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Where Does Mainline Ballast End and Yard Ballast Begin?

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 30, 2020 6:17 AM

SBX

So where does this leave me. I have a 5' x 10" switching layout and was going to ballast with WS grey ballast. Should I replace that with WS brown ballast? 

I knew when I started this thread that I would get some suggestions regarding placement and color of yard ballast, but I also knew that it would be unrealistic to expect a specific answer to my question. Ultimately, it comes down to your own personal preference based on photos of the prototype and photos of others model railroad layouts.

Initially, my own inclination was to go with a shade of brown for the yard ballast, but if you look at the photos submitted by other members or the links that have been provided in this thread, the predominant yard ballast color seems to be a shade of gray. I also noticed in the photos and links that there seems to be a tone of what I would refer to as crushed limestone, giving the gray color a tint of whitish yellow.

So, in my case, I have decided to go with Woodland Scenics Fine Gray Ballast with some Woodland Scenics Fine Buff Ballast blended in for that limestone effect.

In you case, I can only make a suggestion, but my suggestion would be some sort of shade of gray. 

Hope that helps.

Rich

Alton Junction

SBX
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Posted by SBX on Saturday, May 30, 2020 6:55 AM

That's good because I have a fresh bottle of WS fine grey ballast. Saves me asking my LHS to deliver one bottle (I am shielding which means that I cannot leave my apartment!).

Long Haired David
A.K.A. David Pennington
main man on the Sunset and North Eastern R.R.
http://www.gmrblog.co.uk
from the UK

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 30, 2020 7:58 AM

SBX

That's good because I have a fresh bottle of WS fine grey ballast. Saves me asking my LHS to deliver one bottle (I am shielding which means that I cannot leave my apartment!). 

I think that the Woodland Scenics Fine Gray Ballast will look real good on you switching layout. Best of luck!

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by wp8thsub on Saturday, May 30, 2020 4:20 PM

SBX
I have a 5' x 10" switching layout and was going to ballast with WS grey ballast. Should I replace that with WS brown ballast?

I would suggest avoiding the Wodland Scenics products entirely. I don't care for how they look on industry track, and I very much dislike how they are to spread and glue compared to real rock.  I haven't seen much prototype ballast that looks anything like WS brown, at least not on any industry spurs.

DSC00358

by wp8thsub, on Flickr

Industry track often has much finer ballast than mainlines.  It also tends to vary from place to place, so using one brand and color may be unrealistic.

The above tracks on the BNSF in Lamar, CO show variation from a gray on the main, to mostly dirt on the spurs.  Fine sand can be had as play sand, paver material, or products intended for other uses at a home center, or you can dig it up yourself.  It can be mixed here and there with ballast from other sources to provide variation.  Note above how the basic ground cover around the tracks blends with the spurs.

Cenex-Fuel Spots

by wp8thsub, on Flickr

Here the industry tracks have a similar look, with the spurs blending with the sand ground cover around them and the main track and siding using other ballast (from Scenic Express) with more uniform color, plus a slightly coarser texture.

 

Rob Spangler

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, May 31, 2020 6:38 AM

wp8thsub

I would suggest avoiding the Wodland Scenics products entirely. I don't care for how they look on industry track, and I very much dislike how they are to spread and glue compared to real rock.  I haven't seen much prototype ballast that looks anything like WS brown, at least not on any industry spurs. 

Industry track often has much finer ballast than mainlines.  It also tends to vary from place to place, so using one brand and color may be unrealistic.

For purposes of mainline ballasting, I agree that real rock is the way to go, having long used Woodland Scenics walnut shells bur more recently using Scenic Express real rock. The density and slope required to model mainline ballast really requires something heavier like real rock as opposed to lignter weight material such as walnut shells.

But, I'm not so sure that Woodland Scenics ballast ought to be avoided entirely, particularly when looking for some sort of material for yard ballasting where you simply need a covering over essentially a flat surface.

I have found in researching ballast that Woodland Scenics has a more extensive selection of ballast colors in their product line than does Scenic Express which offers mostly light gray and dark gray in its product line. Arizona Rock & Mineral does seem to offer more different color ballast in its product line, so maybe that is a better option than Scenic Express if you want more choice of color. 

I do agree with wp8thsub that Woodland Scenics Brown is not a realistic looking color for yards. However, Woodland Scenics Dark Brown is not all that bad looking, especially if it is blended with Woodland Scenics Cinders which creates a better look of something like a dirt surface.

wp8thsub

Here the industry tracks have a similar look, with the spurs blending with the sand ground cover around them and the main track and siding using other ballast (from Scenic Express) with more uniform color, plus a slightly coarser texture. 

I have found that the need for yard ballast is much more complex than the selection of mainline ballast in terms of source and color. I think that wp8thsub's yards are among the best and most realistic ballasted yards on this forum, if not the best. However, wp8thsub is using more natural materials such as sand to capture the look of the prototype.

I haven't found that Scenic Express or Woodland Scenics has anything to offer in HO scale to create a believable ballasted yard. The closest that I have come is a blend of Woodland Scenics Fine Gray and Buff Ballast.

