|D&H mainline in north Albany prior to the|
CP Executive train's visit in 2018.
There is another big consideration with ballasting. It generally is permanent. Once the ballast is down and glued in you can't easily change it without some major track replacement project. This is even more of an issue when you use something besides white glue to secure it that isn't water soluble later on. What this means is that if you aren't sure what color, size, and shape of ballast you are going to use then you must think it through carefully first.
A couple of years ago I was sitting at my work bench one day and realized I had over a dozen types of ballast in my scenery supply bin. And I find ballasting so much fun that I wanted to do some just to enjoy it even before my layout had track installed. So, I decided to create a ballast sample board. It lets me easily compare ballast size and colors. It would have been much wiser to paint the board the same shade of brown as my layout and to perhaps include a little grass, but I was in a rush. I had stuff from Woodland Scenics, and had ordered samples from Arizona Rock and Mineral and Scenic Express. I have been looking for a substitute for Highball Ballast which I loved working with but sadly has been out of business for awhile now.
The Valley Local blog by Chris Adams had a pretty good post on this issue. Chris wasn't sure what he should use and tried several types by loosely applying them to some track and comparing the results to pictures of the prototype. That was pretty smart. I suggested to him that the adhesive used to glue it down will change the color of the ballast (white glue dries differently than Scenic Cement or matte medium) and recommended he make a couple of samples of track with the ballast firmly affixed how he would regularly do it. If I was speaking from personal experience as to how the color might change, I was.
|North Albany mainline in front, with sidings |
to Surpass in the rear.
|The same area as above, though in 1984. I guess the|
ballast is a bit brown here too.
So that left me with Woodland Scenics' ballast, which I planned to avoid. Why? Because I have always heard "real modelers use real crushed rock for ballast, not walnut shells." And I turned into a snob and believed it. I admit if you use wet water to saturate the ballast instead of rubbing alcohol, you need a lot more water and that extra spraying could cause the loose ballast to go flying. But, I use straight up rubbing alcohol and the WS ballast stays put. My sample board showed that I could secure it without any trouble. So that was that, Woodland Scenics ballast for me. In the picture at the right, the section of track ballasted on the left has been secured with glue, while the portion on the right has not. The difference in color is important to note.
|The D&H in Menands in 1984. Note the ballast|
mainline is much more gray.