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N scale Ballast

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  • Member since
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N scale Ballast
Posted by Dukes on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:02 PM

Hey everyone! I have read a few threads on ballast here but am still searching for one that matches my area. I went out and took a picture today for reference. The one that looks the closest to me is Pink Lady from Superior Scenics. What do you think?

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Posted by HO-Velo on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 5:37 PM

Tough to choose.  Maybe a blend of Pink, Saddle and Sandy brown?  Perhaps Superior Scenics offers samples?  Real rock products can darken after the fixative is applied.

Regards, Peter

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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 6:00 PM

HO-Velo
Real rock products can darken after the fixative is applied.

 

Dukes, Peter makes a good point.  I know that my ballast darkened (which didn't bother me).  You may want to buy several different colored small containers and try putting whatever fixative you're going to use on them to see which one you may want.  

John  --  Saints Fan  

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Posted by Dukes on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 6:58 PM

HO-Velo
Maybe a blend of Pink, Saddle and Sandy brown?

Yes, it certainly seems to be a mix. I think the woodland scenics its much to uniform and the Arizona Rock and Mineral did not have any that looked quite right.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:18 PM

Hello All,

I harvest my own HO ballast from a nearby source.

The area is a low lying parking lot adjacent to a hillside. The runoff from the hillside collects in this area. 

The size of the particles run from what could best be described as pea-gravel size to fine sand.

I collect this material in 5-gallon buckets, bring it home wash, sift and sort into various sizes.

You can find garden sieves, with progressively finer mesh, on Amazon, ebay and gold panning shops. 

The final harvested products have the multi-colored appearance in your photos.

Because of the location of the source, near abandoned gold mines, it is not uncommon to find flakes of gold. Not enough to be profitable but it's exciting to see those little pieces. 

Look for a low lying area adjacent to the tracks you wish to model. Ideally you are looking for any runoff particles from the prototypical ballast. Initially this material might appear to be just dirt.

After collecting the material rinse it well and begin the sifting process.

For N scale ballast a common kitchen strainer would probably a size that is close to your needs- -think medium to coarse sand.  

Adding back in some of the larger particles might give you the appearance you are looking for, all for the price of the sifters.

Hope this helps.

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

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Posted by Dukes on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 6:26 AM

jjdamnit, That is a great idea! I will have to look around for a spot like you described. I have actaully done a little gold panning so I have a few sifters and things around. It's always fun to find gold even if its just a little! The rail line in my pictures is quite old, its the same line built by the Rutland Railroad in the 1800's. Its no doubt seen many different kinds of ballast over time, as the type of rock mined and moved in Vermont has changed over time.

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 9:50 AM

While as the photo shows, a close look at ballast shows many different shades and colors, the more you back away from it the more subtle those differences become.  Get far enough away and it becomes much more uniform looking.

You want to avoid a "salt and pepper" look.  Years ago there was an article in MR about blending ballast but I cannot seem to find it in the online index (which rarely works entirely anyway).  One way to get there is to use different companies' ballast of the same basic shade since those subtle differences will be inherent in different sources.  For example many firms offer C&NW "pink lady" ballast but no two are exactly the same.  (And the color of pink lady changed the deeper the original excavations got into the hillside that was the supply source).

As to brands for N, I really liked Highball ballast and used it selectively in  HO, but it has become hard to find to be sure.  Many guys in N seem to like Scenic Express's ballast.

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:14 PM

I think the OPs best bet would be to use a blend of different balast colors. The Superior scenics stuff looked really close, but based off the pictures on their website (which may or may not be good quality) I think the pinks are too muted and grey for you prototype. Maybe you could use that as a base and add a darker pink color from another brand. I think it would be a great idea to do some testing.

I have only balasted one time, and it didn't work out too well. I use a medium grade light grey balast from woodland scenics. It had three big issues. One, is was all one color, which made it look very boring and unrealistic to me, second it was too big, I felt like alot less individual stones fit between each tie than I see on the real thing, and third, it floated up on the water and glue mixture I used to secure it in place. Next time I do balasting I will definately use a mix of colors that is finer and also real rock of something else that won't move as easily.

