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Many, many years ago, I started this 0 scale trolley loop and decide on aquarium gravel and glued it down; probably white glue & water. Although I never finished the  layout, the one ballasted module has survived several moves :

100_0361100_0362100_0363100_0368

Note that the missing rails were lost during my most recent move.



Ignore the upside-down locomotive and cars, the ballast on this piece was put down probably more than fifty-plus years ago and spent almost thirty years outside on my east-facing front porch in south Florida. This time it was cat litter and white glue/water to hold it down:

102_0129

IMG_0744

The top still exists but the supporting structure rotted away.

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https://photos.app.goo.gl/9E2KfKWFRWJ288a38

I have an extensive 3 rail layout with most of my track ballasted. See my attached video. Track can now be serviced easier, vacuumed, and wiped with a track cleaner and it stays where it is put. I had a brand new DL109 MTH locomotive. Shortly after running it on the layout, one set of trucks wouldn't move. The culprit was  a tiny piece of ballast in the gears. Ballast will get up into some engines gears and so on. Should you have to remove some track ( I had to change out two switches) 91% alcohol will loosen the glue. I am due to finish all ballasting later this winter My opinion only. Bill Park

If the layout will be moved (e.g., club modular visiting display venues), then gluing is a must.  If it will not be moved, then I see the question as being dependent upon the depth of ballast desired and roadbed height.  The lower both are, the lesser the need for glue.  Since my layout has full-height roadbed, superelevated on curves, and I want to ballast to tie height, glue was mandatory to fix the side tapers in place and avoid loose pieces getting into locos.  And permit vacuuming the dust out while avoiding the need to trap/separate the ballast during the process.

Some of my Ross sectional curved track was harvested from fully-ballasted modules that I fabricated 15 years ago.  I saturated the ballast with rubbing alcohol and nearly all sections came out cleanly.  Much of the ballast was also reusable, once the glue had been washed away by the alcohol bath.  Original glue was 50% Elmer's white.

Based on a British video that I stumbled upon via YouTube, I'm wetting the ballast prior to gluing with 70% isopropyl alcohol rather than the usual "wet water" mix of water and drops of dish detergent.  It breaks surface tension just as well and dries faster.  Another idea that seems to help is wiping the sides of the roadbed with 50%-diluted white glue before laying down ballast.  The lowest ballast pieces adhere to the roadbed sides rather than sliding down, facilitating build-up of the tapered edge from tie level downward.  The same could be done by placing a stripe of Rust-Oleum speckled gray floor paint along the roadbed edge just  before ballasting.  (I, like Mark Boyce, painted the roadbed immediately after it was laid and ballasted track much later.)

I plan to give the no-ballast method a try next opportunity but will glue a strip of ballast a bit out from the roadbad as appropriate to help hold the loose aggregate in place. Have not heard anyone mention on this thread but won't the unballasted roadbed/track be significantly quieter? 

@stangtrain posted:

I took a different approach for my last three layouts. I glued cork roadbed, painted it gray, glued ballast to the roadbed, then laid the track. With this method, very easy to make track changes or switch track adjustments:

IMG_3127

Thanks for the reply!  I have taken a different approach.  I staple the cork roadbed down first, then screw down then the track.  Or just screw track down on roadbed without stapling first.  Makes it easy to reposition the track and cork if necessary.  I do like the gray  paint idea and will be trying that along the sides of the cork.

@c.sam posted:

I plan to give the no-ballast method a try next opportunity but will glue a strip of ballast a bit out from the roadbad as appropriate to help hold the loose aggregate in place. Have not heard anyone mention on this thread but won't the unballasted roadbed/track be significantly quieter?

Thanks for the reply!  I am thinking about this too.

@KarlDL posted:

If the layout will be moved (e.g., club modular visiting display venues), then gluing is a must.  If it will not be moved, then I see the question as being dependent upon the depth of ballast desired and roadbed height.  The lower both are, the lesser the need for glue.  Since my layout has full-height roadbed, superelevated on curves, and I want to ballast to tie height, glue was mandatory to fix the side tapers in place and avoid loose pieces getting into locos.  And permit vacuuming the dust out while avoiding the need to trap/separate the ballast during the process.

