Model Railroad Yard Ballast

Track ballast/Yard Ballast It is another essential part of railroad infrastructure, although it may just look like plain ole gravel. This stone plays a vital role in acting as a support base for the railroad ties and rails. Yard ballast allows for proper drainage of water away from the track. That is why the stone is always sloped downward and away from the railroad.

You may be wondering how such a term came to define the stone which supports the railroad track structure. Interestingly, it has its roots dating back to early times when the stone was used as ballasting for sailing ships.  In today’s railroad industry the use of ballast, its application, and purpose has changed little since it was first employed. It will likely always remain an important component as a part of the track structure.


In new construction or for repair work, the tracks are ballasted to yard/industrial standards. Ballast less depth than mainline, since speeds will below.  The spaces between ties are filled in with smaller gravel to tie-top level to provide better footing for yard workers.  French drains are often installed, and there may be a manhole or two where the drain lines trunk together.

Years of use

Over time, the ballast gets fouled with spilled lading and blown-in dirt.  Weeds begin to grow.  During the transition era and earlier, journal box drippings would slowly saturate the ground (poor man’s tarmac.)  Cinders from would be spread in the yard. Well-maintained yards will be kept pretty clear of foliage and will occasionally get a ballast transfusion where needed.  Unmaintained yards will gradually change to muddy quagmires, sometimes with tracks submerged below the railheads in glop.  Tall weeds and bushes abound, and even an occasional sapling if the tracks are embargoed.


An interesting effect to model is to model the entire yard somewhat grimy with some weed growth. Anther is to make turnout with fresh, clean ballast.

Most (if not all) prototype yards had something keeping the tracks in place.  Cinders were common during the steam and early diesel era. As was “regular” ballast when major yards were built/rebuilt over the years.  Over time, dirt, soil, grease, grime, gets everywhere. Also, make some spots looking as if there has never been ballast, to begin with.

Of course, while crushed cinder with basalt is the aggregate of choice for today’s railroads. In years past everything from slag to cinders has been used (always resourceful years ago railroads would use whatever they could find). Some light density railroad lines would appear jet black cinders were used to ballast the route. In any event, track ballast must regularly be cleaned or added as when dirt and grime build-up. When this happens within the rock it reduces its ability to properly drain water. 

The ballast also acts as a support base for the railroad track structure giving it strength and rigidity but also allowing for flexibility when trains pass over. Black cinder with basalt is often most used as ballasting.ballasting. It is a hard stone that will lock together providing for extra strength.

The hump yard looked like this for over ten years with just ballast for scenery. This would be correct for the dry Southwest and I left it that way so my customers could see the HO “fine” ballast colours of #1222 yard mix and #1152 Empire Builder overlaid in the foreground. This is the first step no matter how you scenic a yard as the ballast is the base before adding more to it.

The Eastern/Midwest look
A whole host of color and texture brings life to the scene as this railroad doesn’t spray herbicide to kill weeds and grass. I used the following products for this effect; #1031 “N” scale Black Cinder, #1011 “N” scale Red Cinder, #1151 “N” scale Empire Builder ballast, #2000 Urban/Industrial Dirt. This was applied randomly and then brushed around to (slightly) mix the colours. #2 Dead and Alive ground cover, #8 Olive Green Flock, #4 Straw Grass clippings and #1321 “N” scale White Marble for the spilt sand from the engine sanders. The Clump foliage is a sample from a scenery company that never made it a product. All nine products are put down dry and then bonded in one application. It’s hard to tell, but 50 per cent of the original ballast still shows through so you need to PRE ballast the tracks anyway and let that dry completely.

Arizona Model Railroad

When modeling and railroad in ariozna there are few chosics to make.

The first choice is which one to choose. But it is only one big one. BNSF goes north to south and east to west, connecting the main cities of Arizona. They combine all the other railroads and connecting Arizona to other states.

The second goal is what period. For the most part, BNSF has the same ballast in the same location as in the past. They mostly use black cinder over most of the line. That makes it easy to choose.

The Third choice is location location location. In Arizona, they have many different types of terrain. In the south, they have open and flat desert. In Central, Arizona, they have urban to mountain terrain. In the north, they have mountains and the Grand Cayon.

