An easier way to ballast your track?

Lance Mindheim  may have come up with a really good idea here….

Effectively applying ballast glue is a challenge at best.  The more powdery soils and small gauge products even more so.  The problem comes with application of the adhesive, specifically the surface tension of the liquid.  Agents such as alcohol and dish soap help slightly but there is always an ongoing battle to minimize craters and channels created by applying the glue with an eye dropper or bottle. Ballast “float” is also a pain in the butt.  I’ve always wondered if the problem could be solved if a powdered glue was mixed with the ballast before application.  I picked up some Dap Plastic Resin Glue from The Home Depot to run a test.  I mixed the powder into some N scale ballast at a rough ratio of 1:5 and spread it some N scale track.  Next, I took a fine mister bottle, filled it with water and rubbing alcohol, and misted it onto the ballast/glue blend.  I let it dry and, voila, it worked!  It seems very solid and I haven’t noticed any major discoloration, shrinkage, or cracks.  The bond is VERY strong.   I haven’t experimented with the best glue/soil ratio although if 1:5 works I’m not sure it warrants a lot of testing time.  This adhesive method would be particular helpful for large surface areas of fine blends such as soil patches and gravel roads.

And a second post tests the idea further….

The initial test on a six inch piece of test track of powdered glue as ballast adhesive showed promise.  I’ve since moved to using it full force on a large N scale project in my shop.  Again, success.  I find it is not only easier to use than traditional liquid adhesive but it’s also easier to get better results.  Better being defined as no floating ballast, no craters, and no mini trenches.  I haven’t yet dialed in the best ratio of glue to ballast so can only say the amount of powdered glue needed is “not much”.  At present I’m putting two, 10 oz. bags of ballast in a bucket with only 1.5 oz of glue and it holds very well (that comes to 1:13).  One caveat is that the glue is very sensitive to moisture in the air and when exposed to it will start to dry.  I’m noticing that after mixing the ballast and glue in a bucket and leaving it over night there was some drying.  That being the case I suggest storing your excess in a container with an airtight lid.  If over time I find I didn’t use quite enough powder the ballast would be knit together enough that a quick follow up with dilute matte medium would be easy to do as insurance.  Finally, there is warning label on the glue container letting you know the powder is a lung irritant and not good to breath.  That is certainly the case so wear your respirator when working with the stuff.

My only question is where to get an equivalent powdered glue in the UK.  Any ideas?

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An easier way to ballast your track?

  1. Pingback: CAS Weekly 22/06/15 | Calling All Stations

  2. Chris Mears says:

    Thanks for sharing this article. It sure sounds like a tempting alternative to the traditional white glue and water technique I’ve used since time began.

    With the powdered glue, I wonder:
    – is the dry glue still a bit sticky? I wonder how the working character of the ballast changes when the powdered glue is mixed in.
    – how hard is it to get the water to wick into the ballast mix? I still think it would be less likely to result in a shell but still curious.

    Thanks again



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