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which brand/color ballast most realistic for mainline?

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which brand/color ballast most realistic for mainline?
Posted by ChrisVA on Monday, March 29, 2021 2:29 AM

I'm curious which brand and color of ballast you chose to use for mainline? I've looked at Woodland Scenics fine gray blend, thinking of using that.

Alternatives?
Thank!

 

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, March 29, 2021 3:46 AM

Hi Chris,

As for colour, are you modeling a particular railroad, or do you have a geographic location in mind? If so, the railways that you are modeling may have had a preferred ballast colour for the mainline. If you look at some pictures you might be able to see what the ballast looked like. Also, the availability of ballast may have determined what colour was used. Most railways would not go to huge additional expense to haul ballast from hundreds of miles away if there was something closer that would work.

The ballast on a single line doesn't have to be all the same colour. For example, there may be a different colour ballast where a repair was made to a section of track or a switch, or it may just be lighter in appearance because it hasn't had time to accumulate all the grease and oil and soot.

Keep in mind that it is your layout and you can do whatever you want. If you are being faithful to a prototype then you will want to find out what colour ballast they used. On the other hand, if you like the look of a particular ballast then go for it! Personally I like the look of cinder ballast because that is what was used in my area.

I have not worked with Woodland Scenics ballast, but I have read that it can be tricky to keep in place as you are soaking it with glue. Regardless of that, literally thousands of modelers have used Woodland Scenics with success. I suggest studying Cody Grivno's methods.

I have worked with natural stone ballast and I didn't have any problems keeping it in place when wetting it.

Just make sure to thoroughly soak the ballast with glue. At my old club we had constant problems with ballast because whoever installed it didn't saturate the ballast. That created a layer of glued ballast on top of a layer of loose ballast and the glued layer would come loose regularly.GrumpyAngryBang Head

Dave

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Posted by mobilman44 on Monday, March 29, 2021 5:30 AM

Obviously there are many different colors out there, primarily depending on what's readily available (or priced) to the RR when the track was put down or re-ballasted. And while it looks nice to have the mains all one color, that isn't a primary concern for major roads as availability/price are more of a priority. 

I've preferred a light medium grey for the mains, darker grey for secondary tracks, and very dark for sidings, and even black (coal/ash) for the steam terminal tracks.

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, March 29, 2021 6:08 AM

It depends on the RR as ballast varies.  D&RGW used cinders for many years.  Other RR's often use materials they can obtain.  So you can either try to follow photo's from a RR you are interested in or you can choose your own.

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, March 29, 2021 6:41 AM

ChrisVA

I'm curious which brand and color of ballast you chose to use for mainline? I've looked at Woodland Scenics fine gray blend, thinking of using that.

Alternatives?

Chris, I don't recall whether you model in N scale or HO scale. Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast is intended for N scale mainline ballasting and consists of  rather small grains for HO scale mainline ballasting.

I have both Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast and Woodland Scenics Medium Ballast. On my last layout, I used the Medium Ballast for my HO scale double mainline. I used the Fine Ballast for areas like parking lots and country roads.

I have used both Gray and Light Gray ballast from Woodland Scenics. The Gray Blend is a 50/50 mix of Gray and Light Gray. In my experience, I found that Gray looked a lot better than the Blend because the Light Gray tended to give a whitish appearance to the blend, not only on the layout as mainline ballast but also in photos where the blend almost looks total white. So, I would recommend just the Gray Ballast for mainlines.

On my new layout, I abandoned Woodland Scenics ballast altogether for my double mainline. I went with real rock ballast from Scenic Express, and I highly recommend it as an alternative to Woodland Scenics. Scenic Express makes ballast for both N scale and HO scale in both Light Gray and Dark Gray. The Scenic Express Light Gray is the equivalent color to Woodland Scenics Gray, and the Scenic Express Dark Gray is just that - - a bit darker gray. I used a 50/50 blend of the two grays from Scenic Express, and it looks terrific on my double mainline.

Scenic Express ballast is heavier than Woodland Scenics ballast, and that makes a big difference when ballasting. Real rock ballast takes the glue/water mix more readily, and the ballast stays in place as opposed to floating with the Woodland Scenics ballast.

