Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Ballast - Preferred Gluing Techniques

1458 views
64 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 14, 2020 12:08 AM

wp8thsub
 
richhotrain
...I can find nothing on the Scenic Express web site or on the bottle of ballast warning against the use of isopropyl alcohol. 

It may have been on an older container.  I got my initial stuff when it may have still been something of a trial product.   The labeling on the newer containers I have still recommends water + detergent, but they no longer have any wording about alcohol.  Every time I get more the label seems to be different. 

I emailed Scenic Express early on Thursday morning, but I have not received a reply yet.

Initially, I bought two one quart bottles of ballast that arrived earlier this week. There are no instructions on the bottle at all. On the Scenic Express web site, there is no mention of isopropyl alcohol. The only mention of any wetting agent is their proprietary product that they call Super Wet Hydrous Solution.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 9,438 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Friday, February 14, 2020 5:13 AM

A while back, Scenic Express was selling Smith & Son's real stone ballast. I reordered some a year or two past and an entirely different product was delivered.

I talked to one or their principals at one of the local train shows and he said, yes, we did change the suppliers and the recent stuff does have some kind of dye or coating on it.

Harley and Dale Smith lived only a few miles from me but both passed away not long ago and thus their ballast business ceased as well.

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 14, 2020 5:40 AM

gmpullman

A while back, Scenic Express was selling Smith & Son's real stone ballast. I reordered some a year or two past and an entirely different product was delivered.

I talked to one or their principals at one of the local train shows and he said, yes, we did change the suppliers and the recent stuff does have some kind of dye or coating on it.

Harley and Dale Smith lived only a few miles from me but both passed away not long ago and thus their ballast business ceased as well.

Regards, Ed 

I am beginning to have an uneasy feeling about this whole issue.

I have read other references to Smith & Son Ballast including some comments that Scenic Express used Smith & Son as a supplier at some point. I just found a reference that indicated that the father, Harley, passed away in 2017 and the son, Dale, died in 2018.

What bothers me most is Ed's comment that Scenic Express has recently changed suppliers and that the recent stuff does have some kind of dye or coating on it. So, am I and others relying on outdated information about the quality of Scenic Express ballast?

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: Grew up in Calif, left in 84, now in Virginia
  • 7,290 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 14, 2020 6:00 AM

Either way, it can't hurt using detergent as Rob suggested and omitting the alcohol.  If you use alcohol, it may result in the bubbles, might not.  You can try a test section and see what happens.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 14, 2020 6:27 AM

I just went back and did a closer review of the Scenic Express web site. 

On the Ballast & Stone page, the heading reads Natural Stone & Aggregate Scale Ballast. The sub-heading reads Scenic Express - Woodland Scenics - Smith & Son. On the Track Ballast page, one of the product offerings is labelled Lightweight. When you click on the Lightweight link, it reads in red letters Lightweight Ballast is made from natural Walnut Shell crushed and screen to exacting size. Persons with nut allergies may need to take caution while working with this style of ballast.

I assume that the Lightweight ballast is the Woodland Scenics product. My test samples that I ordered from Scenic Express were listed under the Natural Stone link, so I assume that it is real rock, source unknown. That said, I remain concerned by Ed's comment that the recent stuff has some kind of dye or coating on it.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,269 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, February 14, 2020 7:29 AM

 I have never had an issue with WS ballast. If it's walnut shells, they are VERY hard. Must be dyed, too, since walnut shells are not grey, but the alcohol never caused any issues with it. And I have never had it float away - probably because I use alcohol as a wetting agent, which is going to be better than a few drops of soap in some water. Others have resorted to adding other wetting agents to water, but is that photo stuff even still available these days since film photography and particularly do it yourself developing has nearly gone the way of the dodo? 

 I live close enough to the quarry that the Reading got much of their ballast stone from, I could probably get the ACTUAL stone, not just similar stone, but I'm not sure the effort to crush and screen it are really worth the effort. Actual rock scale ballast suppliers - I'm not sure why they would have to add dyes to simple grey stone. Maybe some of the other colors are not readily available to the ballast maker and might be dyed.

