Finishing Ballasting

I’ve been working on finishing ballasting the track: I want to move on to other aspects of the railroad like structures and roads. And adding the water feature, and weathering rolling stock, and so on and so forth. I certainly won’t be showing the layout during the upcoming NMRA convention, but it’s always nice to make some progress. After ballasting and adding ground cover to the ‘sawmill’ side of the layout, I turned my attention to the ‘urban’ side.

This went about as expected, now that I knew what to expect. I was amazed at how much ballast this layout sucked up. When I bought the bag, I thought that that would be more than enough ballast for the layout. As it turned out, it was just about enough. Granted, a fair amount of ballast ended up in the vacuum cleaner bag, but still. Ballasting the track has been edifying.  While there are literal cumulative centuries of wisdom freely available, as with so many things, the only way to truly learn is by doing.

For ballasting the ‘urban’ side I investigated means to weather the ballast that didn’t involve India ink. Because this is a learning process, I want to try as many techniques as I can and still achieve credible results. I haven’t bought an airbrush yet, so that limited the number of methods available. I wasn’t really confident in using spray paint, because any mistakes would require significant effort to fix. So India ink it was, and truly, the results are acceptable.

Layout 150816_1





Layout 150816_2


To reiterate, the images I’ve seen of Northern Pacific trackwork during the late 1940’s show that they used the same ballast for primary and secondary tracks, just less of it as the distance from the main increased. The bare areas in the photos will be team tracks or bridges or car ferry piers, as the track plan requires. There will be a foamboard scenic divider down the middle of the table to separate the two halves.  In the upper photo, you can see the beginnings of the coal trestle area.

I’ve been running the layout for about two months, but I find that as scenery progresses, it’s ever more enjoyable to operate. The layout is starting to look like something, and it’s cool to see trains running through a world you’ve built.


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