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Interesting method of ballasting - seems pretty quick

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Interesting method of ballasting - seems pretty quick
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, May 1, 2021 1:13 AM

Hi folks,

I just came across this video on how to apply ballast quickly and easily.

I haven't tried it myself, but it certainly got my attention. My attempts at ballasting at my old club seemed to take forever. What do you think!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by selector on Saturday, May 1, 2021 2:24 AM

Looks like it should work well, maybe with a bit of practice.  But he's pretty convincing...

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 1, 2021 4:48 AM

In one way or another, isn't this really what we all do?  I don't see where there is any significant difference. You apply the ballast, you groom it, you spray it with alcohol, and then you dribble the glue mix onto the ballast.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Saturday, May 1, 2021 6:32 AM

Wait, you mean I dont have to buy that $30 cube do-hickey to apply ballast?

Andy

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Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

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Posted by NorthBrit on Saturday, May 1, 2021 6:51 AM

Sorry, but it is too fiddly for me.

I go totally against the rules

I lay the ballast.

That is it.

No glue, water or alcohol.

I prefer to drink the alcohol.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 1, 2021 7:11 AM

NorthBrit

Sorry, but it is too fiddly for me.

I go totally against the rules

I lay the ballast.

That is it.

No glue, water or alcohol.

I prefer to drink the alcohol. 

David 

David, more than once I have been tempted to lay the ballast and forget the glue. If you mess up a spot while operating, just re-groom it.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by snjroy on Saturday, May 1, 2021 7:24 AM

I like the cut-off brush - it seems to remove the springy effect of a regular brush. Thanks for sharing Dave, I will be ballasting soon so this is timely...

Simon

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, May 1, 2021 7:51 AM

I'd use a different type of spray head.  A nebulizer would be a better way to 'wet' the area initially -- no displacing the ballast or drenching some spots and leaving others starved.  Then setting the head to more of a fine atomizing spray instead of "squirting" would avoid much of the issue he describes with air being carried along with the large particles his sprayer is ejecting.  (Note amusingly he thinks his spray bottle is using air to eject the liquid, as if it were an aerosol can.)

I think the method might be improved by the usual addition of a few drops of surfactant or 'water breaker' to reduce surface tension and allow the applied spray to quickly wet everything evenly so the applied glue goes quickly into solution and forms an even coat.  Conversely applying something hydrophobic, or one of the non-stick or water-displacing coatings, to areas where glue isn't wanted -- like switchpoints or tie bars -- with something reasonably selective (even like a Q-tip) would only take a few seconds and facilitate easier 'cleanup' once the glue has set.

Note that Scotchgard used to be an alternative for this, but it needs to be used with much more care against exposure or contact, as its health effects are now known to be substantial and long-lasting.

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Posted by rrebell on Saturday, May 1, 2021 9:09 AM

I am more carefull with the ballast so I don't get way too much and use a foam brush to spread it.

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Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, May 1, 2021 10:09 AM

NorthBrit

Sorry, but it is too fiddly for me.

I go totally against the rules

I lay the ballast.

That is it.

No glue, water or alcohol.

I prefer to drink the alcohol.

 

David

 

 

Excellent plan!

Should you ever feel the need to clear the dust from your layout, you can vacuum the whole thing, and then clean the ballast (just like the real railroads!) and re-apply.

I should caution against the temptation to use compressed air for the same task.

 

Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, May 1, 2021 12:01 PM

snjroy
I like the cut-off brush - it seems to remove the springy effect of a regular brush....

While the stubby brush looked like it worked fairly well, we didn't get much in the way of close-up views.  If you use a springy brush (as do I), you can eliminate the springiness by using the brush so that the handle is almost parallel to the track.  This drags the excess ballast to where it's needed, rather than spraying it all over the place.
While I realise that the video was meant as an illustration, it  seems inefficient to not ballast the other track at the same time.
 
The use of a spoon for applying the ballast is also very inefficient...I use a paper cup, which not only holds more, but can also be squeezed to work in narrow confines or areas where finer control is needed.

Overmod
I think the method might be improved by the usual addition of a few drops of surfactant or 'water breaker' to reduce surface tension and allow the applied spray to quickly wet everything evenly so the applied glue goes quickly into solution and forms an even coat.

