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Ballasting

The Question.

On an elevated railway the track is normally situated on a layer of roofing felt with the sleeper ends nailed through it to the planking underneath. There are several reasons why ballasting this arrangement is less than ideal. If you have to remove track for expansion or simply moving it then you have to remove the ballast and then re-ballast it again. This involves a lot of work. On the other hand a ballasted track looks "right" and this may be the main reason for doing it.

How the ballast is secured can affect how easy it is to remove track.

GRS use a mixture of 3mm fish tank gravel and fast setting cement powder. Simply leaving this overnight will set it solid without any added water.

Cliff Barker sells Cornish granite chippings in 1Kg and 20Kg bags. He uses Clear Casting Resin on the recommendation of the supplier, because it has UV protection and relatively low viscosity but is quite expensive. He also sells SB concrete additive which works very well. Because it is adhesive and water proof it is impossible to get out of clothes.

One member has modified this technique by using cheaper laminating resin, diluting it with 20% acetone and adding 1% of brown colour paste to provide both UV protection and to tone down the pristine colour of the stones.

Another member uses Bird Grit as sold for parrots and other caged birds. This includes a lot of shell fragments as well as fine grit; typically it is all 2 mm or smaller and has a pleasing variety of light and dark shades. He fixes it by mixing 3:1 with ordinary Portland cement and dampness in the air does the rest. This technique helps to create a very solid track fixing where the track is bonded to concrete, allowing walking on the trackwork with impunity.

The ballast used by "Monkton Priors" is finely crushed Oyster Shell secured with diluted PVA dripped over it.

I use horticultural grit sprayed with Matte Polyurethane varnish to fill my "stockade" buffers.

If you have a ground level railway and have no other means of track fixing then you will have to use ballast in the real manner. This stays put better if larger than scale, say 6 mm across, and this size is less likely to be sucked up with a garden vacuum! Nevertheless, the main problem is, "where does it all go to?" You should see ballasting as a continual operation rather than an annual one.

When I have finished the fourth and final expansion of the Cabbage Patch Railway I will "probably" install a layer of ballast onto the roofing felt to "make it look right" but there has been no ballasting from its creation in 2013 until the present day.


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Page last modified on February 25, 2018, at 08:04 PM