Sunday, 11 April 2021

Ballasting Hexworthy

Before ballasting I needed to glue down the platform - thus far it has not been in fixed, and was in two pieces, which was convenient for working on. However, the fixing of the slabs had caused a slight curvature to the 3mm foam-core platform pieces, so I needed to be sure it would lie flat. Gentle working between the fingers got the pieces flat before they were stuck in place with PVA. Clearances were double-checked with some larger locos to ensure the position was correct, and the larder raided for some weights to ensure it stayed fully flat while the glue set.

Ballasting isn't most people's favourite job, in fact it is rather tedious, but worth taking a little time as it covers a significant part of most layouts. I use fine granite ballast, I got a big bag many years ago and I'm still working my way through it. 

The area to be most careful is around the moving parts of the points, my approach here is to carefully apply neat PVA around the tie bar area positioning it with a screwdriver tip or something, making sure it is well clear of the tie bar, then add stones. This is left to dry before ballasting around it, the idea is the carefully positioned stones form a protective "dam" around the tie bar area.

Since the baseboard is foam-core board it was easy to cut a drainage ditch between the platform and loop roads. Because of the steep sides I applied neat PVA and stones first here too. 

The process is well established. I apply the ballast from a tea spoon, tapping it to carefully dispense it where needed, I spread it with a finger and a cheap, stiff, flat brush. Tapping the spoon on the rails helps the stones settle and shakes some off the sleepers, but there is still a need to brush off any stones that remain on the sleepers or up against the rail sides. Next is a vital step - the ballast is wetted with a fine mist of water/IPA mixture, water with washing up liquid works too but the IPA seems to work better. This allows the water to soak into the ballast without disturbing it. 

Finally the glue is added, PVA glue diluted about 50:50 with the drop of washing up liquid to reduce the surface tension. I use a plastic dropper and gently drip the glue into the ballast, which shouldn't disturb it and thanks to the prior soaking with water/IPA it is drawn right into the ballast. The tricky bit is seeing which bits have been done, as all the ballast looks wet!

So a slow process I tend to do in small areas at a time, an hour or so in one go is enough. Fortunately this is a small layout, but even so it took four or five sessions. As this will represent a preserved line the ballast needed to be fairly neat, which I've achieved. 

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