One Half Ballasting Done

Ballasting of one half of the Northern Pacific Project is done





I’ll be using lessons learned and some new techniques on the ‘urban’ side of the layout.

Things I’m Happy (or at least OK) With

I was able to control the ballast profiles between main line, secondary track, and tertiary track reasonably well. While the ballast profile on the main may look too large, go look at a Class I roadbed: the ballast profile extends further than you may think.

I reviewed dozens of stills and videos of the Northern Pacific taken during the time frame I’m modeling. The track maintenance budget seems to fall off rapidly the further track is from the main line. Most sidings seem to be laid in the dirt, and that was the look I was shooting for I’m OK with the look of the siding.

I’m OK with the look of grass and weeds along the track. I realize that while this may have been good modeling 10 -15 years ago, it’s not now. I’ve discovered that static grass can be had in 2mm lengths, and as the railroad progresses, I’ ll  expect to improve the ground cover.

Things I’m Not Happy With

The joiner gaps. I spent considerable time placing ties under these gaps, and because they are lower than track level, they disappeared during ballasting. This is going to bother me as long as the layout exists. Nick Muff wrote an article in Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine describing how he used a scalpel (surprisingly) available on Amazon to cut away the tie plate and spike detail to allow joiners to slip on without cutting ties. I’ll use this technique for my next layout (already in the planning stages).

Ground foam is good for some things, but not for the look I’m trying to achieve here. It looks good when suggesting plant life in a drainage ditch, but not so much for anything else. Now that I’ve discovered 2mm static grass, and a $10 kitbash of an applicator, look for some static grass on the layout.

India Ink doesn’t do it for me as ballast weathering. To my eye, the ballast is too dark.

I’m not happy with the raised track effect cork roadbed achieves. It’s too ‘toy train’.  A Class I like the Northern Pacific would have had well ballasted and profiled track on the main, but the modeled effect looks too high. Not sure how other folks maintain their roadbed at a reasonable level, but what I have is not plausible.


Overall I’ll give this effort high-C/low-B. It’s a definite step up from unballasted track on the foam.


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