Model Rail (UK) - - Skills Station -

1 Use a spoon to ap­ply the bal­last onto the track, sprin­kling it be­tween the sleep­ers within the ‘four foot’ and along each side. Don’t worry about spread­ing it evenly just yet. It’s best to work on about a lin­ear me­tre of track at a time.

2 Use a soft, flat brush to dis­trib­ute the bal­last, en­sur­ing that the chip­pings sit flush with, or just be­low, the height of the sleep­ers. Note the strip of mask­ing tape to tem­po­rar­ily re­tain the bal­last along the edge of the em­bank­ment.

3 It can take time to get the bal­last ar­ranged neatly by hand, lead­ing to a fairly mind‑ numb­ing un­der­tak­ing. So, why not put some mu­sic on, pull up a stool and make your­self com­fort­able while you work?

4 Heighten the re­al­ism by vary­ing the grades of bal­last, es­pe­cially on steam‑era lay­outs. Leave a nar­row gap be­tween the ‘six foot’, us­ing the brush to neaten the shoul­ders, en­sur­ing that they run par­al­lel to the ends of the sleep­ers.

5 A finer grade of bal­last can then be ap­plied into the gap be­tween the tracks, as well as along the edges or ‘cess’. If the cess is deep, lay a thin layer of the coarser bal­last first be­fore over­lay­ing the finer chip­pings.

6 It’s vi­tal to keep the bal­last clear of point blades and tie-bars, so use a smaller brush to ma­nip­u­late the stone chip­pings away from mov­ing parts. Check that the points op­er­ate freely be­fore ap­ply­ing any ad­he­sive.

7 It’s also es­sen­tial to keep the bal­last out of cross­ing frogs and be­tween check and run­ning rails. Tak­ing the time to ar­range the bal­last cor­rectly at this stage will save a lot of hassle and re­me­dial work later.

9 To avoid dis­turb­ing the bal­last, keep the tip of the glue ap­pli­ca­tor in touch with the edge of the ‘wet’ area of bal­last, which will grad­u­ally shift as the fluid seeps through the loose ma­te­rial. Try to main­tain a steady flow of glue.

8 When you’re happy with the ar­range­ment of the bal­last, start ap­ply­ing the glue via a pin­point ap­pli­ca­tor or sy­ringe. Ap­ply the glue slowly, al­low­ing the fluid to pen­e­trate the chip­pings by cap­il­lary ac­tion.

10 If the bal­last has been dis­turbed, push it back into po­si­tion and tamp it down gen­tly with a flat-edged ob­ject, such as a thick sheet of plas­tic. Sprin­kle ex­tra bal­last into any gaps that might be­come ap­par­ent.

11 De­pend­ing on the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture, Bal­last Bond will take about 12 hours to dry fully, while di­luted PVA can take sev­eral days to harden. Use a track rub­ber to clean the rails and test the op­er­a­tion of any points/cross­ings.

12 Only when you’re cer­tain that the glue is com­pletely dry should you run a vac­uum cleaner over the bal­last, brush­ing the sur­face gen­tly to re­move any de­bris from the track cleaner or any loose chip­pings.

13 Hat­tons also of­fers a pot of Track Grime fluid, which is a suit­ably coloured and di­luted acrylic paint. Give it a good shake be­fore open­ing and de­cant­ing into a bowl for eas­ier ap­pli­ca­tion, via a soft, flat brush.

14 Lightly brush the Track Grime over the bal­last and sleep­ers, al­low­ing the fluid to pen­e­trate into the bal­last. It can also be ap­plied to the sides of the rails, chairs and buffer­stops, if de­sired. The brush can be cleaned with wa­ter.

15 The re­sult­ing ef­fect is subtle but highly ef­fec­tive and can be tai­lored sim­ply by ap­ply­ing mul­ti­ple coats to key ar­eas, such as where lo­co­mo­tives are likely to dwell and de­posit oil and dirt onto the tracks.

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