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Fine or medium ballast

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Fine or medium ballast
Posted by Andy110675 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 3:54 AM

What do you all use for ballast on an HO layout.Some say medium some say fine,wld the fine ballast be too small one guy on youtube says medium ballast is not scale looking and appears too big?

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Posted by mobilman44 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 6:02 AM

Just finished ballasting my HO layout earlier in the year.  Used all kinds of methods and types of ballast - mostly HO but some N.   I found that the N scale real rock stuff was easiest to work with and looks awfully good.

I used Arizona rock in N and it would be my choice for future layouts.   I noticed there is a number of Ebay auctions out there with some good deals.

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by gdelmoro on Sunday, December 31, 2017 6:17 AM

Mobileman44 has it right! In the end it’s up to you but here are some guidelines I use.

Really close up i’ll Use a mix of HO medium and fine. As you move away from your viewing point (talking about a layout that is 12’ deep) I use HO fine and toward the back N scale rock.

Place some in different locations on your layout and photograph it. See if you like it.

Take one of your HO figures look at the hand, now look at the ballast you’r planning on using and see if you think it‘s size looks realistic or is the figure holding a bolder!

Gary

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:01 AM

Andy110675
one guy on youtube says medium ballast is not scale looking and appears too big?

I vote with that guy on youtube.

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by eaglescout on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:08 AM
In my opinion some things of very small size look wrong though in scale. Fine ballast to me just looks like powder from a few feet away. Medium at least shows some definition though it is out of scale but not enough to bother me.
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Posted by RR_Mel on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:34 AM

I also use Arizona Rock ballast.  I use their HO scale ballast on my layout.  My memories from the 1950s of the SP in El Paso TX was large black rocks, the size of my fist so that is what I went with.  I also use a light mix of Arizona Rock CSX/Southern Pacific/Wabash Grey for gravel roads.
 
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
  
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:36 AM

I use ''fines'' from my driveway,ran thru a screen. Picked out the pile that I liked, no clue as to is it fine or coarse or ?

Pick the oneyou think looks best to you. If you like it ,it can't be wrong.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:52 AM

It depends on your eye, and what you want to do with the scene on your layout.

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Ballast that is true scale size will be very fine, and might not look right to the naked eye. The texture will look to smooth, and it will look more like asphault than rocks. There are several items on your layout that might not look "right" when scaled correctly. 

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To my eye, medium ballast looks best.

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However... if you are planning to take a lot of photographs, you mighty need to go with fine ballast closer to scale size. To the camera, scale looks correct.

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I build my models to look good to my eye, and let the photographs suffer. I spend more time looking at my toys than taking pictures of them.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by oldline1 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 9:55 AM

Well, I don't think there's any "standard" fine, medium or large size established. I think each manufacturer decides on that for himself.

I like Highball ballast and use their medium ballast in HO most of the time. Most of us use rail heights larger than real life so the medium looks right. Using just fine makes the rails and ties look way too big to me.

I use the fine as roads or their fine cinders & coal around my coal mines and yard areas. I like the look.

I combined fine and medium together once and it looked all wrong to me.

oldline1

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Posted by Andy110675 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 11:35 AM

Thanks for all the advice,im going to go for medium and as i wont be taking photos so if it looks right to the eye then thats fine with me.I will use a model as a guide and go from there.Thanks again.My layout is only around 16 ft x 7ft U shapped so it doesnt really dissapear into the distance.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 11:37 AM

oldline1
Using just fine makes the rails and ties look way too big to me.

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Thank OldLine.

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That is a great explanation of the point I was trying to make. Sometimes correct scale will not look right.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by Andy110675 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 11:52 AM

Bit difficult to purchase Arizona ballast as i live in the uk

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:29 PM

I'm sure you have dirt in the UK. Take a look around,run it thru a couple screens. You may be supprised what you can get for free

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 4:51 PM

It was recommended to use Scenic Express SE0253 #40 Natural Stone to ballast my HO track.  It looks good to me and about the right coarseness.

http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/Scenic-Express-Dk-Gray-Ballast-p/scx-se0253.htm

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Sunday, December 31, 2017 4:53 PM

Andy110675

Bit difficult to purchase Arizona ballast as i live in the uk

Hint, you don't have to physically go to Arizona to get Arizona ballast Wink You do know about ordering online with a credit card right?  

Of course since it's probably relatively heavy stuff, and weight is a big factor in shipping costs, it may be much more economical for you to order ballast local in the UK.  Cheers (btw, I'm married to a Brit but dragged her across the pond).

