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I have been working toward getting my railroad realigned and reconnected for the past 3 weeks. In two weeks, I am part of a garden railroad tour, and everything needs to be back in place and running smoothly before then. Compounding this task is a bachelor party in Philly this weekend. Combined with my regular job, and doing the baby swap with MB for the evening shifts, I have only been able to get about 20-30 minutes of good solid work done (on average) at any given point. Last Saturday, I did have about 2 hours of uninterupted time where I was working on installing the new yard base. Then, in the past week, I have gotten the word that a local magazine wants to do an article on my railroad. They want to come out this Friday to take some pictures. Ugh!

So, this past weekend was crunch time. Friday, I tried to finish tightening up all those little screws for Aristo track. Got almost done, then realized I was out of screws (how does that happen?). Saturday morning, I figured out how to work around that (stealing screws from indoor-only trackage). Got the passing siding and the mainline all back together, and was going to start working on laying out the storage tracks, when it started to drizzle and Luke woke up. Being as I sent MB away for the weekend with her girl friends (and scoring some major points) meant that I had to stop all activity to take care of Luke.

Sunday, MB got home, and I was finally able to dedicate the afternoon to finishing up this project. I got the sidings installed, but had to leave the BS RR out of this expansion for now. Too much to figure out, and it looked like it was going to rain. I was about half way through ballasting the main line when the sky opened and dumped about 1-2" of rain in half an hour. I was soaked!! The only good thing was I got to see how and where the water was pooling. Now, my ballast (stone dust) is turned to slurry and while this is good to help anchor the track, it is bad for cleaning the line for running trains! My attempt to run with a 44 tonner, 3 hoppers and a track cleaning caboose was an utter failure. I figure it is because there was just too much dirt and slurry on the rail for the track sliders or the cleaning pad to clear. Parked the train on the siding at my former terminal, and I'll try again today. No rain in the forecast!!

I have to admit that I was questioning my sanity being out there in a torrential downpour, shoveling ballast in to two 5 gallon buckets and spreading and leveling track. But, when that's all the time you have for a project, that's what you have to do, I guess. Now, I can devote my evenings to fixing all the buildings and repainting the observation car.

And of course, it is a perfect day out there today.

Mark
 

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I use larger gravel for ballast, largest pieces just fit between the ties. Yes, non-pototypical, but rainstorm no problem.

The problem is scale-sized ballast has a problem with non-scale sized raindrops!!! When your raindrops scale out to about 9" it's a force that cannot be handled with stone dust!

Good luck on fighting the weather...

Regards, Greg
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Greg,

I've been using the stone dust for every railroad I've ever built. It has its nuances, like you need to wet it once you put it in place. This was the first time I had to ballast during nasty weather. Yesterday, I got it all working again, but it took a long time to clean off the rail head (like half a dozen passes). Clearing out the switches was also a challenge, but luckily, I only have five and a diamond to deal with. Maybe tonight I will be able to take a few photos of the new trackwork.

The upside of all of this has been a very solid ballasting!! It sort of set up like cement..

Mark
 

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I use a "chip brush" (like a 1-inch paint brush) with the bristles cut short to clean switch frogs, guard rail flangways and the like. The shorter the bristles the stiffer the brush, start at about 1-inch long and if that is too flimsly, cut them shorter. A 2-inch wide brush is nice for dressing the ballast between the rails.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Charles,

Thanks! I have been using a 2" brush, but didn't think to cut it down. Good idea!! Thanks! That'll come in handy the next few times I run this (sure that rocks are moving a little bit still).

Mark
 

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If it locks together that well, maybe I will try it!

For brushes, I found a brush in the pool supplies section of home depot. It's cylindrical with a rounded end, and screws onto a standard handle (like a mop handle).

It's just the right size to push down between the rails and brush out excess ballast. The brush is about 4" in diameter with white bristles. Having the handle on it makes it a lot easier!

Regards, Greg
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Greg,

It does lock well, but be advised that it will eventually (over the course of a year) wash down to where it will need to be reapplied. This is what it looks like when new:


and after a while, it starts to look like this:


And when it needs to be redone, like this:


For that last one, you need eagle eyes to see, but under the ties, the ballast has held. Between the ties, it has washed away. It doesn't affect the support of the train, but it doesn't look good, either.
 

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The ballast doesn't really settle as much as the track and ties "float" to the surface.

I feared that wind would blow my track off my elevated structure so I tied my track down in a few places with clear fishing line threaded under a rail, over a tie and under the other rail, and the ends tied together under my elevated structure. I found that the track truely "floats" in (or "ON") the ballast and as I added more ballast to "pretty up" the looks the higher the track went and I ended up with a roller-coaster track with dips every place I had fishing line holding down a tie and gentle peaks between them. It was not too noticeable to the eye but if I placed a free-wheeling car somewhere it would always roll and settle over one the tied down areas.
 

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Getting our home built so maybe we can start playing with trains again!
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We use a coarse crushed granite known locally as #9. Locally it's mined by Charles Luck Stone. Think they have several locations on the East Coast. Boscobel Quarry is the location. Maybe you can contact a location nearest you Mark and see if they have the equivalent.


Sub road bed is paver base or crush and run. In some areas I used #57 stone under the sub bed. Seems to help control the moles.....somewhat.


These are pics of the #9 crushed granite. These two particular areas haven't been reballasted since May. The sub road bed is tamped as level and flat as possible so the entire upper roadbed and ballast area is the #9 granite. Eventually all track is going to need some maintenance but this seems to work fairly decent. We do have coastal rains on a regular basis here in the area (3-4 inches per hour possible) and other than some minor issues we have not had a wash out yet. Wash over with mud yes but no wash out. The track stays in place rater well. IMHPO if you are trying to find something that is "maintenance free" sink the track in concrete. Like even the prototypical systems there is no such thing as "maintenance free". I also believe trying to add glue or adhesives to the ballast is a waste of time, money and effort. Exoansion is eventuially going to work it free and then you're back to square one anyhow. We keep some extra ballast in a covered trash can or simply sweep the eroded ballast back onto the road bed. A simple angler broom does the trick for us. We've trimmed it to fit the width of the road bed.





 

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Discussion Starter #10
Joe,

I'll have to keep that in mind for the future. The finish ballast looks good and angular! The crusher fines I use currently are about 3/16" minus for the largest size. There is a lot of dust in it, which is really great for locking the track down. When I was ballasting during the rainstorm, I was working with what was essentially like mud. We haven't had much rain since that storm, so it'd be interesting to see how well this stuff holds up. In my case, I am mostly working against gravity. Using bigger 3-5" rocks as retaining walls helps a lot in keeping the ballast from washing away.

I like doing the ballast work, its just physically demanding. It wouldn't have been as much work if I was only ballasting the mainline. In this case, however, I was also doing a track expansion project that required more time and more stone! Working in the rain, I had about 20% more weight on each shovel!!

Mark
 
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