Thursday 28 October 2010

Ballast (A Disaster)

It must be the season for ballast laying. With all the track laid, wired up and painted, and a successful two days operation at the GJ Expo in Oxford we just needed an opportunity to have the layout set up for a few days to allow the ballast to be laid and for the glue to dry.

We followed the method used on previous layouts, applying the ballast dry, painstakingly moving around and removing it from sleepers and flangeways, then spraying water with a couple of drops of washing up liquid through an atomiser to make everything wet, then dripping watered down glue on it. There must be a less tedious way of doing it, but this works.

Previously I have used fine granite dust from the Mendips and PVA glue. This sets like concrete. This time I used Woodland Scenics finest grey ballast and Copydex. This combination should produce a more flexible result, better suited to my thin baseboard surface, and may reduce running noise (although I am not too bothered about that). I found the Tamiya disposable paint brushes very good for final removal of individual stray peices of ballast from the sleepers.

The photos show the job in progress. In the photo below you can see the white watered down glue just after application. It dries clear and matt. I expect it will take a few weeks to clean up the track and remove all obstructions from the flangeways, and a lot of glue disappeared down the holes into the point mechanisms below which will need some sorting out. It may be some time before proper operation is resumed.

Well, 24 hours later, it all looked good, but as I tried to remove a stray piece of ballast from the inside of a rail, it pulled a long string of elastic glue with pieces of ballast in from between the sleepers. A light brushing with a toothbrush lifted lots of nasty elastic clumps of ballast. There was no way it would survive exhibition use. So, the bad areas were patched with fresh ballast, and the whole layout doused in watered down PVA. I am hoping the PVA will solidify everything rather than just form a crust on the surface, but I will find out tonight. If it fails, all the ballast will have to be removed, and we will have to start again. Oh dear :-(