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wire basket for spreading scenery

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  • Member since
    February 2010
  • 152 posts
wire basket for spreading scenery
Posted by banjobenne1 on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 9:03 PM

What is everone using to spread scenery, ballast?

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 16,223 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 9:23 PM

The two lab spatulas in the foreground have been my 'go-to' tools for initially laying the ballast in place, the smaller one used near turnouts and tight areas.

 Ballasting Tools by Edmund, on Flickr

I can poke the tool directly into the ballast container and load up the amount desired then, using a tapping motion with my finger guide the ballast in place while moving the tool along the ties.

If you use cork roadbed I've found it beneficial to run two beads of full strength or at least minimally thinned PVA (I use Mod-Podge) on each slope of the cork then let it dry a day or so before filling in the tie area with the loose ballast and wet water application. It keeps the ballast from rolling off the slope and filling in the space between tracks or at the track edges.

 IMG_2915 by Edmund, on Flickr

I rather enjoy ballasting and I'm a bit dismayed that my layout is pretty much 95% ballasted so I'm nearing the end of that 'task'.

Another hint is to lightly tap the rail head once you have finally leveled the ballast to your liking. This knocks any loose grains off the rail before you mist the wet water. Resist the temptation to do any adjusting after the ballast it wet. This usually results in a mess.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    November 2013
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Posted by snjroy on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 9:51 PM

For ballast I use a plastic spoon and... my finger. A little goes a long way. I used to use the back of a brush, but my finger does a better job at spreading the ballast without shooting it everywhere.


  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 10:25 PM

I use a spoon for ballast and a brush for smoothing it.  I usually just spread tinted Gypsolite for the first scenic layer with a putty knife.  The static grass goes on with a simple Grass-Tech applicator.  Ground foam, rocks and talus are just pinched on by hand.


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

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    March 2011
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Posted by NVSRR on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 5:28 AM

Old plastic spoon and fan brush or square brush depending on how I need the ballast spread for that track section.   The dirt is spread by a shaker and most o5er is spread by the hand of god.   U less I sneeze then a hurricane does it.     


A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 7:08 AM

Plastic spood and foam brush (find the foam type dosn't fling the ballast like a regular brush can).

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 277 posts
Posted by AEP528 on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 7:35 AM

For ballast, I use a spoon and finger for most of it. To get ballast out of turnout frogs and guard rails, I bought a pack of cheap kids' watercolor brushes and trimmed some at an angle. After the glue has dried, I found that running a finger back over the ties will easily remove any stray ballast.

For the inital "dirt" layer of scenery, I use a 3" metal strainer bought at Target for a few dollars.

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Fullerton, California
  • 1,364 posts
Posted by hornblower on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 1:08 PM

Empty spice jars from the kitchen can make handy ground cover applicators.

I also use a spoon and various paint brushes to apply ballast.

Empty contact lens solution bottles make excellent scenic cement applicators as they provide the control of a pipette without the need to refill, and refill, and refill.  If you or someone you know wears contacts, save the various solution bottles as small bottles work well in tight places while large bottles allow you to cover large areas without having to refill the bottle.  I like to use one bottle to apply wet water and a second bottle with scenic cement.


  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 2,314 posts
Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 3:52 PM

For scenery, I used a dixie cup or a shaker container.

For ballast, a spoon, dixie cup, and 1.5" brush.

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, August 10, 2023 1:54 PM

I spread ground cover just with my hands or fingers.

For ballast I prefer a 1 tbs measuring spoon.

-Photograph by Kevin Parson

The square edges make spreading ballast precisely fairly easy.


Living the dream.

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