Rich

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, March 29, 2021 7:35 AM

Yes, the ballast color varies on location, railroad and even age.  

This is an interesting topic b/c I plan to use two different colors on the layout--mainline in one and sidings/yard in another. 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, March 29, 2021 7:52 AM

ChrisVA

I'm curious which brand and color of ballast you chose to use for mainline? I've looked at Woodland Scenics fine gray blend, thinking of using that.

Alternatives?
Thank!

I would suggest you get a real rock ballast such as Scenic Express or Arizona Rock and Mineral brand ballast.

Why?  Because it's real rock and not ground up walnut shells that Woodland Scenics uses, which has a tendency to washout and float way when you apply dilute watery glue.  

For people with little experience with ballasting, real rock will be easier to use because it's dense and stays put much better when applying the liquid adhesive.  The Woodland Scenic crushed walnut shell ballast has a tendency to float or wash away if you are not careful when applying the liquid adhesive.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, March 29, 2021 7:54 AM

I use gray, just because it looks right to my eye.

I use real rock from Arizona Rock And Mineral. There will be several different colours of ballast on the layout.

Woodland Scenics ballast is way too uniform for me.

-Kevin

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:04 AM

kasskaboose

Yes, the ballast color varies on location, railroad and even age.  

This is an interesting topic b/c I plan to use two different colors on the layout--mainline in one and sidings/yard in another. 

 

 
Good advice.  One reason I enjoy looking at Morning Sun color books for my favorite railroad (the C&NW) is that by coincidence it also gives great information about the color and type of ballast used in various locales and eras.  Most railroads had a bias towards using more or less local sources, for economy reasons.  Here in Wisconsin in the era I model the C&NW was using a granite ballast known as pink lady, and indeed some of it was very pink.  But over time as they dug into the vein of stone the colors would vary from dark maroon to nearly purple.  
 
Interestingly at the big local freight yard, Butler Yard, the C&NW used pink lady BUT they used the small chips from the mining process rather than the fist sized rocks used on the mainline.  So the color was the same, but the size and texture were entirely different.
 
At further outreaches of the C&NW they did not use pink lady.
 
The Milwaukee Road by contast was locally using large pebbles as ballast, mostly white-ish and probably limestone.  When the Soo Line acquired the Milwaukee, when they would reballast a section (or even just a short segment where ties had to be replaced) the new ballst tended to be dark gray basalt or granite.  Quite a contrast!  And some little used sidings were seemingly devoid of any ballast at all - mostly mud and perhaps very old cinders from decades earlier.
 
A prototype modeler who has access to track charts can often see the year a given stretch of track was laid and what kind of ballast was used.  This can be very interesting information.  But most modelers are content with ballast that looks good and plausible.
 
  Woodland Scenics (crushed nut shells, in common with some pet store "sand" for reptile terrariums) is not my favorite to work with, but can give good results so I do not reject it out of hand.  But I do tone it down with a final spray of isopropyl alcohol/india ink mix.
 
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Posted by rrebell on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:06 AM

I personally like the WS stuff. It dose not wash out if you pre wet it properly. I use medium grey blend for my HO. This in reality is too large with small being closer to the real size but I find the medium looks more real in HO as you can see the detail. What our eyes see and what the brain sees can be two different things.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:14 AM

rrebell
What our eyes see and what the brain sees can be two different things.

Yes, and this could be a topic for a very interesting discussion.

Building a layout to be viewed by the eye is different than building scenes for close-up detailed photography. What looks absolutely perfect in photographs could be unpleasing to the eye.

Ballast size, road color, tree shapes, aircraft sizes, etc. are things that the brain sees differently than the eye.

-Kevin

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:21 AM

SeeYou190

 

 
rrebell
What our eyes see and what the brain sees can be two different things.

 

Yes, and this could be a topic for a very interesting discussion.

Building a layout to be viewed by the eye is different than building scenes for close-up detailed photography. What looks absolutely perfect in photographs could be unpleasing to the eye.

Ballast size, road color, tree shapes, aircraft sizes, etc. are things that the brain sees differently than the eye.