To create a level surface for the yard ballast, I have literally sprinkled the ballast over the entire yard surface with my fingers to avoid unintended mounds when simply pouring the ballast out of the bottle or spooning it on the surface. Then I heavily spray the the entire area with 70% isopropyl alcohol and apply a matte medium glue mix to secure it.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, May 31, 2020 12:52 PM

You're right, Rich, getting ground cover, especially ballast or dirt, level on flat, open, expanses is difficult.  Sometimes I do a fairly thin application, wet it, and apply the glue...

 

...then come back after it's set, and add light second application to fill-in the low spots...

 

This empty lot, destined to serve a team track...

...looked like a real mess initially...

...but after it dried (it took several days), I applied more very fine limestone "gravel" (it was actually limestone dust), along with some powdered dirt, again, so fine that it could be called dust, then added some finely-ground foam and some static grass, and it turned out, I think, not too badly...

Wayne

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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, May 31, 2020 1:02 PM

Even a yard track will look reasonably spiffy when first put in, that being said, washes using a multitude of colours will age and pollute it in a hurry. Sprinkling tile grout and other fine powders before hand also add to the affect. Tile grout makes great yard muck.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, May 31, 2020 6:31 PM

doctorwayne

You're right, Rich, getting ground cover, especially ballast or dirt, level on flat, open, expanses is difficult.  Sometimes I do a fairly thin application, wet it, and apply the glue... 

...then come back after it's set, and add light second application to fill-in the low spots...

This empty lot, destined to serve a team track...

...looked like a real mess initially...

...but after it dried (it took several days), I applied more very fine limestone "gravel" (it was actually limestone dust), along with some powdered dirt, again, so fine that it could be called dust, then added some finely-ground foam and some static grass, and it turned out, I think, not too badly...

Wayne 

Good looking layout photos, Wayne. 

Having sprinkled the yard ballast with my fingers to create an even, level look and glued it in place, I plan to go back and add light second application to provide a finished look.

Your application of very fine limestone "gravel" (i.e., limestone dust) interests me. Is there a hobby-related source for the purchase of limestone dust?

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, May 31, 2020 8:10 PM

richhotrain
 
doctorwayne

I applied more very fine limestone "gravel" (it was actually limestone dust), along with some powdered dirt, again, so fine that it could be called dust

Wayne  

Your application of very fine limestone "gravel" (i.e., limestone dust) interests me. Is there a hobby-related source for the purchase of limestone dust?

Rich 

I started researching "limestone dust" through a Google search. Somewhat surprisingly, I did find some sources such as this one.

https://www.makeyourown.buzz/calcium-carbonate-ground-limestone/?gclid=CjwKCAjwq832BRA5EiwACvCWsZZ6UFFJG6PTCeJ2-_tsNtUcQpbKiM-ArfdolOgero9_MPBIHK72gRoCMAQQAvD_BwE

I have no idea of the size or grade of this "dust", but it does interest me as a way to add accent to the traditional ballast for yard ballasting.

Rich

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, June 1, 2020 7:28 PM

richhotrain
...Your application of very fine limestone "gravel" (i.e., limestone dust) interests me. Is there a hobby-related source for the purchase of limestone dust?...

Sorry for the late reply, Rich, but I attempted, over four hours-or-so last night to compose a reply, but the screen disappeared several times, and most of the rest of the time was frozen.  I could get a sentence or two in, then it locked-up again.  Of course, photobucket still has a few issues to improve, so I managed, at that time, to include only one photo.

Anyway, I'll show you the three grades of limestone, then, if I can continue, will fill in with some related info.

The good news is that the limestone is not a hobby product.  I got mine at a local lumberyard - don't recall the price, but it wasn't outrageous, for three 50lb. bags of limestone screenings.  Likely cheaper than three bags of HO scale real rock ballast.  This is the stuff one would use to lay brick or concrete paver-stones.

However, running it through a seive (I used four or five, with each successive one finer than the previous) yields various useful sizes.

Here's the coarsest - good shape and colour, but likely suitable only for rock-fill in low-lying areas due to its size - the guy in the container is HO scale for comparison....

Here's the size I use as ballast...

Unfortunately, there was a lot of really fine stuff in with it, and I couldn't find a seive with a fine-enough mesh to let the dust portion through, and retain the ballast. 
I finally 'phoned my friend in Ohio, who had given me some ballast made from the same material, to ask how he sorted the dust from the ballast.  The answer was...a spatter guard, used atop a frying pan full of bacon to keep the stove from being covered in grease...I guess you could lick it off, if you didn't have a spatter guard...after all. it's bacon!

Anyway, I quickly ran off to Canadian Tire (who'd-a-thunk-it?) and picked one up.  Here's the mostly-dust portion from a bag of screenings...

The one caveat when doing this screening is to do it outdoors.  Engrossed in seive management and quality control, I never noticed, as I worked in the layout room, how much dust it created in the air, and spent several days later cleaning the entire layout and layout room.

I'm pretty sure that I included some of the dust portion on the track in the lower left in the photo below, along with some real dirt (literally in powder-form), ground foam, and static grass...

I'll end this for now, before everything gets squirrely again  and freezes-up.

Wayne

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:43 PM

Thanks for that reply, Wayne. I might try some limestone dust.

Rich

Alton Junction

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