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Layout In A Box – Demo Micro Layout Project (part 7) Ballasting

Scale Model Scenery Demo Micro Layout Project

Part Seven

Following on from part six of this series in which we covered the cutting out the fiddleyard access holes, we now move onto one job that some dread & others like… Ballasting!! The real railways use ballast to act as a track bed & to hold the track in position. Now with the many different types of model railway ballast & foam ballast underlay to choose from, it can can be quite daunting for a beginner as to what to go for. We have already covered the different types of ballast on the market, & for this project will be using ballast granules/chippings from Gaugemaster, Woodland Scenics & DCC Concepts. For the main line we’ll be using the Gaugemaster GM114 Granite Grey for OO scale & Woodland Scenics Iron Ore Fine ballast mixed together to give a bit more variety. The Gaugemaster ballast we’re using can be found here:–landscaping-278-c.asp

The yard area even though we are modelling in OO scale, we’ll be using DCC Concepts N gauge steam shed ballast as it’ll give us the look we are wanting for the yard. Again see the link above for this ballast. 

 Time to grab the ballasting tools & get ballasting…


The tools we’ll need for this job are…

  • Track Ballasting Tool
  • 1″ paint brush,
  • Teaspoon
  • Ballast Material
  • PVA glue
  • Water
  • Washing up liquid
  • Syringe 
  • spong or a cloth
  • Sprayer bottle

There are various ballasting tools on the market ranging across various prices & types. The one we are using has been a round a good few years now & which I think is now available from Golden Valley Hobbies. It incorporates a hopper, discharge port, two sets of stiff brushes & built in track guides that sit on the rail. It makes ballasting on straight & curve track a quick & rapid job. For point work, that still has to ballasted the old way using hand & brush.

For applying the glue mix we’ll be using a syringe to apply the glue mix which can be found here:

 http://SMS-5ML 5ml Syringe ( For Gluing Ballast etc)

We’ll be using a 1″ brush to brush & tamp the ballast around the point work. The teaspoon is used for filling the ballast hopper tool.

An old plastic tub for mixing the glue mix.

PVA glue for use in the glue mix.

A sprayer bottle for use in pre-wetting the ballast.

So with the first two ballast materials we are using for the mainline, the bulk will be the grey ballast with a small amount of the red iron ore ballast mixed in. Both ballast materials were placed into a bag & the bag shaken up to to throughly mix up the two materials. 

An amount of the mixed ballast materials was then poured into the ballasting tool hopper. In the photo right the hopper is fill & ready to spread on to the track below. 

The ballast tool is then pulled backwards along the trackwork at slow steady constant speed. The ballast is then nicely spead on to the track as can be seen on the right.

The rear built in brush removes most of the ballast that lands on top of the sleepers & helps brush the ballast chippings into the gaps between the sleepers. The ballast tool also gives a nice edge to the ballast as well.

For pointwork areas, use the tea spoon to apply the ballast. Take care not to jam up the moving parts of the points with ballast, use the brush to clear any ballast from these areas. Check that the points can still be operated & don’t jam with stray bits of ballast chippings. The brush can be used to tamp down the ballast too by using a stippling motion.

For any ballast bits that may still be sitting on top of the sleepers this tip will help remove them. Lightly tap the teaspoon on the rails, this will cause the stray ballast chippings to bounce off the sleeper tops & thus leave the sleeper tops ballast chipping free.

The glue mix. The recommended glue mix is a equal 50 parts water, 50 parts glue & a couple drops of washing up liquid. Mix the glue & water by stiring throughly so that the mixture has the consistency of milk. Once mixed up, add a couple drops of washing up liquid & mix again, this will help break the surface tension when the glue mix is applied to the track & helps the glue spread through out the ballast.

Deluxe materials also do ballast glue kits which can be found here:

Lightly wet the ballast with a water sprayer. Make sure the track power is turned off! Wetting the ballast prior to gluing will help the glue mix spread more thoroughly through the ballast. 

Extract some of the glue mix into the syringe. 

Slowly release the glue mix from the syringe on to the ballast, making note of which areas the glue mix spreads into. If you think you’ve missed an area, re-go over that area to be sure.

Any glue that gets onto the rails, wipe off with a cloth or sponge. Take care not to disturb the glued ballast. Now leave the glue to set & dry for at least 24 hours. After 24 hours, check to see if there is any loose sections od ballast, if you find any loose section then reapply some more glue mix & allow a further 24 hours for it to set. 

Once set, vacuum the track to remove any stray ballast & clean the rails with a track rubber.

In the photos right you can see the mainline just after gluing. This will be checked today to see if it’s all set properly & then the yard will be ballasted with the DCC Concepts Steam era shed ballast.


Happy modelling. 

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  1. wicky0570

    What a great job! I hate ballasting, have over the years had many messy ballasting jobs!! I bought a similar ballasting tool to what you have here, it does make the job easier and more successful. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Iain

      Ballasting is deffo one of those love-hate jobs I think. The ballast tool is a great bit of kit & a great time saver. Some more ballasting has been done last night, which I show in the next forthcoming article.

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