-Kevin

 

 

Basically,  a thing I often say.  "See what you see and not what you thought you saw."    (Generally two different things.)   Smile

 

David 

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Posted by ChrisVA on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:31 AM

I'm modelling in HO. I'm probably going to build a freelance RR. I'm not looking so much for the look of a particular prototype, just something that looks realistic.

I'm still doing "experiments" now, so I wanted to try a few different products and ultimately pick one that I think looks right.

I have had a similar experience with Woodland Scenics mixed gray - it looks too white, especially in photographs for my taste, so I wanted to see if there were other products that might look better.  I will try the Scenic Express ballast. 

Thanks for all of the feedback.

 

 

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:40 AM

With any scenic work  to get the color I want I remember being told,  'There are 50 shades of green in Nature'.   I find that if I mix different shades of a color (most probably from different companies) it turns out the one I want.

 

David

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:54 AM

Another vote for Arizona Rock and Mineral.

https://armballast.com/
 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, March 29, 2021 1:19 PM

I acidentally deleted my reply to your query last night, but I'll try again.  I'm modelling the track of two railroads (both freelanced), and deliberately chose two different colours for the mainline ballast. 
In the photo below, the track from which the loco is exiting and the rising track to the left belongs to the longer of the two railroads, while the downward bound track, with the lighter ballast is the shorter road...

(Click on the photos for enlargement)

The darker ballast is Woodland Scenics Gray, while the lighter stuff is Woodland Scenics Light Gray, both in the "Fine" size.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that all the ballast on the lower level is the same colour, as is evidenced here...

...and here...

...and here...

...and here, too...

The longer of the two roads isn't restricted to just one colour either, as seen here...

...and here...

 

While the majority of this road's line to the partial upper level is not yet ballasted, it will get the Woodland Scenics Gray, too. 
However, most of the mainline track on the upper level has been ballasted, and for the first portion, I used real rock ballast (limestone screenings), given to me by a friend in Ohio.  Here's where that ballast begins...

When that supply of ballast was used-up, I decided to continue using real rock, and bought some limestone screenings quarried about 10 miles from my home here in southern Ontario.  It's a slightly different colour from the stuff quarried in Ohio, but real railroads often used ballast from quarries along their own lines, rather than hauling it longer distances.  A few views on the no-where-near-done upper level....

Woodland Scenics ballast, as has been mentioned, is made from crushed walnut shells.  It's fairly light in weight, which makes it easy to spread (best-done using a soft-bristled brush, 1/2" or 3/4" wide, with the brush handle held fairly close to the track - dragging the material to where it's needed).  Except for tidying-up along the ballast shoulders, avoid using it as a brush (back & forth motions) as it will scatter ballast all, over the place.

Real rock ballast can be done in the same manner, but because of its weight and the shape of the particles, it can often be more difficult to spread, as the pieces tend to interlock, much the same as real ballast.

The most important step in ballasting (in my opinion) once the ballast is properly groomed, is to thoroughly wet the ballast, to the point where the excess wetting solution runs from the base of the ballast - this will ensure that your ballast adhesive (diluted white glue or diluted matte medium) will also be drawn right to the base of the ballast, rather than forming an easily-broken crust only on the top.

While the method outlined below is not the only way to accomplish it, here's my "procedure for ballasting"...

 

I keep seeing comments about people dreading having to ballast their tracks, or, from people who've tried and not had success, and about what a crummy task it is. What follows is my procedure for ballasting - there are other methods that work as well, but this one uses readily-available and cheap tools and materials.  And it works!
The choice of ballast is up to you - I use both Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast , and real rock ballast, too, on my HO scale layout, but there are many other brands and sizes available, and plenty of colours. If you use natural materials, like sand, dirt, or decomposed rock, it's best to use a magnet to remove any magnetic inclusions that might possibly damage the motors in your locos.
 
To ballast your track, I find that a small paper cup (such as those kitchen or bathroom Dixie cups) gives you great control over where the ballast goes. I usually move the cup along the centre of the track, tapping it as I go, to keep the ballast flowing. Less than you need is better than too much, although a soft 1/2" brush is useful for pushing around the excess or levelling what's in place. Don’t use the brush to brush the ballast around, especially the WS ballast, as it’s very light and will fly all over the place.  

