Thursday, 6 February 2020

Ballast and gravel

Last time I said the next step is the ballasting. First I fixed the point levers in place. The ballast is fine granite - no idea of the source as I've had a big bag for years! This is placed with a brush to fit between but not on the sleepers - tapping the rail sometimes helps shake the granite off the sleepers. I then mist it with a fine water spray, then drop dilute PVA (with a drop of washing up liquid in) over it using a dropper. This soaks into the granite without disturbing it. Care is taken around points - I place neat PVA exactly where I need it around moving parts and sprinkle the ballast on, for more control and to keep glue and ballast away from bits that move.

Even on a small layout it is, I admit, a tedious job, but very necessary and the layout looks better for it. I then used some fine sand (taken from the kids play pit sand years ago) to make gravel areas, sprinkled onto diluted PVA, then sprayed with the fine water mist to help it bed down to the glue.

The sand forms the roadway and pathway areas, that may be gravel or (in the setting of this layout) ash. Of course it needs painting...

A mid ash-grey seemed to suit. Now things are looking much better.

The ballast is then given a wash of well-thinned brown enamel to weather and tone it down, the effect is quite subtle, further coats could give dirtier track but this seemed enough for sidings. The sleepers had been dry-brushed with grey before ballasting, and of course the rails given a dirty rusty brown colour, resulting in a pleasing track effect. Note the use of the sand "gravel" path has disguised the uncoupling magnets, now they are assumed to provide a crossing for the shunter to access the point lever.

Further weathering of a darker brown-black was applied where locos might stand, including on the rail sides. It all helps make things look less uniform.

You might also notice a first cover of green scatter as a base for static grass, and in this shot, a fence has appeared at the front secured with wire "posts". This acts as a safety barrier in case of derailments and careless fingers, being right at the front of the layout.

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