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Ballasting......hate it.

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Ballasting......hate it.
Posted by bsteel4065 on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:00 AM

I know Cody Grivno loves ballasting track. I even follow his method shown in MRVideoPlus. I'm very careful....meticulous even. But I have just ballasted 253,265 miles of track!! (OK, not really, it just seems like that much track.) 

It is the most boring part of model railroading but it has to be done. 

Do any of you (apart from Cody) actually like ballasting?

SleepSleepSleepSleep

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Posted by Bundy74 on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:17 AM

I'll ballast for you if you'll do my wiringBig Smile

Modeling whatever I can make out of that stash of kits that takes up half my apartment's spare bedroom.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:24 AM

Bundy74

I'll ballast for you if you'll do my wiringBig Smile

 

If you weren’t so far away I’d take you up on that.  I love wiring and absolutely hate ballasting.
 
 
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 gmpullman on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:31 AM

bsteel4065
Do any of you (apart from Cody) actually like ballasting?

I rather enjoy it. Now, in the areas where I have to be on my hands and knees and my head inside a tunnel portal can become a bit wearysome...

Ballasted track makes the biggest leap in the scenery progression. The part of the process I do dislike is the painting of the track prior to the ballast. It takes the most prep work and consumes a great deal of time.

Can you post any photos of your work?

Regards, Ed

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Posted by Bundy74 on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:40 AM

RR_Mel

 

 
Bundy74

I'll ballast for you if you'll do my wiringBig Smile

 

 

 

If you weren’t so far away I’d take you up on that.  I love wiring and absolutely hate ballasting.
 
 
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.
 

 

In all seriousness, I find it's best done when done in sections, as most instructional videos tend to show.  I like to work in other scenery around it, or place structure bases.  That tends to break up the monotony.

Modeling whatever I can make out of that stash of kits that takes up half my apartment's spare bedroom.

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:44 AM

I guess i don't understand the problem. So often I read of folks carrying on about ballasting, hate it;boreing, time wasting and on and on.I do 3-5 feet at atime, dump some stuff on the track,move it around with a small brush, wet it glue it.have a cold beer. I must be doing it wrong, but then I would rather spendtime on buildings and trees and stuff you actually look at and really see and appreciate

just thinking

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Monday, January 25, 2016 9:58 AM

LION gets a box of cat litter, pours it on the layout, and brush off everything that does not look like ballast. How hard can tha be.

ROAR

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, January 25, 2016 11:15 AM

I'm currently ballasting the upper level of my layout, and thoroughly enjoying it.
Ballasting, along with painting rail, are probably two of the easiest tasks when building a layout, and combined, they do more to elevate a layout from toy-like to model than any other project, no matter how complicated or expensive. 
Yeah, a layout with nicely ballasted track and no scenery or structures won't impress many, but neither will a sceniced and detailed layout impress anyone if the track is unballasted and the rail has shiny sides.  Just do it - do a turnout (or two) or a few feet of track - there's no need to have a lot of time available, as you can quit at almost any time.
I'm doing most of the turnouts first, then the track which connects them.  Where there's double track, it gets done in the same session.

In thess photos, the track in the foreground was done as far as the water tower in one session, then the next 12' or so of double track, with several turnouts, in another couple of sessions:


Another couple of sessions here, while the remainder awaits construction of ashpits and a hoist.  The ballast colour and composition will gradually change, too, as work proceeds away from the viewer:

Wayne

 

 

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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, January 25, 2016 12:18 PM

I have totally changed my approach to ballasting and track laying. I use to hold down track with track nails and that was fine. If I wanted to pull up the track I had to start pulling out the nails. Being a guy that likes to try new ideas and products that come along, on my recent layout I went with foam and spline on open grid. Both of which I had never done before. I also used caulk instead of nails to hold down track. I recently had to pull up a four metre section of track. I pushed back the joiners at either end of the four metres and gently pried up the end of the track and the entire four metres came up as if I was undoing a zipper. There was no caulk residue on the track and those that say caulk ruins track by leaving residue all over it that needs to be cleaned off are just using way too much caulk.

I have about 330 feet of track on the layout and have built the entire layout with a mind to moving one day. I was thinking alot about Brother Lions idea of letting gravity hold the ballast down. Knowing that I could have the entire 330 feet of track pulled off the layout in a very few minutes because I used caulk was being torpedoed by the fact that I would be gluing down the ballast. It would get messy and damage things getting the glued, ballasted track up. At least past experience in doing such things has proven this.

So come to present day. On this layout I have used a paintbrush to paint on white glue down either side of the track, out to the limit of where I want the ballast to go. I spread the ballast and let gravity do its thing. So far it has been a great success. I can take my finger or small brush and fix a part that I notice isn't up to snuff because it isn't now sitting there as a glued clump.

