Model Railroad Ballast: all you need to know

The model railroad ballast has become a prevalent practice, especially among those who love scale models. Applying a rock surface to a model railway track adds more realism to the setting.

A vast majority of real railways use local area rocks as ballast, so knowing the area of ​​the prototype train you are using is a good option to select the proper ballast color. Of course, you can also choose the ballast color you prefer for your creation.

Although it may seem like extensive and arduous work, ballasting a scale model can be done easily and with excellent results. This article will detail some techniques that you can implement to perfect your model railroad ballast.

How to create a model railroad ballast in a few steps

To properly ballast your model train, you can follow these few simple steps:

  • Spread the selected ballast on the entire track and the sleepers. To do this properly, you can use a ballast spreader or a little spoon.
  • Next, hit the rails using the same spoon to remove the ballast that has remained on them.
  • Proceed to brush off the ballast remains that have adhered to the sleepers and the rails.
  • Now arrange the edges of your scale model so that the ballast is parallel to the track on both sides.
  • Make a small portion of ballast glue, mixing water and PVA glue in equal amounts, and a few drops of liquid detergent or IPA.
  • Carefully moisten the ballast with a combination of dishwasher and water. This is to help the glue set better.
  • Using a fine syringe, apply the previously prepared PVA preparation drop by drop to the ballast.
  • Clean the rails with a damp cloth to get rid of any glue traces that may have adhered.

How to apply ballast in points

On your scale model railway, the points have springs, movable parts, and pointed blades. These elements usually tend to trap small pieces of ballast, which could ruin your model’s points.

To apply ballast to these sensitive areas, it is recommended that you use a different technique.

  • Use a small size brush, and proceed to paint PVA between the sleepers at each point.
  • Then carefully sprinkle the ballast avoiding vulnerable areas.
  • Check as you progress at work. Validate that the blades are moving, and that there is no ballast on the sides of the rail.
  • Finally, use a soft bristle brush to remove any ballast that has been left off the sleepers.

You can apply this technique effectively on major model railway ballast. Works great on Busch, Javis, Woodland Scenics, Home Editions, and Hornby and Peco points.

Tips for ballasting models of different track gauge

Applying ballast to your model railways is not complicated, but it is a time-consuming task. Therefore, you must select the most suitable grade or size of ballast for the tracks’ width.

The success of your work will depend on a suitable selection. Among the large amount of ballast that you can find on the market, you must choose the most appropriate. For N gauge, you should choose fine or small ballast, and for HO / OO railways, you should select medium or large ballast.

Another aspect to consider, as we already mentioned, is the appropriate ballast color for your tracks. If you want to achieve a job close to reality, we advise you to study and know what the real railway looks like. This way, you will have a better idea of ​​which ballast to choose in terms of color. You can also apply other elements or accessories to complement your scale model and make it look like the real one. Put these tips and techniques into practice, and you are sure to achieve a perfect railroad ballast model.

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