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Ballast Between Parallel Tracks

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  • Member since
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Ballast Between Parallel Tracks
Posted by Wayne_PRR on Friday, August 18, 2023 4:16 PM

Greetings!

Thanks for all of your advice on ballast so far.  I have another question:

Tony Grivno of Model Railroader uses the technique of using a foam brush to "shape" the ballast on the sholders.  See:  https://www.trains.com/mrr/how-to/expert-tips/tips-for-successful-ballasting/

Great idea and it does work.  But I have a lot of parallel track to ballast.  How have some of you done this?

The rails are 2 1/2 inches apart center-to-center.  The ties are 1 3/4 inches from tip to tip.  The space between the cork roadbed is 3/4 inches.

Thanks!

Tags: Ballast , Parallel
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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 1:34 PM

Hello All,

The answer is, "Well, it depends..."

Wayne_PRR
The rails are 2 1/2 inches apart center-to-center. The ties are 1 3/4 inches from tip to tip. The space between the cork roadbed is 3/4 inches.

In actual measurements, the distance between the edges of the roadbed would be 5' 5-3/64".

What distance do the tracks run parallel?

Is this a siding where the tracks run parallel for a few hundred scale feet or yards?

Or, does this track spacing run for scale miles?

Are these mainline runs or are they in a yard?

Is there an elevation difference between the two sets of tracks?

With parallel tracks, oftentimes one set is elevated or depressed relative to the other set of tracks on a cross slope.

If these are mainline runs then there is usually a trough between the shoulders of the ballast.

Sometimes these troughs get filled with vegetation, old discarded ties, rails, or standing water- -bad drainage.

If this is a yard the ballast is typically even from the top of the ties or sometimes the ties are buried and barely visible.

For the appearance of level ballast between the parallel tracks fill the gap with upside-down strips of roadbed so one bevel matches the other bevel.

This way you don't have to use as much ballast to fill in the space.

If you want to model a trough between the two you can break this up with items I listed above.

Hope this helps.

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

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 2:28 PM

I like to use a two-step ballast application technique that works well for me and ultimately saves wasted ballast that will tend to fill in the desired drainage trough between main line tracks.

Since you're using cork roadbed be sure it has been sanded and the remnants of the bevel cutting process removed. This is best done before laying track and a Stanley Sureform tool is great for this.

Then I paint the rails and ties. once dry I begin ballasting by brushing on a generous coat of undiluted white glue or PVA (I use Mod Podge) on the beveled edges of the roadbed only.

Then I lightly sprinkle the ballast on these beveled slopes and allow the glue to set, a day or so. It is OK if the ballast is only lightly applied.

In the next step I apply the dry ballast between the ties and some into the trough between tracks carefully brushing and tapping any loose grains away from the rails and tie tops. The previously applied and set ballast on the slopes provides a sort of barrier or tooth to keep the 'field' ballast from spilling over and filling in the trench.

Now it is time for traditional spritzing of wet water then application of diluted matte medium or your ballast cement of choice.

Later you can fill in thin spots and dress up the edges with a coarser stone if desired.

 PRR_E6-curve-wide by Edmund, on Flickr

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 4:20 PM

I have parallel tracks also in certain spots--yards and a few sidings.  Before securing ballast, I would ensure you test the layout thoroughly.  Repeated tests avoid having to remove track, which is not always easy once you secure ballast (don't ask!).

For the track, work from back to front and in sections.

Not to hijack the thread, but how to prevent the glue from drying in the pipette?  I rinse it out with water after use but the residue prevents many re-uses.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 4:57 PM

Hello All,

kasskaboose
Not to hijack the thread, but how to prevent the glue from drying in the pipette? I rinse it out with water after use but the residue prevents many re-uses.

Check out this thread and the accompanying method...

Instant Track-Tackit Ballast Adhesive Questions

No need for pipettes...

Hope this helps.

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

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Posted by FRRYKid on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 2:56 AM

My method of avoiding glue in the pipettes is to use tie dye bottles. Got a few sets cheap from a big box store when they on clearance.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
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Posted by AEP528 on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 7:25 AM

kasskaboose

 

Not to hijack the thread, but how to prevent the glue from drying in the pipette?  I rinse it out with water after use but the residue prevents many re-uses.

 

I rinse them out and store them standing up on end so the remaining liquid drains out.

 

Instant Track-Tackit only seems to be available on eBay for a ridiculous price compared to a gallon of white glue.

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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 7:44 AM

For the ballast, I first clean up the cork a bit and then shape the ballast with fingers a bit. To shape all my ballast I use a micro nossle on the ehd of my miniture hose on a regular valcum. It is just a styrene tube shoved into the hose a bit bigger than the biggest ballast peice. I can pick up stray ballast peices and shape the ballast line and fix any over aplications to the valleys that don't look right and just add less back in.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 7:55 AM

Un-hijacking the thread.