I have also started to do ballast before the rest of the scenery. I can put down painters tape to determine where I want the outer edge of the ballast to be. It gives a sharp edge to the glue line with just enough random messiness.

When it comes time to destroy the layout, the plan is to vacuum up the ballast into a nylon stocking for reuse as it is just sitting loose. I will lift the caulked down track and just snip out all the joiners that have been soldered. I may lose a half inch on a metre of flex track every time I snip, but I just can't imagine desoldering all those joiners.

I know my track will come up clean as I didn't slop on the caulk and my ballast should be fine to reuse. We have a smart lion on this forum. He thinks outside the box and for me gravity has been working just fine. I have not had one single issue with gravity held ballast.

I get these childrens measuring spoons from the pharmacist. They are free and are perfect for ballasting.

 

Brent

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

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 

You can never ever out-train poor nutrition.

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Posted by nealknows on Monday, January 25, 2016 12:45 PM

I'll wire, you ballast! Just enjoy the wiring aspect.. No mountains or minimal trees. Give me structures, signals, lights and I'm good to go! Cool

 

Neal

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 25, 2016 1:02 PM

I never was really fond of ballasting. It always came out as mess - more ballast on the floor and all over the place than on the track!

I think it was Cody who showed us the use of a flat triangle-shaped brush to spread the ballast and shape the shoulder. Shortly before ballasting time came on my layout, a local $-shop (the German equivalent of it) sold the brushes at a ridiculously low price and I bought a set. Guess what, spreading the ballst was much easier and faster! I used diluted white glue to affix the ballast, applying  it straight from a squeeze bottle I had equipped with a hypodermic needle.

While I don´t say ballasting is now fun, it has lost a lot of its scare for me.

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Posted by selector on Monday, January 25, 2016 1:57 PM

UNCLEBUTCH

I guess i don't understand the problem. So often I read of folks carrying on about ballasting, hate it;boreing, time wasting and on and on.I do 3-5 feet at atime, dump some stuff on the track,move it around with a small brush, wet it glue it.have a cold beer. I must be doing it wrong, but then I would rather spendtime on buildings and trees and stuff you actually look at and really see and appreciate

just thinking

 

Yup, me too. I can ballast 3' of flex in about six minutes.  Gets faster the more I do.

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Posted by joe323 on Monday, January 25, 2016 4:04 PM

Ballasting is OK provided that it does not become too messy.  On the old SIW it took maybe 2 hours and then some nit picking to get it right.  Oh and a few pases with the shop vac after drying to get the loose stuff up.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, January 25, 2016 4:09 PM

Ballasting is kind of a Zen thing.  You have to be in the mood to ballast.

My train room is also my man-cave, so I like to put on a sporting event that doesn't really demand all my attention, or some 50s music to put me into the era.  Then I'll ballast the track.

For me, the trick is to make ballasting pretty much the last thing I do to complete the scenery.  First of all, that means the scenery is done when the ballast is done, which is very satisfying.  Since I typically do scenery is relatively small sections, a few feet of trackage at a time, it means I'm not trying to ballast more track than I can do in a quarter, a period, a few innings of whatever sport I'm half-ignoring.

When I'm done with ballasting for the day, the project is done and I feel like I've really accomplished something.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by HObbyguy on Monday, January 25, 2016 5:18 PM

Ballasting and rail painting are both kind of monotonous, but easy to do so I find it a nice break from everything else.  I must be doing it wrong though because one of the things I really like about it is that it doesn't make much of a mess.  Or require a bunch of tools and supplies that get spread out everywhere.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

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Posted by John Busby on Monday, January 25, 2016 8:57 PM

Hi

To me ballasting is just one of the thing's that has to be done in creating a model railway.

I see no point in doing the whole railway all at once to the exclusion of other things.

Thats just asking for a tediouse and painfull time of it.

I do like to get the other basic ground cover up to the edge of the cork before starting ballasting

Ballast is on top of every thing so to me it makes sense to do it that way and no awkward gaps to try and cover up after wards.

regards John

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 11:09 AM

HObbyguy
I must be doing it wrong though because one of the things I really like about it is that it doesn't make much of a mess.

A few years ago, the "standard" method for ballasting involved using a spray bottle to apply "wet water" over the top of the ballast before applying glue.  That makes a mess.  Now, even Cody has come around to my way of thinking - apply wet water (or just isopropyl alcohol straight from the bottle) directly using a pipette, so it just goes where you want it and does not make a mess.

HObbyguy
Or require a bunch of tools and supplies that get spread out everywhere.

Now, where did I put that pipette?