Instead, lay the brush almost parallel to the ground and drag the ballast along.  Then go back and do both roadbed shoulders in turn. Use the brush to level and re-arrange things as required, making sure to keep the ballast away from the throwbar area and the flangeways of the guardrails.

To remove stray ballast from the tie tops, lightly grasp the metal ferrule of the brush between the thumb and forefingers of one hand, laying the handle across the rail tops, then, as you move the brush along the tracks, lightly and rapidly tap the brush handle with the fingers of your free hand. The stray ballast will "magically" bounce off the ties and into place between them.


If you're also ballasting turnouts, make sure to keep the level of the ballast below the tops of the ties, and don't place any ballast between the ties surrounding the throw bar.

To avoid gluing the points to the ties, place two drops of plastic-compatible oil atop each tie over which the point rails move, one next to each point rail, then flip the points back-and-forth several times to spread the oil. Parking the points in mid-throw will also help to ensure that they don't get glued to the stock rails, either.  If necessary, use strip styrene to keep them in place.


You can mist the contoured ballast using either water and alcohol, or water with a few drops of dish detergent added. Either should work, although I prefer the detergent, as it's cheaper and works just as well.  I generally do fairly long sections of track at the same time, and the alcohol may evapourate too quickly to be effective over a longer period of time (I save my alcohol - not the denatured kind - for a nice drink after I've completed the ballasting.)  

Use a sprayer that will allow you to spray a fine mist. To avoid having the force of the spray dislodge loose ballast all over the landscape, aim the first few spritzes upward, letting the droplets fall like rain. Once the surface has been dampened, you'll be able to spray it directly. Make sure to thoroughly wet the ballast right down to the base. Not doing so is probably the main reason that many people have trouble getting a decent-looking and durable ballasting job.

To apply the glue/water mixture (white glue works just as well as matte medium and is way cheaper, especially if you buy it by the gallon. Those who claim that white glue dries shiny are not using sufficient wetting agent. The proportions should be about 50/50 water/glue, although a little heavier on the water will still work well). To apply the glue mixture, don't ruin a perfectly good spray bottle (and while doing so cover your rails and anything else nearby in glue, too): instead, use a dropper.

An eyedropper will work, but a plastic squeeze bottle with a small nozzle will be much faster. Simply move along the track, as quickly as necessary, allowing the glue mixture to drip onto the ballast (or ties - you won't see it once it dries). You should be able to see it being drawn into the ballast due to the wetting agent.

I usually do the area between the rails first, then the sides in turn. The glue mixture will spread throughout the ballast and down to the roadbed, so make sure to apply enough to allow this to occur. The result will be ballast bonded solidly in place, yet with the appearance of loose, individual pieces.


Where I have scenic areas adjacent to, but below the level of the track, I also apply the basic ground cover, which also helps to soak up the excess glue that spreads out from the ballast line.  If you're applying ballast (or ground cover) to steeply sloped areas, use a suitable-width brush to apply undiluted white glue to the slope before applying the ballast or ground foam, which will help to hold everything in place while you apply the wetting agent and the dilute white glue (these steps help to bond the top layers of material to those in contact with the unthinned glue, and also help to draw that glue up into the top layers).


Depending on how deep your ballast and adjacent scenery is, the glue may take several days to dry.  Don't touch it while it's still wet (you'll make a mess) and wait until it's dry before cleaning the rails - I used a mildly-abrasive block intended for polishing electrical contacts.

Wayne

 

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, March 29, 2021 1:29 PM

Given that the WS looks "too light" as some mentioned, how to avoid that?  Should we darken it a bit w/ paint once added and secured to the track?

Dr. Wayne: What a thorough and helpful guide.  While I can't see the pics, good to have the information. Revising and elevating the track further reinforces why I'm glad to have waited on ballasting.  

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, March 29, 2021 2:10 PM

I use a foam brush to spread the ballast, tends to do a better job with less scater.

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Posted by HO-Velo on Monday, March 29, 2021 3:26 PM

ChrisVA
I'm still doing "experiments" now, so I wanted to try a few different products and ultimately pick one that I think looks right.

Good idea.  Some mfg. provide samples, at least they did a few years ago.  My fav. is Arizona Rock & Mineral real rock ballast and powders.  Some real rock ballast can darken and or change hue appreciably after applied glue mixtures dry.

