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Author Topic: Ballast spreader  (Read 1797 times)
rookie

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« on: August 24, 2010, 07:29:28 PM »

In preparing to ballast my atlas code 83 track I have been reading old topics on this forum and others on ballasting. I have seen a ballast spreader for sale on e-bay that has a hopper that you move along the rails to spread the ballast. Has anyone used that and does it work? opinions welcomed, thanks, david
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Doneldon

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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2010, 07:32:41 PM »

rookie-

I've always found that just using two of the old-fashioned five-fingered spreaders works fine.  Buy another bag of balast with the money you'd spend on what is essetially a gimmick.
                                                                                                                              -- D
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jward


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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2010, 08:12:37 PM »

the ballast spreader will not work on switches or crossings. other than that i've not heard of any problems with them. i personally don't use one.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
CNE Runner


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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2010, 11:00:23 AM »

David, I have a cylindrical ballast spreading tool that doesn't work worth a flip. I use a small measuring spoon - followed by careful 'sweeping' with a small, flat brush. After spreading the ballast, I carefully drop on some isopropanol (rubbing alcohol)...followed by diluted (3:1) matte medium. Immediately after finishing with the matte medium, I use a toothpick to remove any errant pieces of ballast that have found their way to the top of the ties.

Turnouts: Be very, very careful when ballasting around the points! Keep the ballast a little low and carefully drop on the matte medium (matte medium can glue points closed, screw up the point mechanism and coat the inside of the stock rails...making for little to no electrical conductivity. Don't panic Dave...just be careful.

Ballasting should be a 'Zen like' experience: 1) make sure you have time for the project, 2) free you mind of all other thoughts, 3) do small areas at a time, (4) play some soothing background music, and 5) become 'one' with the track.

Good luck...I'm sure you will do an outstanding job,
Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2010, 11:25:31 AM »

For ballasting switches I cut double sided sticky carpet tape under them, then fine ballast  I drop the ballast on top then press it down with a peice of foam to make good contact then vacuum the rest off 

It looks fine does not gum up the switch and if you need to remove the switch it makes it very easy.

NM

PS Dont put the tape under where the switch slides back and forthe

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jonathan


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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2010, 11:34:12 AM »

Rookie,

I once saw an old MR video in which the modeler made a jig or tool for spreading ballast.  It was thin wood or plastic which had the desired trackbed shape cut out with little grooves for the rails.  You poured a healthy amount of ballast and then pulled the tool along the track.  It worked.  And the cost was free because he made the tool himself.  I am not that mechanically inclined.

I, like Ray do it mostly by hand.  I pour ballast into a Dixie cup, squeeze the rim of the cup to get a spout, and sparingly pour the ballast onto the track.

I then use a 1/2" wide flat paint brush to spread the ballast around.  My fingers will get into the mix when necessary.  It's a slow process, but I find it relaxing for some reason.

I only spend my hard earned cash on tools when nothing else will work.

One other point about turnouts.  If you end up getting a little too much ballast or glue around your turnouts, don't panic.  90% of the time, you can free up the points and clean the contact points pretty easily.  Matte medium or diluted white glue is not that strong.  It's tedious work, but you can get them back in working order without having to tear it out and start over.  I tend to TRY to keep the ballast away from the moving parts of the turnout.  When I didn't TRY hard enough, I have been able to get the parts free again.

Enjoy the ballasting!  It really makes your railroad start to look like a realistic scene.

Oh, it's just me, but I rust the rails before I ballast.  Just an opinion.

Regards,

Jonathan
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OldTimer


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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2010, 11:58:21 AM »

If you put a little light oil around the throw bar before you add the diluted glue, the oil will help keep from gluing the points in place.
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Just workin' on the railroad.
CNE Runner


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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2010, 09:56:45 AM »

Very clever technique NM...I never thought of using double-sided tape. Some years ago (and a couple of previous layouts) I experimented with using wet & dry sandpaper (the dark gray stuff) under the moving parts of my turnouts. It worked well - but didn't have the same effect of ballasting (you readily noticed the deep holes between the ties under the turnout point rails).

David: There are lots of techniques for ballasting; but the best thing you can do is to paint and weather your track. I like to paint the rail sides first (DO NOT paint the outside of the point rails where they meet the stock rails as this is a major point of electrical contact). I then randomly paint each tie...leaving one unpainted every once in a while to represent a new tie. After that dries, I ballast. When the ballast is completely dry (I usually wait a couple of days), I use a combination of dark green and sooty black weathering powers to give the final effect.

Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
rookie

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« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2010, 09:21:21 PM »

Thanks everybody for the responses.

Ray: Would you have a pic of that ballasted weathered track? thanks david
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CNE Runner


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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2010, 09:01:48 AM »

Sure thing David. Check out this post on the forum. I think you will get a good look at the finished product in the first picture.
I suggest painting/weathering track in sections...'helps you keep your sanity.

Cheers,
Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
railsider

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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2010, 02:42:27 PM »

Old spice and condiment jars from the wife's kitchen work well. They have sprinkler holes and usually a small trap-door that you can use, just about the width of HO rails.

These also work will for grass, weed-clumps and other scenic powders, as well as modeling "dirt" (which is someties real sifted dust) sprinkled on dilute glue or tape. I've color-coded them with green caps for grass and red for dirt, black for ballast, just for the aesthetics of the thing. A folded paper or cardboard spreader also works nicely between rails, with a small brush to control the flow.

Someone suggested long ago that coffee grounds (preferably very black!) makes a better ballast that real sand. The reason given is that even with the best glue work, a graina or two may work loose and could get into the gears and axles of a locomotive. Ouch! Coffee-grounds, on the other hand, are much softer and less destructive of small precision motors and devices. The lighter shades of coffee-grounds also make good "dirt" of various types.

Railsider
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JerryB

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« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2010, 03:36:23 PM »

<snip>Someone suggested long ago that coffee grounds (preferably very black!) makes a better ballast that real sand. The reason given is that even with the best glue work, a graina or two may work loose and could get into the gears and axles of a locomotive. Ouch! Coffee-grounds, on the other hand, are much softer and less destructive of small precision motors and devices. The lighter shades of coffee-grounds also make good "dirt" of various types.

Railsider

I definitely would not recommend the use of coffee grounds nor any other untreated organic materials to scenic a layout.

Coffee grounds are hydroscopic, that is they slowly pick up moisture from the atmosphere. When this happens, the organics in the damp coffee grounds support the growth of various fungi and molds. This produces an ugly combination of colors, dampness and odors that replace what was once good looking scenery. This is from personal experience in the dim, dark past.

For the best in long-life scenery effects, stick to inorganics or to materials specifically treated against mold and fungus growth.

Happy RRing,

Jerry
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