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 12:51 PM

Yes, I also enjoy ballasting for many of the reasons already mentioned--no tools required, can't easily prevent the loco from running, and far easier for me than wiring.  Can I also join the 'ballasting exchanging for wiring club'? 

I find that a small plastic spoon works to spread the ballast.  Afterward, I even it with a cheap craft brush.  The clean up is quite easy and no worries should the ballast get a slightly away from the outside ties.  I too find ballasting a nice distraction from wiring.  Did I mention about trading it for ballsting?  Heck, I'll even throw in doing scenery, weathering, track planning, making dinner, etc.

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 1:16 PM

By craft brush do you mean foam? I use that method too and you can ballast a whole yard in no time. I use matt medium as the glue except around the turnouts which in which I use white glue, painted on in a way not to affect the switch, apply ballast, let dry and valcum and then do the rest of the ballasting.

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Posted by carl425 on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 3:32 PM

doctorwayne
In thess photos, the track in the foreground was done as far as the water tower in one session, then the next 12' or so of double track, with several turnouts, in another couple of sessions

Nice ballast, Wayne.  Which product/size/color are you using?

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 7:57 PM

Thanks for your kind words, Carl.
The ballast is Ohio limestone screenings - a friend bought several tons of it for his driveway, and re-sceened some of it to make ballast for his layout, which is much larger than mine.  He gave me three 10lb. containers of it, fine, medium, and coarse.  I've almost used up the medium, so picked up a couple of 50lb. bags of Ontario limestone screenings, and am re-screening it.  It is, however, a slightly different colour.

Wayne 

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Posted by mobilman44 on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 8:37 AM

I love ballasting when it goes well - which is about 50 percent of the time.   Sometimes having the base scenery in first and then ballasting after works best, sometimes ballasting first works best.  One thing I've found late in the game is that real rock ballast (highball, arizona) is much easier to control and place.  Of course it is significantly more expensive and harder to get than the Woodland Scenics nut shells. 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

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

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Posted by HObbyguy on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 6:12 PM

Rock ballast and alcohol for wetting are game changers.

I remember struggling mightily with WS shell ballast and "wet water" many years ago.  I don't remember it being that messy, but what a frustrating exercise.  No such problems with the Scenic Express rock ballast that I am using now.  Just spread, wet down with alcohol, and add glue.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

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Posted by joe323 on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 6:28 PM

On the old SIW I experimented with all kinds of techniques to ballast the track. Finally settled on using full strenght white glue on the slopes followed by the ballast (WS but the next time I'll use one of the real rock products) followed by wet water followed by 50/50 Water White glue mix.  Did maybe 5 6 feet a night. I used the Wet water and glue on the insides.  I found it to be a bit tedious no matter what method I used.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 8:34 PM

Bundy74

I'll ballast for you if you'll do my wiringBig Smile

 

I might take you up on that...

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Posted by theodorefisk on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 9:40 PM

I have to get to ballasting my track. I am on a tear to cover up the plywood with greenery and trees and shrubs and in turn, ballasting will cover up the cork and it should all be good. I am not crazy about wiring or ballasting, but both are necessary for a good looking and operating layout. 

 

Ted

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Posted by SS Express on Friday, January 29, 2016 7:55 PM

I have to admit I enjoy ballasting my railroad. I have even gone as far as sending out the 44 tonner with track crew and have it follow me along the right of way. It's my escape plan. I get to use my time machine for a few hours.......

Rich

Building the RDG, PRR, CNJ, LV railroads on the Huntington Valley Basement Lines.......
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Posted by davidmurray on Friday, January 29, 2016 8:12 PM

theodorefisk
theodorefisk wrote the following post yesterday: I have to get to ballasting my track. I am on a tear to cover up the plywood with greenery and trees and shrubs and in turn, ballasting will cover up the cork and it should all be good. I am not crazy about wiring or ballasting, but both are necessary for a good looking and operating layout

Ted:

I learned from some members of an old club(75 years in one spot) to not ballast or do very much scenery until you have run your railroad in the manner you plan to continue.  The reasoning is that the more time and money you put into such things the less you will want to tear them out if the track plan creates a hard to live with operating problem.

Dave

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, February 4, 2016 10:02 AM

bsteel4065

It is the most boring part of model railroading but it has to be done. 

SleepSleepSleepSleep

 
No, it doesn't have to be done....Wink
 
 
Stix
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Posted by Metro Red Line on Monday, February 8, 2016 7:53 PM

bsteel4065

Do any of you (apart from Cody) actually like ballasting?

SleepSleepSleepSleep

 

 

I like ballasting. There's a zen to it. Relax, put on your favorite music and start ballasting. Done correctly, it shouldn't be stressful. 

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