DEMO 1: BALLASTING THE TRACK
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.