Hope this was helpful!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, June 20, 2019 12:03 AM

SPSOT fan
...and third, it floated up on the water and glue mixture I used to secure it in place....

If your ballast floats, it's usually due to insufficient pre-wetting.  While many use alcohol as a pre-wetting agent, it seems to me that it evapourates too quickly, especially if you're doing fairly long stretches of track, not to mention the added expense.  I use ordinary tap water with a few drops of dish detergent, applied using a sprayer capable of delivering a fairly fine mist of droplets.  First spray is upwards, letting the droplets simply fall, then, once the ballast has been dampened, it can be sprayed directly. 
I have many areas where the ballast and sub-ballast is quite deep, and spray until the water appears at the bottom of the material.  It would seem that you can't make it too wet.  Once sufficiently wetted, the ballast will not float, and when the glue has dried (several days where ballast is deep), the ballast and sub-ballast will be hard right through, not just a hardened crust on the top....

Wayne

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, June 20, 2019 4:03 AM

Dukes
I think the woodland scenics its much to uniform and the Arizona Rock and Mineral did not have any that looked quite right.

Hi, Dukes

I model in HO and, for my tastes, most ballast marketed for HO is too coarse for me. I was spoiled by having Smith & Son's ballast (they were the original suppliers to Scenic Express) right down the road from me. I did stock up on Highball ballast any time I found it at train shows. I've tried several types of Woodland Scenics ballast and did not care for them at all.

Which brings me to your mentioning Arizona Rock & Mineral. A few years ago I decided to try some of their offerings. One of the several I chose was called Kaibab and they listed it as a New York Central ballast although I don't ever recall seeing this particular color used anywhere on the NYC.

 AZ_Ballast1 by Edmund, on Flickr

Above you see the HO Kaibab ballast as it comes out of the bag.

 AZ_Ballast by Edmund, on Flickr

This scene uses Kaibab HO along the edges of the left track and N scale, 50% Kaibab and 50% medium gray Highball ballast blended used between the ties and tie ends. Then N scale cinders from Highball on the right track.

 AZ_Ballast2 by Edmund, on Flickr

Here is a close-up of the 50/50 N scale mix and straight HO Kaibab on the berms.

 AZ_Ballast3 by Edmund, on Flickr

IF you decide to try a commercial brand the Kaibab from Arizona might be a good match for you. Of course, scenery choices are subjective and my photos may reproduce differently due to lighting or computer monitor variables.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by Dukes on Friday, June 21, 2019 4:40 AM

gmpullman
IF you decide to try a commercial brand the Kaibab from Arizona might be a good match for you. Of course, scenery choices are subjective and my photos may reproduce differently due to lighting or computer monitor variables.

I have to say that I like the color variation in the Kaibib. The fact that its called Limestone also fits with the New York - New England area. Thanks for the clear photos, I think this is what I'm going to go with!

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Posted by bearman on Thursday, June 27, 2019 5:30 PM

I am a die hard Arizona Rock and Minerals fan.  Real rock, not the WS walnut shells.  Never used any other brand for ballast.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, June 27, 2019 9:29 PM

bearman
Real rock, not the WS walnut shells.

Agree 100%.

Dukes
I have to say that I like the color variation in the Kaibib.

I hope it works out for you. It doesn't hurt to have a few bags of complimentary colors or larger sizes for use in culverts or along the edges of the right-of-way.

Maybe a little tricky in N scale but I sometimes "weather" the ballast after it is dry with a light overspray, using an airbrush, of shades of dark gray. On some roads the predominant uphill track was much lighter in color due to the constant application of sand from the locomotive sanders operating.

Look at the variations here, from bright white to nearly jet-black due to age, oil leaks, fresh ballast re-applications, etc.

 Rails_0004 copy 2 by Edmund, on Flickr

Cheers, Ed

 

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, June 27, 2019 9:42 PM

Smile, Wink & Grin  I concur.  

Rocks sink.  Nut shells float. 

Which would you rather use after you have broken the surface tension, then adding liquid adhesive of your choice on topYes

TF

 

Arizona rock and mineral fan here tooThumbs Up , ain't no better.  

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