Depends upon what th materrial is. A ppund of rock ballast won't go anywhe
ner as far aas a pound of walnut ballast. Get a bit and see how it looks to
you and how far it goes. Calculate accordingly and remembeer that you can
be off by 100% eveen then. Besides, future work will also need more ballast
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Most ballast is overscale.
I use Arizona Rock company HO ballast in O scale. The pieces are the
right size and shape.
If you look at the prototype the pieces are perhaps 2-3 inches long by
an inch by an inch with with points and sharp edges.
If you use Woodland Scenics crushed walnut shells these start off
round and also swell when you add the diluted glue.
The last time I had a bazillion miles of scale ballasting to do I
purchased two spinning blade type coffee grinders and a bag of turkey
grit. Grinding the grit to scale sized pieces in the grinder cup was a
2 second job and the stuff went down like silk through a jig we made
for the job. Buying scale ballast was way too expensive and at the
time, turkey grit was about $4.00 for a bag of about 25 pounds.
Last time I tried grinding cork pieces into ballast my wife grumbled
about the state of her kitchen whizz!
My local quarry has acres of "fines" which is totally useless to them.
I asked for a bucketful and they offered to deliver a truckload or two.
Suitable sieves can be quickly made out of loose fabric. Pantihose
stockings give the right sort of ballast size for old-time layouts.
Perhaps fly-screen wire mesh would do for HO modern?
The rest goes as filler for my garden railway.
What I am considering for quite a while: is there any model railroad car
to dump ballast along the track while being pushed (driven) over it?
Neither do I mind modifying a car (or partially building one) nor do I
mind running it as "MOW car" when I'm done ballasting. But I would want
a tutorial for the modification/building as I'm currently quite busy and
out of creativity ;-)
On Tue, 20 Oct 2009 17:15:34 +0200, Bernhard Agthe wrote:
The chances of that working without derailing over stray grains of ballast
are pretty slim. There are various plastic tubes to slide along the rails,
but notning beats a small spoon or scoop and a small foam paintbrush.
True, but that gets me to thinkin' (dangerous, I know): how about if a
guy were to build a ballasting car that discharged the ballast somehow
*behind* the car, so no interference with the wheels? Maybe with chutes
to spread the ballast evenly between and on either side of the rails. Or
is this just too ridiculous?
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism
On Tue, 20 Oct 2009 10:47:38 -0700, David Nebenzahl wrote:
Got it in one. I mean, you're going to have to go back and check for stray
grains, adjust the profile, and finally mist it and glue it down, so if
anything running a special car seems a waste of trucks (since the car would
probaly not look any more prototypcal than, say, a Lionel missile launcher
car, and thus useless otherwise). Better, in my mind, would be a ballast
dispenser with some effective flow control with a wide range of settings,
and perhaps even adjustable profiling wings. But it wouldn't be cheap, and
I'm not sure it could beat any number of other simple and ad hoc ways of
dispensing and spreading the ballast.
That's actually quite close to what I was thinking of - a set of two or
three cars, heavily modified for the purpose, with extra handrails and
pipes added and painted yellow. If it looks "technical" enough, you can
run this as MOW train and most people will accept it ;-)
Well, my idea was revolving about a tank car with a small hole in the
bottom and a hatch on top, that could be filled with distilled water or
alcohol to pre-mist the track (probably run it again before glueing down
the ballast). The second car would be a modified hopper that dumps
ballast on the track and beside the track, with some kind of "plow" to
push the ballast of the rail tops.
Well, I tried to "open" the bottom hatches of a hopper car, but that
does not work out because the small grains of ballast will actually bind
- and not flow freely. But the idea with a behind-the-car-dump might
work, because one could use the complete width of the hopper - you only
have to make sure it doesn't drop all at once ;-) Now I do need two
bogies, a few couplers and an old tank car ;-) Plus some material to
build the thing with ;-) Oh, but I don't have the time right now :-(
I'll keep considering it and I'll report when I finally get it to work ;-)
I would tend to build a hopper within a gondola or box-car with a clip-on
roof. That way you could make the slot width and the slope variable so that
you could find a suitable discharge rate before finalizing it all.
It seems to me that a typical US hopper is intended to dump it's load
I would think in terms of a vertically moving blade to open/close the slot,
but I wouldn't expect to get a perfect flow rate.
Definitely spread it dry and mist after!
Perhaps more useful in ballasting would be a wagon/car with brushes to move
the ballast so that the height and profile were reasonably constant.
That might need to be a finger powered vehicle so that it doesn't ride
over ballast accumulations.
Allowing the brain to wander further, what about a part way profiling board
mounted behind the ballast hopper and ahead of the trailing truck.