Some of my Ross sectional curved track was harvested from fully-ballasted modules that I fabricated 15 years ago.  I saturated the ballast with rubbing alcohol and nearly all sections came out cleanly.  Much of the ballast was also reusable, once the glue had been washed away by the alcohol bath.  Original glue was 50% Elmer's white.

Based on a British video that I stumbled upon via YouTube, I'm wetting the ballast prior to gluing with 70% isopropyl alcohol rather than the usual "wet water" mix of water and drops of dish detergent.  It breaks surface tension just as well and dries faster.  Another idea that seems to help is wiping the sides of the roadbed with 50%-diluted white glue before laying down ballast.  The lowest ballast pieces adhere to the roadbed sides rather than sliding down, facilitating build-up of the tapered edge from tie level downward.  The same could be done by placing a stripe of Rust-Oleum speckled gray floor paint along the roadbed edge just  before ballasting.  (I, like Mark Boyce, painted the roadbed immediately after it was laid and ballasted track much later.)

Thanks for the reply!  The layout will not be moved around, so no problem there.  I am concerned about the vacuuming problem if no glue is used.  The firefighter in me avoids using anything flammable inside if it can be avoided.  I don't even let the wife use candles, except on a birthday cake!   But you do make some very good ideas to ponder.

@Bill Park posted:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/9E2KfKWFRWJ288a38

I have an extensive 3 rail layout with most of my track ballasted. See my attached video. Track can now be serviced easier, vacuumed, and wiped with a track cleaner and it stays where it is put. I had a brand new DL109 MTH locomotive. Shortly after running it on the layout, one set of trucks wouldn't move. The culprit was  a tiny piece of ballast in the gears. Ballast will get up into some engines gears and so on. Should you have to remove some track ( I had to change out two switches) 91% alcohol will loosen the glue. I am due to finish all ballasting later this winter My opinion only. Bill Park

Hi, Bill!  Thanks for replying.  Your ballast (and the rest of the layout) look great!  Sorry that I missed seeing you at the train show.  I had a bad reaction to a new medication and was quite sick for a time.  Will make contact with you after the New Year.  Have a Merry Christmas!

I pull a couple of "track cleaner" cars that I can run around the layout occasionally:

- A  Northeast Trains Track Cleaning Car, with pads and denatured alcohol to remove the gunk from the tops of the rails, and

- A homemade magnet car to catch any metal objects .  I attached the head from a telescoping magnet "pickup tool" to an old tank car (with flat plate chassis), and (using CA) added a neodymium disc magnet to that.  Strong attraction!! (won't work for stainless screws though)  The drag from these two means they get pulled by their own locomotive.

Look close and you can see the ballasted and painted Fastrack.

Magnetic track pickup

Tank Car Cleaning carNET Track Cleaning Car

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Last edited by Mike Wyatt

Great idea- Windex: The S.C. Johnson website (per Wikipedia) lists Windex's ingredients (highest % to lowest %) as:

water, 2-hexoxyethanol, isopropanolamine (an alcohol), sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate (a surfactant - causes a liquid to "creep"), lauramine oxide, ammonium hydroxide (ammonia- a cleaning agent), fragrance, and Liquitint sky blue dye.



But don't try an aerosol!!! ("The answer, my friend, is [ballast] blowin' in the wind...")

Last edited by Mike Wyatt

In my opinion, ballast must be glued down so that it cannot get into the drive gears of a locomotive or make a mess on the layout. I glued cork to the table surface, screwed Atlas O track into the cork and table, and applied ballast only along the outer edges of the track. I secured the ballast by wetting it with dish detergent or 70% alcohol (applied from an eye-dropper) followed by yellow carpenter's glue, also through an eye dropper. With Atlas O track, the lack of ballast between the rails is not very apparent. I could have used more ballast but, the way I have it, the track can be removed or replaced easily.