Easy enough to test if you have some of the ballast on hand. Pour a little alcohol in a cup, and add a little of the ballast. Let it soak for several hours, overnight even, then dry it off. COmpare to ballast fresh out of the jug. If it had an alcohol reactive dye on it, the stuff that soaked in the alcohol is going to look a lot different.

 

                                      --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 2007
  • From: Grew up in Calif, left in 84, now in Virginia
  • 7,290 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 14, 2020 11:27 AM

What Rob mentioned earlier was assuredly real rock ballast.  I'm sure he can tell the difference between rock ballast and crushed walnut ballast.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 14, 2020 1:43 PM

riogrande5761

What Rob mentioned earlier was assuredly real rock ballast.  I'm sure he can tell the difference between rock ballast and crushed walnut ballast. 

I wasn't addressing those comments toward Rob or anyone else in particular. I merely posted those links from the Scenic Express web site so the forum members in general who may be following this thread can be informed that Scenic Express sells ballast from several different sources, including both real rock and not so real rock.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,269 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, February 14, 2020 2:11 PM

 The only thing under the lightweight side is large stuff for O scale. That doesn;t mention a manufacturer. But if you go a page or two down, then they are simply reselling Woodland Scenics. Now, maybe it's ALL made by Woodland Scenics, but at least the larger size that they sell in up to a 5 gallon pail appears to be branded as their own - kind of like store branded stuff at the grocery store. In many cases, it's the same thing made by a known name manufacturer, but with the store's private label.

 If you go over the the real rock ballast page, underneath the heading it mentions Scenic Express, Smith & Son, and Woodland Scenics. Well, most certainly they no longer are selling SMith & Son, but they have stuff under their own name, as well as WS. 

 Only other thing I really saw is that for their own branded stuff, it says it is sealed so that it doesn't darken when matte medium is applied. So just what do they apply to the ballast? Is it soluable in isopropyl? 

 I'm all for trying new things if they improve the process. Otherwise I never would have tried caulking track down. But having tried both water and alcohol, I see no reason to change back to water when the alcohol works great.

                                                     --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
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,644 posts
Posted by dehusman on Friday, February 14, 2020 2:21 PM

I use Arizona Rock & Mineral.  Its real rock and the best ballast I have used so far.  It doesn't bead up when water is sprayed/misted on it.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: Grew up in Calif, left in 84, now in Virginia
  • 7,290 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 14, 2020 5:05 PM

richhotrain
 

I wasn't addressing those comments toward Rob or anyone else in particular. I merely posted those links from the Scenic Express web site so the forum members in general who may be following this thread can be informed that Scenic Express sells ballast from several different sources, including both real rock and not so real rock.

 Rich 

I never knew Scenic Express sold anything but real rock ballast.  If the sold not so real rock, I wouldn't buy it.   

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 14, 2020 5:13 PM

rrinker

Easy enough to test if you have some of the ballast on hand. Pour a little alcohol in a cup, and add a little of the ballast. Let it soak for several hours, overnight even, then dry it off. COmpare to ballast fresh out of the jug. If it had an alcohol reactive dye on it, the stuff that soaked in the alcohol is going to look a lot different. 

rrinker

Only other thing I really saw is that for their own branded stuff, it says it is sealed so that it doesn't darken when matte medium is applied. So just what do they apply to the ballast? Is it soluable in isopropyl?                                          

OK, I will give that a try.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    November 2002
  • From: US
  • 2,309 posts
Posted by wp8thsub on Friday, February 14, 2020 6:01 PM

richhotrain
What bothers me most is Ed's comment that Scenic Express has recently changed suppliers and that the recent stuff does have some kind of dye or coating on it. So, am I and others relying on outdated information about the quality of Scenic Express ballast?

All of the Scenic Express ballast I've used is the replacement product for the Smith & Sons material (i.e. I am using the current product - and the trial containers I had were probably the first of it available).  

