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Cinders or Ballast?

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Cinders or Ballast?
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:02 AM
I went to the hobby shop today to pick up some ballast for the test track. And I saw a bag of cinders, now I've heard of alot of people using these but for what, ballast? Are there other uses for it. I kindof find it hard to think of it being used for ballast cause the color was very dark. And most railroad ballast that I have seen has normally been some form of gray. Thanks for the help.......
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Posted by tomikawaTT on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:15 AM

Cinders are what was left in the ash pits when steam locootives dumped their ash pans at the end of a run.  From there they usually went into company service gondolas to be used wherever a rather poor quality non-organic fill material would be appropriate - including ballast on secondary tracks and spurs.

There is a fairly obvious reason why modern mainline ballast doesn't look like cinders.  Railroads haven't had a reliable, continuous source for better than half a century now.  Fixed coal-burning plants burn pulverized coal and produce fly ash - suitable for use as an aggregate in concrete, but way too fine for any railroad application.

One thing to check, if you ever get 'real' cinders (not dyed walnut shells), they are magnetic and abrasive - definitely bad news for locomotive mechanisms.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:29 AM

So basically cinders should not be used on mainlines, and only on secondary tracks (sidings or spurs)

Would they look better as loads in gondolas and not for ballast at all..?

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Posted by wjstix on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:36 AM

One use for the model cinders would be to mix them in with the regular ballast you're using. Over time cinders and small pieces of coal would accumulate along the right of way in steam days.

Also cinders would be seen in engine servicing areas. I know in some of the Mesabi Range iron ore mining railroad operations, the engines sometimes dumped their fires directly on the tracks. The layers of ore dust and cinders would be thick enough that it wouldn't reach the ties so there would be on fire issue.

Stix
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Posted by R. T. POTEET on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:38 AM
 t_valley wrote:
I went to the hobby shop today to pick up some ballast for the test track. And I saw a bag of cinders, now I've heard of alot of people using these but for what, ballast? Are there other uses for it. I kindof find it hard to think of it being used for ballast cause the color was very dark. And most railroad ballast that I have seen has normally been some form of gray. Thanks for the help.......


Railroads DID use cinders for ballast in areas immediately adjacent to terminals where it would have been readily available; it was also layed down on the dirt roads accessing railroad property at yard locations. I encountered cinders on the dirt adjacent to the team track in the burg of Roberts, Idaho in the 1950s.

From the far, far reaches of the wild, wild west I am: rtpoteet

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Posted by cacole on Sunday, April 20, 2008 7:34 AM

Railroads haven't had cinders to use as ballast since the demise of steam engines in the early- to mid-1950's, so you'll never find them on any track that was laid after that date.  When cinders were available, they were used only on branch lines, sidings and in rail yards.

Most main line trackage used gravel ballast instead of cinders because of durability.  Cinders could quickly be ground into a fine powder by the movement of crossties as a train passed over them, and would then lose their drainage properties.

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Posted by wm3798 on Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:12 AM

Use both!

They may not be using cinders for fresh ballast any more, but there's still a heckuva lot of them out there.  In many cases, you'll find a solid bed of cinders providing the wider base of the right of way, with the stone ballast neatly groomed just under the track structure.  That shot is from the Magnolia Cutoff on the CSX between Cherry Run and Cumberland.

On my layout I use the black cinder base to help clean up the edge of the track ballast, and in places I'll detail it to look like an access road used by the railroad.  This is probably more appropriate for my layout's era (late 60's) than a more modern scene, but I like the extra level of detail the cinder bed provides.

Lee 

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Posted by SleeperN06 on Sunday, April 20, 2008 10:33 AM
I recently took some photos of real ballast from Southern Calif. because I'm still trying to decide what to use on my layout. I don't know what it is made of yet, but I'm still searching.
Maybe this will help.

Thanks, JohnnyB
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Posted by inch53 on Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:09 PM

The NYC and PRR continued to cinders for awhile after steam from different sources, yards and secondary line. Many schools, collages, business', hospitals and others had more than enough for the right price, which was not much more than trucking cost.

There are several places were Cinder ballast can be found on rail and in yards still in use. First one is part of the NKP that remains in Neoga IL, owned by the Eastern Illinois RR, where they interchange with the IC/CN

 

Also at the other end in Metcalf IL, the EIRR interchange with CSX.