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, January 01, 2018 4:27 AM

Andy110675

What do you all use for ballast on an HO layout.Some say medium some say fine,wld the fine ballast be too small one guy on youtube says medium ballast is not scale looking and appears too big?

 

I see an opportunity here to start a business and make an appearance on Shark Tank.

Since TT scale falls right between HO scale and N scale, make your own ballast in TT scale. It should look just right.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Andy110675 on Monday, January 01, 2018 5:28 AM

There is a limestone quarry close by that they use for cement so i may go there and purchase some shouldnt be to difficult as my uncle is shift manager

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, January 01, 2018 9:50 AM

Andy110675
There is a limestone quarry close by

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Curious...

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What color is limestone in the UK? Here in South Florida, USA, limestone is almost pure white, and it looks terrible on layouts.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, January 01, 2018 4:54 PM

SeeYou190

Curious...

What color is limestone in the UK? Here in South Florida, USA, limestone is almost pure white, and it looks terrible on layouts.

-Kevin

Most limestone I've seen is a light gray to gray.  I studied geology at Indiana University (BS and MS) and there were limestone quarry's near the town - light gray to gray in color.  I also saw quite a bit of it while at field camp up in Montana gray to light gray. 

I don't think I've ever seen white limestone but I learned as a geology student, color is one of the least reliable features that you can use to identify rocks.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, January 01, 2018 11:49 PM

My personal choice is for fine ballast on HO track. I always liked the comparison of measuring the size of ballast against the size of a scale human hand. You can get your fingers around most real ballast (althought I understand that that might have changed in recent times).

I also like the observation that some things don't scale well. Sand is a good example. In HO you would not be able to see individual grains of sand, but if you simply paint your sandpile flat beige it doesn't look right IMHO. It looks 'toylike'. If you add real sand I think the appearance improves dramatically, but in reality the sand grains would be the size of coarse gravel that would never pass through a locomotive's sanding systems.

The ultimate test is "Does it look good to you?" Nothing else matters.

This discussion brings back painful memories from our club's portable layout. When the layout was first built someone decided to mix large white rocks in with the brown medium grade ballast. It looked ridiculous! Definitely not prototypical. It looked more like an attempt at a rock garden than real ballast. Several of us decided to change the ballast to get rid of the rocks, and to fix some other problems. The club had been given a large quantity of black medium ballast so we dutifully soaked and scraped the old stuff out and installed the new stuff. We were all very happy with the results. Then, one member, who believes he can do anything he wants on the layout without consulting other members, decided to add something to the black ballast. You guessed it - he glued white boulders onto the new ballast. We were back where we started. In fact we were further behind because he added a few brightly coloured flowers and shrubs along the edge of the ballast too.

I will make two points:

1. Regardless of which ballast you choose, it should all be of a consistent size.

2. Learn when enough is enough!

Dave

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Posted by Andy110675 on Tuesday, January 02, 2018 2:49 AM

Limestone that i see here is a sandy beige colour i was only going to use it as a base before the ballast and grasses etc.Type in google images limestone dust there are numerous different shades and colours.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, January 04, 2018 3:23 PM

Hello all,

I harvest my ballast from a source outside of the town of Central City here in Colorado, also know as "The richest square mile on earth."

The source of my ballast material is produced by rain runoff of the surrounding hills. There is still gold in this material.

I have managed to harvest this gold in minute quantities. Not enough to be monetarily valuable but it is still a thrill to look in the bottom of the gold pan and see flecks of gold!

The frist step is collecting the "raw" material in a 5-gallon bucket. I use a gold paners classifier/sifter. The holes are 3/4-inch on the diagonal. Anything larger is discarded.

Once the material is brought home it is washed to get rid of the dirt. I simply put a hose in the bucket and allow the lighter material to float off and allow the dirt to settle to the bottom of the bucket.

Occasionally stirring this slurry to separate the dirt from the rest of the material during this step.

Then, I pass the material through a series of sieves with smaller and smaller holes until the final collection is about the size of sand. Washing each passing as necessary.

From all the separations I choose the appropriate size or combinations from each sifting.

The resulting color of the ballast is mostly tan and pink with pieces of white quartz and the occasional black pieces of granite along with flecks of gold.

Here in Colorado there are many active and abandoned rail lines. I have collected samples of prototypical ballast from many sources.

Some of the modern mainlines (BNSF) use granite ballast that is up to an inch in diameter and two inches long with a light gray color.

While some of the older abandoned lines used cinders or gravel about 1/4-inch in diameter and everything in between.

Many prototypical railroads used locally sourced ballast. There is a remaining portion of an abandoned line outside of Buena Vista, Colorado, that uses the surrounding pure white quartz as ballast.