It's a real rock material that has been dyed for ballast use, as far as I know.  Every recommendation I have made for Scenic Express ballast is for the current stuff (real rock with coloration added).  I initially came across the Scenic Express branded ballast when looking for Smith & Sons, only to find out it was no longer available.  I tried the new stuff and immediately liked it.

Rob Spangler

  • Member since
    November 2002
  • From: US
  • 2,309 posts
Posted by wp8thsub on Friday, February 14, 2020 6:03 PM

rrinker
Only other thing I really saw is that for their own branded stuff, it says it is sealed so that it doesn't darken when matte medium is applied. So just what do they apply to the ballast? Is it soluable in isopropyl? 

I can attest to the fact that it doesn't change coloration or dissolve with alcohol.  Alcohol just didn't soak in very well.

Rob Spangler

  • Member since
    November 2002
  • From: US
  • 2,309 posts
Posted by wp8thsub on Friday, February 14, 2020 6:08 PM

riogrande5761
What Rob mentioned earlier was assuredly real rock ballast.  I'm sure he can tell the difference between rock ballast and crushed walnut ballast.

  You never know, Jim. Sometimes I ain't too sharp.  Smile, Wink & Grin  The ballast I'm using is real rock though.  At least it tastes like it...Dunce

Rob Spangler

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 15, 2020 5:38 AM

wp8thsub
 
rrinker
Only other thing I really saw is that for their own branded stuff, it says it is sealed so that it doesn't darken when matte medium is applied. So just what do they apply to the ballast? Is it soluable in isopropyl?  

I can attest to the fact that it doesn't change coloration or dissolve with alcohol.  Alcohol just didn't soak in very well. 

OK, I took a teaspoon full of Scenic Express #40 Dark Gray Ballast and soaked it in a bowl of 70% isopropyl alcohol overnight (8 hours). Just removed the ballast from the bowl of alcohol and, as expected, the wet ballast is now really dark gray, almost black.

I will let it air dry so that the alcohol evaporates and then report back with the results. The bowl of alcohol is clear so it does not appear that the ballast is soluble in isopropyl alcohol. Stayed tuned.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    December 2003
  • From: belgium
  • 893 posts
Posted by Marc_Magnus on Saturday, February 15, 2020 8:26 AM

45 years of use

 

I started to ballast with the usual white glue water mix and water with a wet agent like detergent

Never had any troubles

As time was passing I have used some matte medium when articles about it appeared but was not especialy impressed by it.

Now I still use 50/50 white glue mix with distilled water; the glue is a white express drying glue.

Wetting agent is 70% isopropil alcool with distilled water, I use 90% alcool brand but I mix it with some water, but also methanol with 30% water, it work as fine as isopropyl alcool but it's cheaper

Woodland Scenic ballast need to be wetted correctly and heavily to be well glued.

I use, in N scale, a eyes dropper, but never put glue between the ties, just along outside the rail, capilarity move the glue everywhere; enough glue is when the ballast is milky; capilarity work well when the ballast is well and deeply wetted.

Express drying white glue is dry in around 15 hours and allow to work along without any stress to disturb something; even if it's labeled express glue, complete drying time is around a good day.

When you need to remove track I wet the whole area with hot water; hot enough to not put your fingers in.

For scenery I use a ratio of 40/60 glue and distilled water, same wetting agent as ballast

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:06 AM

Marc_Magnus

I use, in N scale, a eyes dropper, but never put glue between the ties, just along outside the rail, capilarity move the glue everywhere; enough glue is when the ballast is milky; capilarity work well when the ballast is well and deeply wetted.

Marc, thanks for that detailed description of your gluing method. Like you, I plan to avoid putting glue between the ties. It is a bear trying to remove ballast glued with matte medium when it is done between the ties.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:14 AM

richhotrain
  

OK, I took a teaspoon full of Scenic Express #40 Dark Gray Ballast and soaked it in a bowl of 70% isopropyl alcohol overnight (8 hours). Just removed the ballast from the bowl of alcohol and, as expected, the wet ballast is now really dark gray, almost black. 