If I'm not mistaken, those who use alcohol as a wetting agent feel that its lower surface tension allows it to penetrate better that plain water, which seems to be true.
I prefer to use water with a few drops of dish detergent added, which lowers the surface tension, and gives the same penetration as alcohol.  For me, the drawbacks of alcohol are twofold:  higher cost than tap (or distilled) water, and shorter working time, before the alcohol evapourates. 
When I ballast track, it's usually 20' at a time, or more, and often double track, too.  The water allows a longer working time,  so I can enjoy the process at my leisure. Of course, this can also result in a longer time for the glue to harden, but I'm not in a rush.

As for an "even coat" I think that perhaps full penetration of the wetting agent and the glue might be a better description...insufficient pre-wetting, regardless of the solution used, is the major cause of ballast that ends-up with a fragile crust atop ballast that has remained loose.
Track cleaning, or even a derailment, can make a real mess of improperly applied materials.

As for alcohol, I'm in the "let's have a drink" camp after  an enjoyable session of ballasting.

Wayne

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, May 1, 2021 3:50 PM

doctorwayne
As for an "even coat" I think that perhaps full penetration of the wetting agent and the glue might be a better description...

Yes, precisely; the idea is that the pre-wetting thoroughly penetrates the whole of the 'interstices' so that the subsequent 'glue' can, by a combination of diffusion and capillary action, thoroughly coat all the particles and the substrate in an 'economically' thin layer that will be substantially invisible as a dried film but extremely strong in binding.

I do not know if alcohol as a vehicle in typical 'white glue' formulations evaporates more quickly to give accelerated glue hardening.  One of my 'influences' in the past was this thread here:

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/11/t/190774.aspx

in which there is some evidence that PVA might start to react to become polyvinyl alcohol and hence turn gummy rather than hardening.

Note the enormous range of mixing proportions (and costs thereof) in the older thread's methods.

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, May 2, 2021 1:17 AM

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/11/t/190774.aspx

Made the link clickable.

Lots of variations on the glue mixture and ballast application methods in both this and the other thread. The glue mixture in the original video was 1 part white glue, 1 part alcohol and 5 parts water and it certainly looked like it flowed easily.

Let's hear about other methods. Hopefully doctorwayne will explain his method of tapping a long paint brush so that the vibration causes the ballast to move off of the ties.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by NorthBrit on Sunday, May 2, 2021 4:31 AM

7j43k

 

 
NorthBrit

Sorry, but it is too fiddly for me.

I go totally against the rules

I lay the ballast.

That is it.

No glue, water or alcohol.

I prefer to drink the alcohol.

 

David

 

 

 

 

Excellent plan!

Should you ever feel the need to clear the dust from your layout, you can vacuum the whole thing, and then clean the ballast (just like the real railroads!) and re-apply.

I should caution against the temptation to use compressed air for the same task.

 

Ed

 

 

When I moved and  redesigned  Crown Point Yard on my layout;  easy. 

The time I had a faulty point;  I replaced it and was running trains again inside half'n'hour.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, May 2, 2021 6:48 AM

doctorwayne

If I'm not mistaken, those who use alcohol as a wetting agent feel that its lower surface tension allows it to penetrate better that plain water, which seems to be true.

That would be me. I have always used alcohol (70% isopropyl) as the wetting agent. I used to spray it on, but that results in a lot of waste. So, now, I dribble it on with an eye dropper.

doctorwayne

I prefer to use water with a few drops of dish detergent added, which lowers the surface tension, and gives the same penetration as alcohol.  For me, the drawbacks of alcohol are twofold:  higher cost than tap (or distilled) water, and shorter working time, before the alcohol evapourates. 

I only apply the alcohol wetting agent about 2' at a time, then the glue mix. So, I have no concerns about evaporation. My glue mix is 4 parts water to 1 part matte medium. It dries and hardens beautifully, no crust or crumbling. 

Before I apply the alcohol wetting agent, I carefull groom the ballast with a hobby dusting/cleaning brush. After the glue/water mix has thoroughly dried, I examine the ballasted shoulders. If there are any depressions, I fill them in with ballast, pre-wet with alcohol, and apply the glue/water mix to the filled-in depression. If there are any humps, I shave them down with a putty knife.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by York1 on Sunday, May 2, 2021 7:00 AM

I do mine the same way as Rich.  I have a small layout, so the eyedropper method doesn't bother me too much.