If you include the Grand Canyon, you will need to have a structure the goes well below the leading layer of the track.

Arizona Model Railroad

Model Railraod Benchwork Width and Height

Keep your benchwork width and height about 3 feet and 3.5 feet.

An essential part of designing your model railroad is decision making and best belief. There are several choices to make when planning your model railroad. Do you want to freelance the railroad or copy a prototype?  What kinds of equipment (locomotives and cars) do you want to run?  You may want to add your own rules, like what you wish the layout’s height to be. How wide the aisles should be if you have aisles. You may want to make sure that all areas of the railroad have easy access. So you’re not having to break your back bending over or stand on a ladder or scaffolding to reach the farther sections of your track and scenery. 

Benchwork Width and Height


Most single layer model railroad layouts with backdrop are usually 3 to 3.5 in width. If you are building a layout you can access from both sides, make it no more than 6 feet deep so you can reach the center from both sides. If you are creating a two or more layer layout, make each section about 2 to 2.5 feet, so the structure does not get too deep, and you can reach each part.


On height, you do not want our layout base to go over 3.5 to 4 above the floor. If it gets too high, kids and short adults can see the first layer. But when it comes to each additional layer, you need it to be about 2 feet above the lower layer. The third layer would be about 8 feet above the floor. Most people will not be able to see anything. So most people do a cake layer design. Each layer should be set back 2-3 feet and only 1 foot up so you can get three to four-layer in eyesight.

If you are contracting a layout more than 4 feet in width, then you should place a spot where you can step without damaging the structure. Place extra support below the sites.

To read mor on benchwork

Remember that the benchwork width and height is your choice. Do not let anyone talk you out of what you want for your design.

Lionel Model Trains

Lionel Corporation was an American toy manufacturer and holding company of retailers that have been in business for over 120 years. It was founded as an electrical novelties company; Lionel specialized in various products throughout its existence. Toy trains and model railroads were its main claim to fame. Lionel also produced the diecast cars for NASCAR.

Lionel trains have been produced since 1900, and their trains drew admiration from model railroaders around the world for the solidity of their construction and the authenticity of their detail. During its peak years in the 1950s, the company sold $25 million worth of trains per year. In 2006, Lionel’s electric train became the first electric toy inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. In 1969, they sold their model train lines to General Mills but continued to operate until 1993 as a holding company for their toy stores. Its model trains are still in production as a separate company.

Lionel Model Trains


Lionel made many models, including scale models, of actual trains. The Red Comet and Blue Streak sets included models of New York Central’s Commodore Vanderbilt locomotive. In 1934, Lionel made a 1:45 scale model of Union Pacific’s M10000 diesel streamliner (also called the city of Denver) that runs on an O gauge track. It was followed by a model of the city of Denver’s successor, the city of Portland. The 763E and 700E are 1:48 scale models of 4-6-4 Hudsons. In 1938, Lionel made a Chicago, Burlington model, and Quincy Railroad’s Burlington Zephyr streamliner called the flying Yankee.

Post WW2

Lionel resumed producing toy trains in late 1945, replacing their original product line with less-colorful but more realistic trains and concentrating exclusively on O-gauge trains. Many of Lionel’s steam locomotives of this period had a new feature: smoke, produced by dropping a small tablet or a special oil into the locomotive’s smokestack, which contained an electric heating element. Many types of diesel, electric, and steam engines made after 1950 had Lionel’s Magne-Traction, which made the wheels magnetic to grip the track better. Lionel’s most popular toy train ever mass-produced was the Santa Fe F3, numbered 2333, released in 1948.

Lionel started the postwar period in 1945 with a train set introducing remote-control uncoupling. The locomotive was the 224, a pre-war carryover 2-6-2 prairie. In 1947, Lionel produced a model of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1. One year later, Lionel began production of their famous Santa Fe F3. As a direct descendant of the pre-war 763E locomotive, in 1950, Lionel released the 773, another scale Hudson. The Lionel FA model was also introduced in 1950. Many collectors and operators have considered the best postwar Lionel locomotive is the 746 released in 1957.