MELGAR

MELGAR_2023_1211_01_TRACK_BALLAST_12X8MELGAR_2023_1211_02_TRACK_BALLAST_12X8MELGAR_2023_1211_03_TRACK_BALLAST_10X5MELGAR_2023_1211_04_TRACK_BALLAST_10X5

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  • MELGAR_2023_1211_04_TRACK_BALLAST_10X5
Last edited by MELGAR
@KarlDL posted:

Some of my Ross sectional curved track was harvested from fully-ballasted modules that I fabricated 15 years ago.  I saturated the ballast with rubbing alcohol and nearly all sections came out cleanly.  Much of the ballast was also reusable, once the glue had been washed away by the alcohol bath.  Original glue was 50% Elmer's white.

Based on a British video that I stumbled upon via YouTube, I'm wetting the ballast prior to gluing with 70% isopropyl alcohol rather than the usual "wet water" mix of water and drops of dish detergent.  It breaks surface tension just as well and dries faster.  Another idea that seems to help is wiping the sides of the roadbed with 50%-diluted white glue before laying down ballast.  The lowest ballast pieces adhere to the roadbed sides rather than sliding down, facilitating build-up of the tapered edge from tie level downward.  The same could be done by placing a stripe of Rust-Oleum speckled gray floor paint along the roadbed edge just  before ballasting.  (I, like Mark Boyce, painted the roadbed immediately after it was laid and ballasted track much later.)

I still haven’t put down ballast, and I may not at all.  I’ve gotten used to the gray painted roadbed and don’t even miss ballast.  Maybe after I get a lot of scenery “done”, I will think differently.  At this point, we still would like to move out of the split entry house to a single level house, when Kim’s mom across the road either passes or has to move into assisted living.  Then the layout will come down and a new one will be built.  It certainly would be easy to just pull out the screws and box up the track in an afternoon all ready for another layout.  Who knows???  Only God knows how much time each of us has left.

Mark,

The roadbed-with-speckled-paint intermediate does look decent on its own, which more than one visitor to my layout-under-construction noted.  Our Club's O gauge travel layout as a very light dusting of fine-grained ballast over cork, just enough to impart a suggestion of ballast without its weight or impact on track changes (in the case of a travel layout, due to damage).  OTOH, when I rebuilt the Club's S gauge travel layout, I not only painted the roadbed with the usual Rust-Oleum speckled paint, but also fully ballasted it - and many visitors to our December show noticed that.  Yes, there's more than one way to achieve at least a vestige of realism - and sometimes that can be very effective.

Here's hoping that health and fate will facilitate a greater Blackwater Canyon Lines in the future!

I glue the ballast.  After it dries I remove half of the screws holden the track down,

I put down 100% glue along the side of the ties, then ballast, Then spread the ballast with a paint bush, so it is lower than the tie tops.

CIMG2492

Then I spray on alcohol to wet the ballast and then 50/50 glue water mix. I sometimes add color to the 50/50 to color the ballast.

CIMG2493

CIMG2500

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@Mike Wyatt posted:

Mark:  "It certainly would be easy to just pull out the screws and box up the track in an afternoon all ready for another layout.  Who knows???"

Even easier- put WHEELS on the layout and tow it!!

Wheels could be added!  😃 We don’t think we would move far, so it wouldn’t be a very long tow. 👍🏻

@PRRMP54 posted:

That would work only if it would fit through any of the doorways.

I have that sliding glass door in the train room.  I could just take both panes of glass out and have a nice wide doorway to wheel it out!  😃

Again and again, this forum is a great place for ideas!!

@CBS072 posted:

I glue the ballast.  After it dries I remove half of the screws holden the track down,

I put down 100% glue along the side of the ties, then ballast, Then spread the ballast with a paint bush, so it is lower than the tie tops.

CIMG2492

Then I spray on alcohol to wet the ballast and then 50/50 glue water mix. I sometimes add color to the 50/50 to color the ballast.

CIMG2493

CIMG2500

Thanks for the information!  I like your idea of undiluted glue on the outside.

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