John Nehrich

Ballasting Track on the NEB&W

John Nehrich
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Duration:   7  mins

The club adopted a method they saw in Model Railroader to ballast the New England, Berkshire and Western model railroad, a project layout they had in 1965. On top of the fill is another step for the ballast, so there is a thin layer of ballast. They start by cutting off the homasote. Homasote and plywood were laid down everywhere and then the roadbed ditches were cut afterwards.

By making a series of V shaped cuts, they can remove material with a utility knife instead of cutting straight down over and over again. The clubs has a plexiglass former that they use to shape the plaster. This former is based on standard engineering designs for roadbed and will give a uniform look to the ballast slope. Ordinary plaster is laid on thickly beside the track, and after dragged over with the former to shape. This technique was used in the steam era, a competitive time when it came to ballast lines.

Next is to paint the ballast slope black and cover in N scale cinder. A distance is measured out from the rail and masking tape is used to get an even sharper ballast line. Highball HO scale ballast is utilized for the ballast line with a spoon to apply it. A piece of foam rubber from packing material, a tool with nice straight edges is used to spread the ballast rather than with a paint brush. This way it does not get caught up on the spikes and the ballast is distributed between the ties.

Before applying the glue the ballast must be wet. It’s typical to use Kodak Photo-Flo 200 solution and water for a wetting solution, however the club has found that undiluted rubbing alcohol works well without disturbing the ballast. A turkey baster is perfect to use as a giant eye dropper, wetting the ballast. This video goes on the show the club’s method for glued down the ballast. For more tips on choosing model railroad ballast, or ballasting your model railroad track, visit the Model Railroad Academy website.

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