It is a model of Norfolk and Western’s J class steam engine. During both the pre-war and post-war eras, Lionel made many models of electric locomotives; during the post-war era, Lionel made models of the EP-5 and Virginian EL-C to the GG1. From 1946 through 1949, Lionel issued the 726 2-8-4 Berkshire, a prized item today. from 1950 to 1951; Lionel produced the 736 Berkshire, which was basically a 726 with Magne-Traction. In 1952, the Vietnam war caused a shortage of magnetic materials, so Lionel reissued the 726 as the 726rr (726 reruns). From 1953 all the way until 1968, the 736 was produced again.

Garden Layouts

The garden is a unique and wonderful place to have a railway. It really is worlds apart from being squirreled away in the spare room or garden shed. Natural lighting brings a variance not seen on indoor railways, and indoor layouts tend not to like the rain! This isn’t a problem with a large scale outdoor layout; in fact, part of the fun sees how well things run in conditions that vary considerably. G scale will quite happily run in the rain, even snow. All that is needed is the top layer of snow scraping off the top of the rails to ensure power can reach the loco pickups. It offers wonderful opportunities for photography with ever-changing conditions.

The wonderful thing about outdoor Garden layouts is that family and friends of all ages can get involved and have a great time. The marriage of trains and gardening makes it FUN for everyone! G-Scale Trains also are the most tolerant and user-friendly of all of the model trains currently manufactured. But beware, you will suddenly find yourself with a host of new friends! The outdoor model railroad is perfect for entertainment during cocktails and horderves. Guests will love the open environment. Plus fresh air, and the soothing hum of the large G-scale trains. That operates on nearly 10,000 square feet of land.

Naturally, a garden layout requires a different type of maintenance than an indoor tabletop railway. But this is not a problem – garden lines are typically simpler than their indoor counterparts. So there will usually be less pointwork to worry about.


Plants are usually an integral part of a garden layout, and dwarf varieties and pruning are often used to keep them in proper proportion. Some go so far as to use bonsai techniques, though this can be very time-consuming for large areas. Buildings are also often used in a garden railway, though they must be constructed to withstand the weather. Train stations and freight depots are popular, some even building whole towns trackside. The loco shed is a commonplace to store a locomotive (or the whole train) when not in use.

Other geographic features are used, such as a small pond to represent a lake, rocks for boulders or tunnels through “mountains” or under stairways. Tunnels can be a particular challenge because of everything from cats to raccoons and more like to hide in them, particularly to get out of the rain or heat, sometimes even to sleep, nest, or hibernate. A derailment inside a tunnel can also be permanent if careful planning is not done to ensure that it can be reached by access panels (trapdoors) or at arm’s length from either end.

Garden Layouts
Garden Layouts


At its most basic level, a garden railway works like an indoor railway, including turnouts and turntables. However, special considerations must be taken for everything from sunlight and water to dirt and leaves, and even wildlife. The distance covered also means that electrical resistance in and between sections is much higher, and electrical power will tend to drop off at the far end. To eliminate this power issue, some are rigged to use RC car parts such as rechargeable batteries. Others even use live steam and run as a real steam locomotive would. The steam can be generated from various sources, ranging from the messy solid pellet (i.e., methenamine) or stereo-type fuel, through clean-burning butane gas, to prototypical coal burners. Live steam is particularly widespread amongst 16 mm scale garden railway enthusiasts.

Many trains also have digital audio onboard, so they sound like a real train. They can also use Digital Command Control or other similar systems, though dirty outdoor track can cause less of a problem with signal than with simple DC power. This is because DCC puts the full voltage on the rails at all times. There are many benefits of DCC when compared to DC analog systems.


Long Island Railroad

Long Island Railroad (reporting mark LI), often abbreviated as the L.I.R.R. It is a commuter rail system in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. With an average weekday ridership of 354,800 passengers in 2016, it is the busiest commuter railroad in North America. It is also one of the world’s few commuter systems that run 24/7 year-round. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which refers to it as MTA Long Island Rail Road.


The Long Island Rail Road Company was chartered in 1834 to provide daily service. It’s between New York and Boston via a ferry connection between its Greenport, New York. The terminal on Long Island’s North Fork and Stonington, Connecticut. This service was superseded in 1849 by the land route through Connecticut that became part of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards serving Long Island, in competition with other railroads on the island. In the 1870s, railroad president Conrad Poppenhusen and his successor Austin Corbin acquired all the railroads and consolidated them into the LIRR.

