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Affixing Stone Ballast

H.O. enthusiast John has this question:

“My track is down and now I want to pretty it up with stone ballast. I have sieved a crushed quarry bi-product and now have bottles of this fine stone to use. I also have the dust to fill in between the sleepers to save the fine stones. How do I glue this ballast down so it won’t move. Keeping it away from points / switches is a well known problem. A common kitchen sieve was used for the screening process.”

11 Responses to Affixing Stone Ballast

  • Kevin Ching says:

    Hi John
    IF you have already laid track on cork or foam to deaden the sound then do not use natural stone as the sound will return However if you still want to use it then lay the ballast with a spoon or ballast spreader and then use a stiff small brush to level the ballast. once spread you will have to spray or soak with wet water Water and dish detergent mix this will remove the surface tension and allow the glue mix 50/50 glue and water with dish detergent and the glue will flow and soak into the ballast. this can take a couple of days to dry. I would suggest you do the sides of the track first then between the rails do not use this on the movable points of the turnouts also make sure there is no ballast between the guard rail and the track rail or in the frogs. Take your time and dont rush the job a few hours getting it right will save a lot of headaches later on.

  • Milt Thomas says:

    Do not know the size of your layout but I would suggest using 2inch builders foam as a base. I hold my track down with 1.5 or 2inch straight pins along with the ballast the track stays in place. The foam is easy to mold or contour. It is light and rigid. Foam is a good sound deaden material also.

  • David STOKES says:

    “How do I glue the Ballast down?”
    After having got it where you want or need it, spray it with a fine mist of “wet water”. Wet water is water to which a few drops of dish washing liquid has been added. This break the surface tension of the water and that which follows, and allows the water to soak into the ballast without washing it away.

    Follow the wet water with PVA glue (Aquadere or similar) which has been diluted 1:1 with more water. Apply this using an eye dropper or basting pipette.

    • Sheldon Clark says:

      As well as putting detergent (“washing-up liquid”) in the spray water, put a few drops into into your dilute “white glue” (PVA). Don’t put too much in either – you don’t want the stuff foaming & leaving ugly marks.

  • Bob Schworm says:

    The posts are pretty much right. But – – -once you ballast your rails – you have turned it into concrete and will ruin your track if you should ever have to ( god forbid) pick it up and move it. Be absolutely sure you have allowed for all scenic elements to have room to stand in place. Also run all your train stock many many times over all rails at different speeds, being sure your curves are not too tight, and there is clearance between coaches and cars on inside curves…the curves hang out and bend in on these curves so you need clearance if 2 cars are curving together.

    I have a source for pulverized rubber in different grades. My supplier makes this stuff to match prototypically. and in different blends. A modeler recommends you do not ballast for at least a year so there are no regrets…you might expand, change a scene, add a spur, etc. Check all elevations such as train platforms against the doors on the coaches, coal loader clearances, log unrolling into condolas, etc. If you are going to use block detection or other electronic sensing systems under the rails such as railroad crossing gates and signaling, get them installed before you ballast – – – -and tested. Best of luck. Check – – check – – and check again.

  • Bruce Webb says:

    Hi John All of these answers are right on, but I do something just a little different. before I put down any ballast I use full strength white clue and spread it on the outside of the track just where I want the ballast to be just up to the tie ends, then I spread the ballast out on both sides using a brush to keep it off of the tie ends. This way you can use less ballast for the same coverage and most of the clean up work is already done. then use the wet-water and 50/50 mix to stick down the top and loose stuff. Then do the in-between the rails the way these other guts do it. HAPPY MODELING

  • Steve Adams says:

    Although have O gauge, I just used Elmer’s glue. I spread it between the ties one lightly poured the ballast on it. It seemed to hold it pretty well. Sometimes I had to add more glue. As I recall I actually diluted the glue with water a little that made it spread better but still held the ballast.

  • Jim Hall says:

    In my experience using stone will dissipate any flexibility in your trackwork.. You will have to use some sort of diluted white or wood glue and the stone and track will become like concrete. It will also cause the noise levels to increase. Sorry to be negative. Also if you have to repair a length of track yoiu may find that the track is ruined.

  • Richard Wolters says:

    For what it is worth.
    I had made a layout two years ago. While building, I happen to find large bags of finely crushed rock which is used as kitty litter. It looks really good however when you wet it, it swells up (as it should for kitty litter). I used it extensively to cover large sections op the layout and just left it as it came out of the bag. Only in a few places I “glued” it down with hairspray. It worked out fine especially when we decided to move. A new vacuum cleaner bag took care of the collection of 99% of the stuff and the rest just lifted off easily.

  • Bill says:

    I would be nervous to use this material unless you are 100% sure there is no iron filings in it. If you are then gluing it down is pretty straight forward, wet it with wet water then apply a water/glue or water/matte medium mixture (50-50 should do).

  • W Rusty Lane says:

    I balasted my tracks just as you are doing. I screened material that I collected from a rock quarry. After spreadig out a section I would glue it down with 50/50 glue and water. I did put my track work on cork and some masonite road bed and I did not notice any difference in noise level after the ballast was applied. It still sounds like a model train! Happy railroading!

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