BLOG: Large scale ballasting


My recent posts here on the Hornby Magazine website have revolved around my ‘O’ gauge projects, and this one is no different. Regular followers of our layout builds (and videos) will know that the ‘O’ gauge test track has been lagging behind in the scenic department, but I’ve started to set that record straight this month by laying the first sections of ballast.

The actual time involved isn’t that great, but finding a series of evenings over a fortnight to go out in the cold workshop was more difficult – partly because I like being warm. Nevertheless, I wrapped up, put the heating on and set out breathing life into the first section.

Replacing the inner mainline with new code 124 bullhead flexible track.

I’ve focused my efforts on the junction side of the layout first where the unpainted laser cut retaining walls should make it a straightforward process to move the layout forward. The first task was cleaning. The whole area was vacuumed to ensure dust and dirt was removed before adding the first scenic treatments. Then, in order to improve the operation of the inner circuit, 5ft of mainline was relaid using flexible track to replace the original sectional track. I did this because we had trouble with power drops on the inner circuit of the ‘O’ gauge test track due to the high number of rail joiners involved.

Next, it was painting of the rail sides. For this, I followed the same routine that we piloted on Seven Mill Depot by using MIG Ammo’s Railway Fast Method acrylic paint set. The colours used are Old Rust and Rust Tracks with a total of three coats being applied between the two colours to all the rail sides. It took a little while, but was definitely worth the effort.

Spreading ballast by hand on the ‘O’ gauge test track.

Brushing the loose ballast into place.

Getting ready to wet the ballast with a water mister before applying diluted PVA glue.

Having completed that and allowed the paint to fully harden it was onto ballasting using Woodland Scenics medium and coarse grade Blended Gray colours. I actually quite enjoy this job – its a little bit of repetitive therapy which allows me to switch off and focus on something basic as I add pinches of ballast along the track formation and then brush it all into place. The whole 7ft section took around 45 minutes to prepare to be ready for the application of diluted PVA glue to hold it all in place.

Best practice means that the ballast was wetted with a water mister before the glue was applied as this stops the ballast moving around when the glue goes in and also helps it to soak through.

Mike adds weathering to the new ballast on the ‘O’ gauge test track.

Having completed glue application I just had to leave the layout alone to let it dry thoroughly. Being winter it took a little longer with 72hrs elapsing before I was satisfied that all of the ballast was fully set and ready for weathering. This final stage was carried out using Geoscenics Black Concentrate and Track Grime weathering colours suitably let down with water to allow them to be sprayed through an airbrush.

Western Region steam passes over the newly ballasted track.

And that completes this subproject for the test track. I’m already experimenting with brick colouring and painting method for the 12ft long retaining wall which will sit behind the railway on this scene and hopefully I will soon be on to the process of adding green scenery around the edges of the railway to make it all look much more realistic. Watch this space!

For more on Hornby Magazine’s layout projects, don’t miss our monthly Layout Update videos on the Hornby Magazine YouTube channel.


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