I will let it air dry so that the alcohol evaporates and then report back with the results. The bowl of alcohol is clear so it does not appear that the ballast is soluble in isopropyl alcohol. Stayed tuned.

Rich 

3 1/2 hours later, the ballast is dry and it looks just like the dark gray ballast in the bottle. So, no change as a result of wetting the Scenic Express ballast with 70% isopropyl alcohol.

By the way, I did another experiment this morning. I got to thinking about the weight of Woodland Scenics Medium ballast (crushed walnut shells) compared to the weight of Scenic Express #40 real rock ballast. For purposes of my experiment, I used a level tablespoon of ballast measured in grams on a small scale. I weighed each product several times to account for variations in the number of grains.

The average weight of the Woodland Scenics Medium ballast was 11.5 grams, compared to the average weight of the Scenic Express #40 ballast which was 23.0 grams. In other words, the real rock ballast weighs twice as much as the crushed walnut ballast.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,269 posts
Posted by rrinker on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:36 AM

 Well, now we know!

FWIW, I never had an issue with the light WS ballast floating away when I tried to add wetting agent or glue.

                                           --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
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 15, 2020 11:19 AM

rrinker

 Well, now we know!

FWIW, I never had an issue with the light WS ballast floating away when I tried to add wetting agent or glue. 

When I first used WS ballast, it did float. But, once I started using alcohol as a wetting agent, the floating ended.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 10,167 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, February 15, 2020 12:34 PM

richhotrain
....The average weight of the Woodland Scenics Medium ballast was 11.5 grams, compared to the average weight of the Scenic Express #40 ballast which was 23.0 grams. In other words, the real rock ballast weighs twice as much as the crushed walnut ballast....

Better beef-up your benchwork, Rich.

richhotrain
....I plan to avoid putting glue between the ties. It is a bear trying to remove ballast glued with matte medium when it is done between the ties.

Why would you want to remove the ballast?  If you needed to remove ballast, use diluted white glue when installing it, which will soften when sprayed with "wet" water.

I find it difficult to understand why folks want to complicate one of the simplest operations of model railroading.

Wayne

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 15, 2020 12:54 PM

doctorwayne
 
richhotrain
....The average weight of the Woodland Scenics Medium ballast was 11.5 grams, compared to the average weight of the Scenic Express #40 ballast which was 23.0 grams. In other words, the real rock ballast weighs twice as much as the crushed walnut ballast.... 

Better beef-up your benchwork, Rich. 

richhotrain
....I plan to avoid putting glue between the ties. It is a bear trying to remove ballast glued with matte medium when it is done between the ties. 

 

Why would you want to remove the ballast?  If you needed to remove ballast, use diluted white glue when installing it, which will soften when sprayed with "wet" water.

I find it difficult to understand why folks want to complicate one of the simplest operations of model railroading.

Wayne 

Rest assured, Wayne, that benchwork isn't going anywhere.

Why would I want to remove the ballast from the flextrack? Because I was building a new layout and I had hoped to re-use the flex track. If you spray isopropyl alcohol over the ballasted track, it comes up easy enough, but trying to remove the ballast from the flextrack was extremely time consuming and difficult.

Why not just leave the ballast on the flextrack? Because I grew to hate the look of it. For whatever the reason, it had yellowed and it appeared oversized relative to the prototype.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 10,167 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:12 PM

richhotrain
....trying to remove the ballast from the flextrack was extremely time consuming and difficult....

I've found that once the track has been lifted, all you need to do is flex it a few times, then pass it between your thumb and fingers, and most of the ballast will fall right off.  If that doesn't get everything, a few not-too-vigourous passes with an old-time scrub brush should make quick work of any cling-ons.

Wayne

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, February 16, 2020 4:48 AM

doctorwayne
 
richhotrain
....trying to remove the ballast from the flextrack was extremely time consuming and difficult.... 

