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  • #31
    I certainly agree with Drew. We should never overlok just plain old dirt for the layout. Terrain is a mass of different materials and the more variety we use the closer we will be to the real world. One thing that I see on a lot of layouts is that the right- of- way is just too neat. The ballast on real roads is put down at different times from different sources. The colors and sizes are usually a big mix of the years of maintenance. There may have been a road at some point that had a perfectly straighe edged ballast that was all the same size and color but it only lasted to the first heavy rain or any maintenance work. Sifting your material through smaller and smaller sizes will give you several containers of materials to keep at hand. Richard


    • #32
      To kind of expand on what Richard is saying...You can improve the realism of a layout, & create more visual interest by using different types of ballast on different types of track...

      Here are three examples of what I mean on my N scale Poor Fork RR...

      The first is the mainline, which is ballasted with WS Fine Gray ballast...I used the alcohol/India ink wash as a wetting agent...

      The tracks at the Matheson Mine were ballasted with WS Fine Cinders, & real coal, which I crushed up with a hammer...The black wash was used as a wetting agent here also...

      On the siding in Glasgow Jct, I just used sifted dirt...this siding runsd along the back side of the town, & serves businesses there...I used "wet water" to bond this, since I didn't wish to alter the color of the dirt...


      "Life is all the stuff that happened while you were making other plans."


      • #33

        Originally posted by Drew

        Hi Jim!

        When I lived on a farm, we called that "chicken grit" (as opposed to the other chicken stuff that rhymes with "grit"! )

        While it might work in a larger scale, I think it might be a little course for N of the problems we N scalers face, in addition to over-sized rails, is over-sized ballast, including many commercial varieties...

        For my N scale ballast, in addition to the sand pictured earlier in this thread, I use the "Fine" grades of ballast by Woodland Scenics, which can be made to look pretty good, & I've sometimes used dirt that's been sifted through a nylon stocking...This gives me a look very similar to what MikeC posted above...

        Drew - I certainly understand "that other chicken stuff" - as a kid, I lived between a dairy farm and pig farm - and - we had sulfer water! I was ALWAYS glad to get home after visiting my buddy at the chicken farm! :yuck: We (now) have a canary for which we need grit and it strikes me to be as fine as any ballast I've seen which is why I brought it up. In fairness, I've been "out of touch" for a while so perhaps the scenery folks have improved on their product lines.

        Similar to you, I've used real dirt also - particularly around water towers where I could depict mud from the overflows. Just can't beat the real thing! [^] I had also used the nylon stocking trick except that I had dyed sawdust in it. Once the sawdust dried, I "puffed" the stocking over the area I wanted green - it was VERY :up: effective - just the right texture and I got lucky with the colour!


        • #34
          WOW Drew! That's N scale?!? [:-bigeyes2] Nice job - you have certainly mastered your technique! :up: :up:

          Richard - I'd never really thought of the points you raised and after seeing Drew's pics above, certainly now understand your points. I agree wholeheartedly!


          • #35
            Hi all

            While this thread started as a question about using sand for N scale ballast it has developed into a thread with a lot of valuable information.

            I have made the thread a sticky as this is information other people may want in the future.

            So please continue this discussion and feel free to add any other ideas you have about ballast.

            Thanks all for the informative discussion.
            <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


            • #36
              Thanks Jim!


              Originally posted by jimdad1

              ....We (now) have a canary for which we need grit and it strikes me to be as fine as any ballast I've seen which is why I brought it up. In fairness, I've been "out of touch" for a while so perhaps the scenery folks have improved on their product lines....

              Well, fortunately, Jim, I've been "out of touch"

              with the chickens for quite some time now...(I could write a book about my Grandmother's love, & my hatred, of those infernal creatures! :crazy: )...but I remember the grit we used as being roughly the size of birdseed...or roughly the size of some of the courser commercial ballasts...? But I dunno...maybe it was 'cause I was smaller back then!

              "Life is all the stuff that happened while you were making other plans."


              • #37
                I think this is one of those questions with no firm answer for all situations. The prototype roads start out with what they feel is the perfect type and size ballast and then adjust as the situation changes. One of the problems of keeping the track in good shape is that the ballast actually "wears out". The trains passing and the tracks moving up and down work to grind the rock smaller as well as weather working to move it around. While there are untold tons of limestone in my area, the Missouri Pacific used ballast hauled all the way from near Saint Louis. It was a much harder rock and held up better than the softer limestone. The company that now runs the local tracks uses limestone, probably due to price but there is still a layer of the dark red color there also. Richard


                • #38
                  Hello All.

                  I completed the ballast job on both sections of benchwork.Everything is glued down good.I checked for ballast against the rails and cleaned them off,then cleaned the track and test ran an engine and made adjustments.There are a couple of bare spots I'll go over again.Other than that it looks good! :up: I'll post a photo sometime soon.

                  Have a good one.

                  Bill Burge



                  • #39
                    Hi Bill!

                    I always roll a car over the tracks after the ballast has dried...especially concentrating on turnouts, gaurdrails, etc...if there is any stray ballast blocking any of the flangeways, you can feel the car bumping over can easily clear the stray ballast with a dental pick, or the point of a hobby knife. Just keep testing, until evrything is rolling smoothly.

                    "Life is all the stuff that happened while you were making other plans."


                    • #40
                      While I do as Drew says and roll a car through the new bastast area after it dries there is one more step that will help. If you push a car through with a fair amount of weight on it after the glue is on but before it has set up the wheels will push the stray ballast out or away from the tracks so that you don't have as much glued down to move. Easier to move before than after the glue sets. Richard


                      • #41
                        While I have learned a lot from everyones suggestions and ideas, there is one area That has not been mentioned so far and that is switches. A person has to be very careful around switches as a little sand can get in and possibly ruin a switch.


                        • #42
                          I use the manual turnout throws and it isn't such a problem butit is always a good idea to keep the glue back from the moving points on switches. It can be a real nuisance to get it operating well again. Richard


                          • #43
                            Good point guys!

                            Keep the glue off the throwbars, & point rails, in addiyion to keeping all the flangeways clear!

                            If you do accidentally get one stuck, don't can usually work it loose...use a little warm water if you have to.

                            "Life is all the stuff that happened while you were making other plans."


                            • #44
                              Morning Gentlemen,

                              For another source of ballast, look at this stuff.


                              Unfortunately for you N-scalers some of the stuff is for O scale. :erm:

                              He also sells real coal!

                              Have a fun day!

                              -david j


                              • #45
                                MP Rich is correct. Very seldom is there a long stretch of "Neat Ballast" or consistent material used. Typically, you will find lighter ballast used on mainlines, darker on sidings (of all types) I may try to follow that concept for the most part. However, for every 6 foot of track (even mailine) I have maybe a run of only 5-6 inches where it is really edged well.

                                I use maybe 6-7 differnt colors/materials also. I have used different non-magnetic sands, sifted dirt, an fine ballasts.

                                Another trick I use to prevent movement while ballasting is to also add about two drops to my mixture of 50/50 white glue/water. I have found (I use an eyedropper for both wet water and glueing down) that a drop or two of soap doesn't hurt in the glue mixture. Especially if you missed a spot or two while pre-wetting.

                                Plus after everything dries, it seems to me that it is harder and never crusts over. I think, and may be wrong, it is due to the glues soaking in really well and getting to areas pre-soaking may of missed.