My kids say they want a cat for Christmas.  Normally I do a turkey but hey, if it'll make 'em happy ...

York1 John       

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Posted by chutton01 on Sunday, May 2, 2021 10:00 AM

I remember this channel, I used to view it more when he used to have some decent ideas (variations on standard themes such as building and weathering loads, freight items like crates and boxes, junk, signs, industrial structures and the like, usually (IMO) with an eye to mass-production or doing it quick while yielding decent resuults.
Then IIRC he seemed to get into more custom layout building and large scale, so I lost interest and more or less forgot about the channel. 
I see the video is from 2017, so that does line up, although I don't recall this specific video.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, May 2, 2021 10:28 AM

When I stopped using an oval shaped spoon to spread ballast, and switched to a square measuring spoon, life became much better.

This is so much easier to control and get the ballast in the right spot.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, May 2, 2021 3:42 PM

hon30critter
...Let's hear about other methods. Hopefully doctorwayne will explain his method of tapping a long paint brush so that the vibration causes the ballast to move off of the ties....

I didn't originate that method, Dave...I might have picked it up here or at my other forum, or perhaps read of it in RMC or MR.

I use a soft-bristle 1/2" or 3/4" brush to spread the ballast, whether it's Woodland Scenics' walnut shells or real limestone.  The brush, however, is, for the most part, not used as a brush, unless it's for sweeping ballast particles from lineside scenery, and back into the ballast along the shoulders of the right-of-way.

I use a paper cup to apply the ballast, usually between the rails first, then outside of the rails.  For the latter, the amount may vary, depending on the contours of the trackside terrain - in some places, the ballast (or sub-ballast - cinders on rip-rap) can be quite deep and widespreading.

The brush is used with the handle almost parallel to the track, and simply drags the excess ballast along to where it's needed or pushes the excess over the rails and onto the shoulder of the ballast profile created by the cork roadbed.  

Once a length of track has been more-or-less "groomed", (using the brush to actually brush the ballast will blast it all over the surrounding landscape) most of it will look pretty good, but there will often be particles of ballast laying atop the ties.  If you were to drag the brush along in the same manner as was used to spread the ballast, you'll likely clean some of it off the tops of the ties, but you'll also pick-up some particles from between the ties, too, re-distributing it back onto the tie-tops.
As long as your spread ballast is pretty-well at tie-top level, or slightly below that, any stray ballast atop the ties can be easily cleaned up with the brush used to spread it:

first, lightly grasp the metal ferrule of the brush between your thumb and forefinger, then lay the brush's handle across the rails.  Next, use the fingers of your free hand to gently and rapidly tap the brush handle, while simultaneously moving the brush along the track.  The stray particles of ballast will begin to bounce and then, almost magically, will disappear into the ballast that's already between the ties. 

I've never found this method to fail, unless the spaces between the ties have been overfilled...if that space is filled level with the tie-tops, I believe that the vibrations created by the bouncing brush handle will actual settle the ballast that's between the ties, allowing room to accommodate the stuff that gets bounced off the ties.

Feel free to try the method on 2" or 3" of track that's fixed in place.

Another ballasting trick, also not my creation, is one meant specifically for ballasting turnouts.

First, add the ballast sparingly in the areas near the points, taking care to not get any in between the throwbar and the ties around it.  Keeping the ballast below the tie tops over which the points move is crucial.

Next, apply some plastic-compatible oil to the tops of all ties over which the points move, then move the points back and forth several times to spread the oil to where it's needed.
Next, park the points at mid-throw, and, if necessary, block them in that position using strips of wood or styrene.

You can then do your usual wetting of the area and adding the glue - the oil will have no adverse effect on the glue holding the ballast in place, but where it's been distributed on the tie tops, it will prevent the glue from cementing the points to the ties.

Wayne

 

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, May 3, 2021 12:48 PM

Thanks Wayne!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

  • Member since
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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, May 3, 2021 12:51 PM

richhotrain
I have always used alcohol (70% isopropyl) as the wetting agent. I used to spray it on, but that results in a lot of waste. So, now, I dribble it on with an eye dropper.

Thanks for sharing your method Rich.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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