Here's a pic of the INRD yard in Palestine IL, where you can still see cinders showing through

There many places where you could use cinder ballast on a layout.

inch

http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/showgallery.php/cat/500/ppuser/4309

DISCLAIMER-- This post does not clam anything posted here as fact or truth, but it may be just plain funny
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Posted by Tjsingle on Sunday, April 20, 2008 2:46 PM
Use them both!
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Posted by locoi1sa on Sunday, April 20, 2008 6:56 PM

 Dont forget about slag also. The PRR used whatever they could get cheap for fill and ballast. Secondary lines and yards where great places to have slag from the steel mills and cinders from the service areas. The smaller granules where better for the crews who worked the switches instead of tripping on rocks. Slag was a waste product from the mills that was given to the RRs. All they had to do was haul it away. Most of the yard track around Cleveland was laid in slag. My uncle worked for USS and loaded open hoppers with slag. A small hot rolling mill could generate hundreds of tons of it in a week.

  Here on Cape Cod sand was used and in the hey day even clam and oyster shells for ballast.

   Its your rail road so use what ever you want. But the mains are always groomed 3 inch minus stone from the local quaries. It was not cost efective to haul stone hundreds of miles when you can get it just a few miles away. Just try to match the local rock in your area you are modeling. Not the soil color. Go to a quarry in you area and see the color. You may have to mix colors of Ballast.

      Pete
 

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:20 PM

Thanks for all the great information and pictures, it explains alot. I'm still debating on the actually prototype I would like to model. But I'm leaning towards the Colorado Midland RR. If anyone knows what color ballast was used and/or if cinders were used and where that would be a big help.Thanks again....

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Posted by gmcrail on Sunday, April 20, 2008 10:41 PM
As others have said, cinders were used for ballast only in yards and secondary trackage, where they were reaadily available.  However, another use I remember from the Fifties was in bins next to highways for road crews to use for traction in case of ice storms, and heavy snows.  This was before the widespread use of salt and other chemicals (which eat your car up, providing income to auto workers and body shops Smile [:)]). 

---

Gary M. Collins gmcrailgNOSPAM@gmail.com

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Posted by Southwest Chief on Monday, April 21, 2008 12:09 PM

The D&RGW narrow gauge network used cinders as ballast...where they actually put down ballast Laugh [(-D]  I've been looking for something to use in G scale outdoors, but nothing seems right.

I don't know much about the Midland, but I'd assume they were similar.  So cinders as your ballast might be the way to go. 

Many early lines didn't use any ballast.  But not knowing the Midland, I can't be certain of their practices.

Matt from Anaheim, CA and Bayfield, CO
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:21 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway.
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:21 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The
  • Member since
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:21 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The stuff
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:21 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The stuff turned
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:21 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The stuff turned to
  • Member since
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Posted by tatans on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:22 PM
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The stuff turned to concrete over the years.
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Posted by wm3798 on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 2:42 PM

They must have had a lot of sidewalks there!

Lee 

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Posted by markpierce on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 3:32 PM

 tatans wrote:
I lived in a railway town and our sidewalks were made of cinders thanks to the railway. The stuff turned to concrete over the years....I live in a railway town......over the years.....made of cinders.....I live in a railway town....

Your town would seem to have been subject to echoes.

Mark

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Posted by Dean-58 on Thursday, April 24, 2008 2:35 AM

Norman:

As the general consensus suggests, steam roads ballasted yards and secondary tracks with cinders, which allowed water to drain down and away from the tracks (you sometimes came across little streams and culverts in some yards for this purpose), while main line trackage was graded to be higher than the surrounding terrain, with gravel ballast tamped well to keep the tracks in place--and usually had ditches running parallel to carry runoff to streams that ran through the grade in culverts.  In steam days there were usually cinders that had fallen from ash bins mixed with the rock ballast between the rails.  Cinders were fairly "sturdy," and if well and deeply layered lasted for decades after the demise of steam.

Most rock ballast was gray, but a lot of it was white limestone--and shades could vary on the same line, depending upon the distances from the quarries that produced it.  A couple of railroads, the C&NW for one, used a sort of pink ballast that looked rather playful to eyes used to greys and whites!

A lot depends upon what era you're modeling, and I haven't traveled around enough since the '50s and '60s to know what's been used since the end of steam.  Have fun!

Dean-58

Duluth, MN

Dean "Model Railroading is FUN!"

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