The ballast I have used on this project is Woodland Scenics  medium grey blend. Being a grey blend, this ballast has a mix of light and dark grey rocks, relatively appropriate to the location I am modelling. The first step for many is to apply a coat of rail brown paint to the track and ties. The rail brown gets rid of the unrealistic silver shine of the rail sides and weathers the ties; especially if the ties were black. When applying the paint, whether by airbrush or paintbrush, be sure to wipe all of the paint off the top of the rails before the paint dries. In the case of concrete ties, the colour is meant to stay light grey so a full spray of rail brown would ruin their look. Instead, I will be ballasting first and then using a paint pen to coat the sides of the rails and the loops holding the rail to the ties.
Now, the critical point in ballasting track, gluing it down. This process can be detrimental to the perfect look of your newly laid ballast. The problem is that due to dust and oil on the surface of the ballast particles, water and glue does not like to soak in and adhere to the ballast. Instead, it will clump up and force the ballast around leaving it anything but clean and level. To get around this problem, first apply a generous number of sprays to the ballast with a mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap. The dish soap will allow the water and glue to easily cling to the ballast. The glue I like to use is a 50/50 mixture of water and scenic glue (or roughly a 3/1 mixture of water to thick white glue). With my glue concoction ready, I use an eye dropper to apply a good amount of glue to all of the ballast. Since the ballast was pre-soaked with water the ballast will run into the ballast evenly. The only other thing to be careful of is putting too much pressure onto the eyedropper, the wet ballast is very easy to push around which means to much pressure behind the glue stream will create unwanted troughs. Once the ballast has been thoroughly soaked with glue, allow it a day to dry and it should be solid to the touch.
The last element of this project that I will discuss in this blog is the river. This was a relatively simple addition which consists of some paint and Woodland Scenics water effects . First I start with a light grey/brown shade of paint along the river bank, followed by increasingly darker shades towards the deeper points in the river. With the landscape I am modelling I expect the river bank to drop off pretty quickly and go to a significant depth, so there is very little light colour along the bank before going into a black centre. Once the paint has dried, I squeeze some water effects paste onto the surface of the river and spread it out with a wide paint brush. This is where some creativity and maybe a photo of a rushing river will come in handy as you spread out the paste to resemble the waves bouncing off rocks and rapids in the river. Lastly let the water effects dry and you will be left with a clear but three dimensional flowing river with realistic depth.
That sums up this blog, the project is starting to take shape nicely and is fun to just look at now. Next time I will discuss weathering the track work beyond painting rails and will hopefully have some work done on the fictitious town to share. As a little bonus project I will talk about the signalling I have just installed with a makeshift system to operate them automatically. ~~Tyler Fedoroshyn
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