Regards, Peter

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Posted by ChrisVA on Monday, March 29, 2021 4:21 PM

I'm modelling in HO. Does it make sense to get the HO scale Arizona Rock and Mineral ballast or the N scale ballast?  WS seems to have the "oversized medium" ballast problem.
Thanks!

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, March 29, 2021 4:55 PM

ChrisVA
I'm modelling in HO. Does it make sense to get the HO scale Arizona Rock and Mineral ballast or the N scale ballast? 

This is HO scale Arizona Rock and Mineral "CSX GRAY" ballast on my HO layout.

It is up to you if it looks OK. To my eye, it looks just fine.

-Kevin

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Posted by HO-Velo on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:27 PM

Like Kevin says, ballast size choice depends upon the eye and preference.  I like extra texture, so A.R.M. HO size is my 'Goldilocks' ballast, looks good from afar while not too obtrusive close-up.  The N-scale ballast and rock powders are handy for creating different textures along spurs, yards and other layout areas, like gravel roads, lots, paths, etc.  

Regards, Peter

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 12:00 PM

Hello All,

As has been posted the ballast of the mainline can be location/region specific.

For some model railroads, the color of the ballast is not prototypical but used to differentiate the mainline from sidings. 

The Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greely uses a tan ballast for the mainlines and different colors for the sidings. 

I too recommend a real rock product over the Woodland Scenics ballast made from walnut shells.

For my ballast, I harvest my own from a source outside Central City, Colorado.

I pass this material through several sieves with progressively finer mesh which produces various sizes of ballast.

The color of the ballast represents what would be produced and used by the prototypical railroad in this region, which happens to be a mix of colors.

I differentiate the color of the ballast for the sidings from the mainline by using cinders harvested in the same way from a source outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

On one particular section of track on my HO scale pike, that passes over a white quartz cliff band, I use harvested ballast from the prototypical section of railbed of the Chalk Cliffs outside of Mt. Princeton, Colorado.

There is no "correct" color of ballast. The color depends on many factors which you might consider in your choice of color(s).

Hope this helps.

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 4:55 PM

Lot's of different colors out there, as lot's of different rail lines used differing colors. Best color depends on what you are modeling.

As far as material, I'm also on the "real rock" over the walnut shell WS uses. 

However, I've seen and heard some nice things about using a dyed sand for ballast, as it still has weight, and can be made any color combination needed. Trick is getting the right size. I think my next layout might get a test section using that method, as it would save a bunch money wise.

Ricky W.

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 6:25 PM

I've said before in similar discussions of ballast:

I must be doing something wrong.  I use the Woodland Scenics ballast and I've never had a problem with it moving or floating.

That said, I've never used anything else, so if I try some other brands, I might find that I like them better.

York1 John       

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, April 1, 2021 6:53 AM

York1

I must be doing something wrong.  I use the Woodland Scenics ballast and I've never had a problem with it moving or floating.

I realize that you are injecting a bit of sarcasm when you say that you must be doing something wrong. But, it surprises me that you have never had a problem with it moving or floating. So, you must be doing something right that seems to elude a lot of us who have used Woodland Scenics Ballast.

Can you explain how you secure the Woodland Scenics Ballast?

Pre-wetting?

Glue mix proportions?

How is the glue mix applied?

Rich

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, April 1, 2021 8:21 AM

richhotrain
I realize that you are injecting a bit of sarcasm when you say that you must be doing something wrong. But, it surprises me that you have never had a problem with it moving or floating. So, you must be doing something right that seems to elude a lot of us who have used Woodland Scenics Ballast. Can you explain how you secure the Woodland Scenics Ballast? Pre-wetting? Glue mix proportions? How is the glue mix applied?

 

I have an N Scale layout, about nine feet by six feet "L" shape.  I started it three years ago, and I have only ballasted about half of it.  So I work very slowly, and that is probably my biggest advantage.  I have a feeling that if I worked faster, I would encounter the problems many others have talked about.

I use an eye dropper and soak the ballast with alcohol.  Then I use another eye dropper with a mixture of glue and water in about a one-to-four ratio.