On one corner of my pike I have used this locally sourced pure white quartz ballast to replicate the line passing through this area.

Unless you are modeling a specific line; with prototypical ballast, don't be afraid to take a shovel, sieve and bucket and harvest and classify your own ballast from your particular region.

Hope this helps.

 

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, January 04, 2018 6:10 PM

hon30critter
Sand is a good example. In HO you would not be able to see individual grains of sand, but if you simply paint your sandpile flat beige it doesn't look right IMHO.

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Great example.

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The old HO scale Tyco sandhouse had an excellent "sand pile" included in the kit. It had the shape of an actual sand pile, which is kind of weird looking, sand does not pile up like gravel, and it had a believable texture when painted.

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The rest of the kit was garbage.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, January 04, 2018 6:31 PM

riogrande5761
I don't think I've ever seen white limestone but I learned as a geology student, color is one of the least reliable features that you can use to identify rocks.

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Here is a picture taken at the APAC limestone quarry in Golden Gate, Florida.

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My service truck is white (the Dodge on the left, real small in the picture), you can see the limestone is almost as white as the truck.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by Andy110675 on Friday, January 05, 2018 10:18 AM

I think your right it isnt the right colour.Someone suggested using sand then painting over it to give a texture,this is just for ground cover not ballast what are your thoughts on that.Im strugling here to find anything suitable its all just soil and clay.I went all over the other day to look for suitable ground cover but as usual everyhting is piss wet through.Off topic this but im curentlly installing bus wire or should i say trying,does my bust wire need to route back to anything or does it just stop at the end of the layout? and how many bus wires do you need my layout is only 16ft long U shape 7ft widest point at the end and shelfs are around 3ft there abouts.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, January 06, 2018 8:47 AM

Andy110675
Someone suggested using sand then painting over it to give a texture,this is just for ground cover not ballast what are your thoughts on that

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In Model Railroading very few people paint their ballast, that is why it is available in so many colors.

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In wargaming, almost everyone paints the rocks used as ground cover. If youi cannot find a suitably colored rock, you might need to paint it.

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Something called "hen gravel" that people buy in feed supply stores works very well in for larger scatterings.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, January 06, 2018 9:02 AM

I bought  new of oil dry, and after opening it, I was surprised how great the fines looked for ballast.

I had to point this out to the wife, she just shook her head and smiled.  She knows how I constantly scrutinize eveything I see, as to it's potential for modeling.

Andy110675
Off topic this but im curentlly installing bus wire or should i say trying,does my bust wire need to route back to anything or does it just stop at the end of the layout? and how many bus wires do you need my layout is only 16ft long U shape 7ft widest point at the end and shelfs are around 3ft there abouts.

Andy, take this over to the electrical and DCC forum.  More people will see it.

Mike.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Saturday, January 06, 2018 10:58 AM

SeeYou190

Here is a picture taken at the APAC limestone quarry in Golden Gate, Florida.

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My service truck is white (the Dodge on the left, real small in the picture), you can see the limestone is almost as white as the truck.

- Kevin

 

Oh, I believe you.  As I mentioned earlier, in my geology classes, we were taught that color is one of the least reliable feature you can use to identify a type of rock or mineral (others being hardness, acid test, cleavage, crystal habit, etc.)  The reason is there are other impurities or minerals in with the Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) which alters natural color of the mineral. 

Out west in Montana and Wyoming where I spent 6 weeks field camp after my senior year, there was a often was Manganese mixed in with the Calciaum Carbonate which was called Dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2).  The field test for distinguishing them apart (because they often looked alike) was that Calcium Carbonate would fizz when you put a couple drops of 10% hydrochloric acid on them.  Dolomite would not fiz if you put HCl on it, but if you powdered the Dolomite, it would react and fiz because you liberated enough of the Calcium Caronate for it to react with the HCl acid.

Bottom line for ballasting RR track is to copy what the railroad does, and match their ballast. For example, D&RGW in the 1970's used a lot of cinders so thats my marching orders.

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by Andy110675 on Saturday, January 06, 2018 11:29 AM

Thanks everyone great help as always

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Posted by kasskaboose on Saturday, January 06, 2018 8:11 PM

hon30critter

I will make two points:

1. Regardless of which ballast you choose, it should all be of a consistent size.

2. Learn when enough is enough!

Dave

 

 
Dave,
 
Some great MR articles discuss ballasting yards and they mention mixing various colors/types of ballast.  For the mainline,  agree with your 1st point but not sure if that applies to the yards.  I would think yards tend to appear less "clean" than the mains.

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