Sunday, June 9, 2019

Clermont - Ballasting the Yard

Some steps really feel like real achievement. Ballasting tracks is one of those and making what is basically an assemblage of material into a real railway.

Long time ago, I used to hate ballasting. The process felt tedious at best, using my fingers to spread the material around the ties. The day I started using a large 1 1/2 inch paintbrush, it made my life much more easier!

Cleaning tracks while ballast is still wet

Since I covered this subject a lot, I won't dwell on my technique. Basically, my ballast is a mix of locally sourced stones that match the prototype. I then mix some powdered DAP Weldwood glue into the mix. Put the ballast in place then spray everything with a mix of water, alcohol and white glue.W Works well for me and it's quite quick. Interestingly, this time I used a professional spray bottle instead of a cheap Windex bottle. Let's just say it made a terrific difference. I certainly would advise any modeller to purchase such a bottle instead of wasting their time with unsuitable material and getting frustrated beyond belief.

Difference in level tells a story about the railway

While some set their ballast in a mechanical way, Jérôme and I worked from Clermont yard photos to identify things that gave character to the place. We observed many small details we tried to replicate. 

First, it was clear the yard was ballasted using only one type of rock. It is quite uniform in size and color. However, the way the ballast job was done vary greatly from one track to another.

A uniform look, until weeds and grass application

For example, the short storage track is slowing sinking into the ground and the ties are buried under ballast near the wheel stops.

Partially buried end of steel

The siding along the hill is completely buried under ballast. Pictures ranging from 1998 to 2018 show it has always been the case. Thus, we buried out tracks too. With a small brush, we made sure ballast didn't hide the spikes head though.

The mainline is well maintained with ballast quite clear of weeds and flush with the ties. This track is also slightly higher on the ground than other track due to better maintenance and road bed construction.

Tie colors differenciate main line and sidings

Finally, the outer siding is quite low and poorly ballasted. On the outside, ballast covered is thin and you can see the ties ends.

Finally, I'm quite satisfied how the tie color looks good with ballast. I used very light colors, which is quite rare in model railroading. However, doing so really makes the ties look like real weathered wood. Also, the darker shades on the mainline replicate well creosote seeping out of ties.

Now, I only need to ballast Wieland and the layout will be back in operation after almost 10 months of intense rebuilding. Scenery will be a walk in the park compared to that!

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