I've found that once the track has been lifted, all you need to do is flex it a few times, then pass it between your thumb and fingers, and most of the ballast will fall right off.  If that doesn't get everything, a few not-too-vigourous passes with an old-time scrub brush should make quick work of any cling-ons.

Wayne 

LaughLaughLaughLaughLaugh

Sorry, Wayne, I could not resist. I do believe that you have not had the distinct pleasure of trying to remove Woodland Scenics Medium ballast from flextrack that has been glued with a 50/50 mix of matte medium and water.

Let me try this again.

LaughLaughLaughLaughLaugh

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 10,167 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, February 16, 2020 12:32 PM

richhotrain
...Let me try this again.

Rich, I had my brother-in-law, Leon,  write-up this advice to help you out:

"Well now, son, what we have here is a failure to communicate. 

If ya keep tryin' the same stuff agin and agin, yer gonna get yer same results, and it pains me to no end to see ya makin' the same mistakes and gettin' the same results...in fact, now ya got me usin' alkyhaul more'n I should, too, and it ain't on no flex track.

When you use yer matte medium, yer ballast gets itself matted, so she ain't a-gunna come off proper-like.
Whatcha wanna do is save yer dough and use yer white glue - she'll stick jest as good when ya glue 'er down, but if'n ya wanna pull up yer track, why she'll come off slick as yer whistle.

Here's some pitchers what I took when I pulled-up summa my track.

This one shows a switch in a not-too-good place for what I needed...

...this here's the one that needed to be took-out...

...an' here it is tooken out...a ya can see, there ain't no ballast stickin' to 'er...

...it was pretty easy to clean up the rest o' the mess, too...

...I then put the switch back inta the new spot, and the whole shebang's back in business...

  "

Leon Hoffentoth, fer my brother-in-law Wayne

 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,269 posts
Posted by rrinker on Sunday, February 16, 2020 12:44 PM

 I tried matte medium for a small section on my old layout - stuck the same as white glue, didn't sound any different (and this was cork over extruded foam), and the talc in the matte medium (where the 'matte' comes from) left residue on the ties when it dried. 

 About the only other thing I used that matte medium for was to paint a thin layer over the labels I printed with my label printer and applied to my test/programming track - I marked off in half inch incremembts from the one end the recommended NMRA weights and so to seal the label and protect it I gave it a couple light coats of the matte medium I had on hand. 

 For ballasting - I just went back to white glue. Cheaper and I didn't notice any excessive shiny coating, and the sound level was no different. I do think the sound issue was related to using alcohol to dilute the glue - the leftover that dried in the cup I mixed it in never got hard like plain white glue, it was a bit rubbery like caulk. 

                                --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
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, February 16, 2020 4:21 PM

doctorwayne
Rich, I had my brother-in-law, Leon,  write-up this advice to help you out:

Blah, Blah, Blah

Hey, Leon, I got news for you. I joined the Marc Magnus School of Ballasting and decided not to put down the matte medium mix inside the ties. So, on my double mainline, I am only applying the glue mix to the ballast slopes outside the ties and in the space between the double mainline tracks. That way, if i ever want to re-use the flextrack, cleaning it off should be a lot easier like your brother-in-law Wayne described - - ya know, flex it a few times, then pass it between your thumb and fingers, and the ballast will fall right off.   Smile, Wink & Grin

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 10,167 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, February 17, 2020 7:07 PM

Leon failed to mention it, but when I clean track every couple of years, I use only my shop vac - gluing the ballast between the rails saves a lot of work on cleaning day.

Wayne

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,512 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 5:15 AM

doctorwayne

Leon failed to mention it, but when I clean track every couple of years, I use only my shop vac - gluing the ballast between the rails saves a lot of work on cleaning day.

Wayne 

Shop Vac???   Huh?

We don't need no stinkin' shop vac.   Super Angry

P.S. Hey, Leon, I don't know what kind of hovel you live in, but where I live, my  layout is situated in a totally dust-free environment.

Alton Junction

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!