 

rrebell

For the ballast, I first clean up the cork a bit and then shape the ballast with fingers a bit. To shape all my ballast I use a micro nossle on the ehd of my miniture hose on a regular valcum. It is just a styrene tube shoved into the hose a bit bigger than the biggest ballast peice. I can pick up stray ballast peices and shape the ballast line and fix any over aplications to the valleys that don't look right and just add less back in.

 
Aye!  I used a sanding block which worked well too.
 
 
 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by AEP528 on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 9:03 AM

Cody (not Tony) Grivno's method doesn't really lead to a realistic ballast profile, and building up a better profile wastes a lot of ballast. And, as you've noted, it doesn't really lend it self to getting a relatively even depression in the ballast between the tracks. In the past, I've had to build it up slowly, working a little bit on each side, to try and get it to look right.

I've been experimenting with using various plaster-like materials to build up the roadbed profile alongside and between the cork roadbeds. After painting, a much thinner layer of ballast is all that's needed.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 12:02 PM

kasskaboose
How to prevent the glue from drying in the pipette?

I use disposable pipettes that I buy in bulk for pennies each. I thought I had a lifetime supply, but they seem to have a shelf life of about eight years before the plastic bulb becomes brittle.

-Photograph by Kevin Parson

Anyway, glue that dries in disposable pipettes is never a problem. That is my best solution.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 2:33 PM

Thanks Kevin.  I thought it was me using too much glue or not cleaning out effectively.  Where did you get such a large supply of them?  I don't need anywhere that many, but others might.

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Posted by AEP528 on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 2:39 PM

kasskaboose

Thanks Kevin.  I thought it was me using too much glue or not cleaning out effectively.  Where did you get such a large supply of them?  I don't need anywhere that many, but others might.

 

Amazon, Walmart, any scientific or medical supply company. Generally around $5/100 pipettes. I bought in bulk, but I don't treat them as disposable. 

Edit: Probably more accurate to say that I don't treat them as single use. I reuse them as long as I can, but don't have any problem throwing them away.

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Posted by Wayne_PRR on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 8:29 PM

Thanks to all who have answered!

Thanks, jjdamnit, for the idea of placing cork roadbed upside down for my trainyard.  But what I needed was answered by you and Ed (gmpullman).  My layout is 8' by 16' more or less in the center of the room.  I wanted a layout around the perimeter of the room, but with 4 doors and a stairway, it is impossible!  My mainline is about 0.6 scale miles around the outside of the board and this is where the parallel tracks, right now, exist.  I have lots going on inside this long loop with switches, crossovers, etc. in place.  The trainyard will be phase 2.

Thank you, rrbell, for the interesting idea of the micro-vacuum.  I will look into trying this!

And, kasskaboose is absolutely right about testing the track prior to ballasting!  My grandson has been running the trains since I got power to the track!  All was well until I got out the 4-4-4-4.  It derailed in the most peculiar place!  Looking closely, I found a 2” piece of track had glue on only the outside rail and the inside was raised just enough to cause the leading wheels to derail, and at the next switch, the engine left the track!  (No Damage!)

Thanks, again, everyone.

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Posted by Wayne_PRR on Thursday, August 24, 2023 3:50 PM

kasskaboose

Not to hijack the thread, but how to prevent the glue from drying in the pipette?  I rinse it out with water after use but the residue prevents many re-uses.

 

Try a final rinse with alcohol.  Seems to work for me, at least in the couple of weeks I have been ballasting!

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Posted by Wayne_PRR on Thursday, August 24, 2023 3:54 PM

Duh!  Forgot to thank Ed (gmpullamn) for his pictures.  My mainline looks very similar to yours and I really like the results of your ballasting.  Hope mine looks as good!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, August 24, 2023 4:34 PM

I can't imagine a foam brush working well for grooming ballast..a 1/2" wide brush, with soft bristles offers much better control.  If I'm ballasting track, I use a paper cup to dump the ballast (real rock or the synthetic stuff), then gently drag the brush to spread and groom the ballast. Next, I lay the handle of the brush across the rails, then while holding the brush end lightly by my fingers, rapidly tap the handle across the rails, which usually bounces most of the excess ballast off of the ties.  The next step is to spray the ballast with "wet" water, then add some diluted white glue (applied using a plastic eye-dropper, minus the needle, of course.  By the next day, the ballast will be solidly held in place.

Wayne

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, August 24, 2023 8:13 PM

I suggest folks get 1-3 cheap 1/2" brushes from a big box home improvement store or craft store to spread the ballast from a cup.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, August 25, 2023 12:28 AM

kasskaboose
Thanks Kevin.  I thought it was me using too much glue or not cleaning out effectively.  Where did you get such a large supply of them?  I don't need anywhere that many, but others might.

Just type in "3ml pipette" on eBay or Amazon.

Plenty of inexpensive options.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, September 5, 2023 2:48 PM

That's a really nice-looking layout that you're building, Rio!

 

Cheers, Wayne (doctorwayne)

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