol or glue spreads where it shouldn't! I used a cotton swab and a micro brush to absorb glue and to clean ties and rails that should stay dry. 

For the outside of the turnouts and the area between turnouts, I always followed the sequence ballast-alcohol-glue. For ballasting the inside between the rail and ties I switched to the glue-ballast sequence. The amount of ballast that will stick to the roadbed is smaller but that’s okay – it matches the prototype. 

After the ballasting procedure, I cleaned up the web of the rails from glued ballast. Also, I removed all ballast between guard and wing rails and the frog immediately by using a tooth pick or even a small screwdriver. As it was suggested here, lubricating the throw-bar and the point rails with an oil or graphite powder also helped avoiding sticky turnouts. I used both Labelle 108 and Kadee Greas-em graphite in small amounts. A word of caution, though, when using graphite. In one case of lubricating a throw-bar, I must have applied it a bit too generously and it caused a short. I let Peter (HO Velo) comment on his tests with graphite and his conclusions. I had better follow his suggestion for using a non-conducting lubricant like Molykote Z instead of graphite. 

Ballasted tracks, turnouts and crossovers

Thanks again everyone for your valuable help. I did not need to resort to some of your suggested techniques, like using textured spray. It was good to know that there would be a plan B in case things went wrong. That gave me the confidence to ballast my layout without wrecking it. Check out my blog if you are interested in more details and photos.  

Regards, Andreas

www.harlemrivercrossways.com/blog

 

 

UES Nscaler
comment on his tests with graphite and his conclusions

Andreas,  Good of you to follow-up with your successful ballasting methods and the not so good result of lubing PCB ties with graphite.  I'll post the results from my little PCB tie/graphite bench tests on the general discussion section of the forum.

BTW, your track work is excellent.

Regards,  Peter

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 14 posts
Posted by UES Nscaler on Thursday, July 20, 2017 8:51 AM

HO-Velo
I'll post the results from my little PCB tie/graphite bench tests on the general discussion section of the forum.

Thanks, Peter, for your great help. There's actually one more reason for using Kadee Greas'em graphite sparingly. Every single particle of graphite that ended up on the ballast instead of the PCB tie was very well visible. The little crystals reflect the light in a very irritating (polarized?) way. Better to mask everything that should not get graphite before applying it.

Andreas

  • Member since
    November, 2007
  • From: California
  • 934 posts
Posted by HO-Velo on Saturday, July 22, 2017 9:28 AM

Andreas, de nada.  I know what you mean about the unnatural shine of the graphite, especially in places where it's been burnished, and quite noticeable in photos too.  The same is true of Molykote Z.

Regards,  Peter 

  • Member since
    April, 2017
  • 3 posts
Posted by Dennis S. - Central Rockies RR on Thursday, July 27, 2017 6:02 PM

Hi,

I know this is late but might be useful to tuck away for a future build. I have mixed dry, powdered wood glue with my ballast. Laid the ballast where I needed it and cleaned off the surplus. After I was sure that everything was working and clear, I misted it with wet water, thus setting the glue. This solution is virtually permanent but works. The glue is a powdered resin wood glue made by a variety of manufacturers. 

Anyway, my 1 cents worth. 

Dennis

Heap-Big Chief Engineer & COO

JMK
  • Member since
    April, 2012
  • 8 posts
Posted by JMK on Saturday, July 29, 2017 5:55 PM

I just spray them with WD40.  Never had a problem.

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 14 posts
Posted by UES Nscaler on Sunday, July 30, 2017 6:08 PM

Dennis S. - Central Rockies RR
I have mixed dry, powdered wood glue with my ballast. Laid the ballast where I needed it and cleaned off the surplus. After I was sure that everything was working and clear, I misted it with wet water, thus setting the glue. This solution is virtually permanent but works.

Sounds like a very smart approach to ballasting critical parts of track. How long does it take to cure?

Andreas

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 22,978 posts
Posted by rrinker on Sunday, July 30, 2017 6:59 PM

 Wow - an N scale version of Bronx Terminal? That is absolutely amazing. I was blown away by the custom trackwork Tim Warris did for an HO version, but to do it in N scale - holy cow! Amazing stuff.

                             --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 14 posts
Posted by UES Nscaler on Monday, July 31, 2017 5:45 PM

Thanks, Randy. Besides building the CNJ Bronx Terminal in HO, Tim Warris also demonstrated that N scale is feasible with his method and tools. His N scale sections are in Code 40, though. I built mine with Code 55 which made it a bit easier. 

Andreas

www.harlemrivercrossways.com/blog

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