Perhaps it could be pivoted so that it controlled the opening of the
Well, with the end-unloading solution my concern is rather that it would
dump all in one place and have nothing left then... Probably some kind
of "unloading belt"? Driven by a thumb-wheel or such?
OK, thanks ;-)
On one railroad they used hoppers and an old tie just pushed by the
trailing truck to spread the ballast (off the rails, anyway). That's as
far as I remember...
Well, if you get the brushes rotating ;-) But I guess it would be rather
difficult to fit the drive and the brushes in an N-Scale wagon and still
have a bit of power in that drive ;-) But then you could combine that
wagon with the vacuuming wagon for track-cleaning later on ;-) That does
sound even better than automating the (one-time) ballasting ;-)
Hmm... another good one ;-) Now what about pneumatic or hydraulic
control of that ;-) But then again, this is probably a bit too flimsy in
Thanks for the input!
I'd give up on the "end-unloading" - it's never going to look like
anything railway like.
"Unloading belt" - hmmm, a flat plate/surface with a vibrator (cell phone
vibrator motor) would work much the same and be achievable in N scale.
Imagine a very shallow angle hopper with a slot dropping on to the flat
plate. The ballast wouldn't move from the hopper without the vibration
and the plate would throw it off the edges. (add sides so it only goes
fore and aft)
That's much the idea! too little ballast several times around would be much
better than too much ballast once! ;-)
Check out Dapol (UK) and (I think Kato Japan) They have an N gauge vacuum
cleaner/sweeper/rail polisher all in one wagon. The reviews are excellent.
Hydraulic pump/reciever/valves/hoses/couplers ... could be fun!
To be honest I'd go slightly less high-tech and use screw and nut
I was imagining plasticard profiles glued on, like a snow plough or even
a ballast plough!
A decent chunk of lead inside the wagon would give it reasonable stability,
although it might require several locos to push it.
Using Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/mail /
To help with the fun, make it compatible of ballasting turrnouts!
A conveyor belt to regulate the ballast would be a good idea as you can
control the amount of ballast by its height on the conveyor as well as its
I'd be more trying to make a car that I could push along the track rather
than someeething that would be put in a train and pulled/pushed along..
rmay at nethere.com
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if you were to use a ballast spreading car to ballast a turnout you'd
go over part of it twice! In particular the points and tiebar area.
After 35 years of HO ballasting I still avoid putting any ballast between
the sleepers where the tiebar is and between the points and stock rails.
(I often use Peco turnouts which have a sliding contact there)
One either builds a car with a set ballast slot and moves it at a rate
to suit, or a variable ballast slot to cope with variable car speed.
HO ballast (or N) generally has a minimum rate at which it will flow
smoothly, or from the other end of the telescope, a minimum slot size.
I seem to remember from Physics 101 that balls/marbles require a slot
3 times their diameter to flow smoothly without hanging up.
they will always get hung up.
once, they occassionally line up precisely and jamb for a short period.
Of course marbles are nice and round, ballast is intended to be all
Aw, come on, you're ruining all the fun ;-)
Honestly, the problem occured to me. That's why I suggested the
pneumatic or hydraulic control - you could just detect the turnout
automatically and shut off the ballast at the precise moment ;-) Of
course you'd need to detect station platforms, signal posts and tunnels
and adjust the rate of flow accordingly - should I use bar-codes for the
purpose? But how do I hide the bar-codes after ballasting?
Especially for the turnouts, it would be better if there was a way to
switch off the ballast flow completely...
That's why I found the "end unloading" such a nice idea - basically you
drop the ballast "over the edge"...
But then you'd need a conveyor belt and I haven't figured out how to
The sloped bottom with a mini-vibrator attached would probably work
quite well, so let's go with that design ;-) To achieve some sensible
loading capacity it would probably best to use the space between the
bogies for the loading area, but dump the ballast near the bogie to
handle curves. Now we'd have a design like this
___ \ /------ ___
with o-o being a bogie and VB being the vibrating thingy. It does need
some external power supply, but since shutting off the power means no
ballast, that is possible (for the DCC guys, just put the decoder in
another wagon or use the loco decoder ;-) Don't forget to add a small
plow to the bogie to clear the track ;-)
OK, lets suppose this works, so the next wagon would be the "ballast
brusher" - in contrast to the track cleaning cars available I'd want the
brushes to rotate vertically - perpendicular to the tracks. Let's assume
I could put the motor and the brush in a wagon, with an air duct to
allow the attachment of a vacuuming car, I'd again need a separate power
source... Again easy for the DCC guys but since I run analog, I can't
use track power. But a maintenance train with two "Power cars" would
look cool, provided they have enough orange paint applied to them ;-)
Cool, keep thinking!
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