Long Island Railroad
Long Island Railroad


The Long Island Rail Road system has eleven passenger branches. Three of them are considered main trunk lines; however, the trunk lines are in general not used in public:

Main Line, running along the middle of the island, between Long Island City and Greenport, via Jamaica.
Montauk Branch, running along the island’s southern edge, between Long Island City and Montauk, via Jamaica.
Atlantic Branch, running mostly in New York City to the south of both the Main Line and Montauk Branch, between Atlantic Terminal and Valley Stream, via Jamaica. They spin off eight minor branches.


The LIRR is relatively isolated from the rest of the national rail system despite operating out of Penn Station, its busiest rail terminal. It connects with other railroads in just two locations:

West of Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens, LIRR trains enters the Amtrak-operated Northeast Corridor leading to the East River Tunnels. When this track was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the PRR connected to the LIRR at Penn Station. During the 1920s and 1930s, a through sleeper was carried by PRR and LIRR trains from Pittsburgh to Montauk, called the ‘Sunrise Special’. In Glendale, Queens, the LIRR connects with CSX’s Fremont Secondary, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge and New England; however, once trains leave the secondary, they enter LIRR trackage. The LIRR is one of the last railroads in the United States to use mechanical interlocking control towers to regulate rail traffic.

Railroads in Michigan


Railroads have been vital in the history of the population. Trade of rough and finished goods in the state of Michigan. While some coastal settlements had previously existed. The state’s population, commercial, and industrial growth further bloomed with the establishment of the railroad. The state’s proximity to Ontario, Canada, aided the transport of goods in a smooth east-west trajectory from Lake Michigan’s. Then eastern shore toward Montreal and Quebec. Major railroads in the state, before 20th-century consolidations, had been the Michigan Central Railroad and the New York Central Railroad.

The history of railroading in Michigan began in 1830, seven years before the territory became a state, with the chartering of the Pontiac and Detroit Railway. This was the first such charter granted in the Northwest Territory and occurred the same year the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began operation. The first steam locomotives operated in early 1837, with an average speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).

Railroads in Michigan

Railroads continue to operate in the state of Michigan, although at a reduced level. Michigan is served by 4 Class I railroads: the Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, and Norfolk Southern Railway. These are augmented by several dozen short line railroads. The vast majority of rail service in Michigan is devoted to freight, with Amtrak and various scenic railroads the exceptions.


There is Amtrak passenger rail service in the state, connecting the cities of Detroit, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Flint, and Port Huron to Chicago, Illinois. The three routes taken together carried 664,284 passengers for revenues of $20.3 million during the fiscal year 2005–2006, a record. The Pere Marquette and Blue Water services receive funding from the State of Michigan. For the fiscal year 2005-2006, this was $7.1 million.

The contract for FY 2006-2007 is for $6.2 million because of improving revenues and patronage over the past year. The Federal Railroad Administration has designated the Detroit-Chicago corridor as a high-speed rail corridor. A 97-mile (156 km) stretch along the route of Blue Water and Wolverine from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan is the longest track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak began incremental speed increases along this stretch in January 2002. By 2012, trains were regularly running at the planned top speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) between Porter and Kalamazoo.


Michigan had not had commuter rail service since 1984 when Amtrak discontinued the Michigan Executive, which ran between Ann Arbor and Detroit. SEMTA had discontinued the Grand Trunk Western’s old Pontiac–Detroit service the year before. There are currently two new proposed systems under consideration. WALLY, backed by the Great Lakes Central Railroad and a coalition of Washtenaw County agencies and businesses. It would provide daily service between Ann Arbor and Howell. The other, a proposed project by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, would provide daily service between Detroit and Ann Arbor with stops in Ypsilanti, Detroit Metro Airport, and Dearborn.


People have made short names for our company some are

  • ARM Material
  • Arm Ballast
  • Arizona Rock and Mineral
  • Arizona Rock
  • AZRMCo
  • Arizona Rock / Mineral
  • Arizona rock and Mineral Ballasts
  • AR&M
  • AZRM