When I first started, I tried spraying things.  I never had good luck with that.  The spray bottles always clogged, I never seemed to get the hang of getting the ballast soaked enough, and I didn't like the overspray.

If my layout was larger, or if I was in a bigger hurry, I would probably do something else.

I'm not saying my way is right, and after all the discussion, I think I will try some other ballasts just to see if I like the look.

York1 John       

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, April 1, 2021 10:28 AM

ricktrains4824
However, I've seen and heard some nice things about using a dyed sand for ballast, as it still has weight, and can be made any color combination needed.

There is a company here in Florida that sells dyed sand for golf course sand traps.

One of them is "industrial gray", which would make a perfect ballast. Unfortunately, they only sell in 80 pound bags. My fiend Mike bought a bag and broke it into 2 pound tubs and sold all of it he didn't need one year at HurriCon in Orlando.

-Kevin

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, April 1, 2021 4:18 PM

richhotrain
realize that you are injecting a bit of sarcasm when you say that you must be doing something wrong. But, it surprises me that you have never had a problem with it moving or floating. So, you must be doing something right that seems to elude a lot of us who have used Woodland Scenics Ballast. Can you explain how you secure the Woodland Scenics Ballast? Pre-wetting? Glue mix proportions? How is the glue mix applied?

I've never had an issue with Woodland Scenics' ballast floating, either, and I believe that's attributable to thorough pre-wetting, the step which I consider most important when ballasting. 
I've always used "wet" water (ordinary, or if necessary, distilled, water with a few drops of dish detergent added), rather than alcohol. 
The main reason for that choice is that I usually ballast in long lengths of track...perhaps 20' or more of double track in a session, where using alcohol might be mostly-evapourated by the time I get near the end of the job. 
I always ensure that enough water is applied so that it actually seeps from the very bottom of the applied ballast - that ensures that the diluted white glue will make it down to the bottom of the ballast, too.

Wayne

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 20,916 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, April 1, 2021 9:29 PM

York1
 
richhotrain
I realize that you are injecting a bit of sarcasm when you say that you must be doing something wrong. But, it surprises me that you have never had a problem with it moving or floating. So, you must be doing something right that seems to elude a lot of us who have used Woodland Scenics Ballast. Can you explain how you secure the Woodland Scenics Ballast? Pre-wetting? Glue mix proportions? How is the glue mix applied? 

I have an N Scale layout, about nine feet by six feet "L" shape.  I started it three years ago, and I have only ballasted about half of it.  So I work very slowly, and that is probably my biggest advantage.  I have a feeling that if I worked faster, I would encounter the problems many others have talked about.

I use an eye dropper and soak the ballast with alcohol.  Then I use another eye dropper with a mixture of glue and water in about a one-to-four ratio.

When I first started, I tried spraying things.  I never had good luck with that.  The spray bottles always clogged, I never seemed to get the hang of getting the ballast soaked enough, and I didn't like the overspray.

If my layout was larger, or if I was in a bigger hurry, I would probably do something else.

I'm not saying my way is right, and after all the discussion, I think I will try some other ballasts just to see if I like the look. 

John, thanks for that explanation. Your use of an eye dropper to soak the ballast with alcohol may be the reason that your Woodland Scenics ballast doesn't move around or float. I used to spray alcohol over the ballasted area, so the alcohol didn't really soak in. The 1:4 glue to water mix is what I also do. That seems to be a proper proportion to me .

doctorwayne

I've never had an issue with Woodland Scenics' ballast floating, either, and I believe that's attributable to thorough pre-wetting, the step which I consider most important when ballasting. 

I've always used "wet" water (ordinary, or if necessary, distilled, water with a few drops of dish detergent added), rather than alcohol. 

The main reason for that choice is that I usually ballast in long lengths of track...perhaps 20' or more of double track in a session, where using alcohol might be mostly-evapourated by the time I get near the end of the job. 

I always ensure that enough water is applied so that it actually seeps from the very bottom of the applied ballast - that ensures that the diluted white glue will make it down to the bottom of the ballast, too.

Wayne 

I do agree that soaking the ballast when pre-wetting and soaking the wetted ballast with the glue mix is the key.

Rich

Alton Junction

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