The best recipe for the ballast glue

What is the best glue for model railway ballast? Find the answer here.

Gluing the ballast down on your model railway, be it N, OO or HO gauge, is incredibly frustrating. Admittedly, some people find it relaxing but for me, it’s definitely not one of the highlights of layout construction.

This maybe because in the early years of my layout building, I wasted a lot a time and spoilt my track work by using the wrong glue mix.

Since then I’ve learned that the best glue make-up for model railway ballast is:

  • White glue (known as PVA) watered down and mixed with water to a 50/50 mix. To a dash of washing up liquid or IPA is added.

IPA is Isopropyl Alcohol, which can also be used to clean track, and is available here.

This glue recipe is applied with a needle-point syringe.

Doing this is time-consuming, modeller Mike Buick has an alternative technique that is far, far, faster and gives stunning results. You can learn his approach here.

Disclaimer: Some links on this page will take you to Amazon or eBay through which you can buy the products mentioned. These links are made under the Amazon and eBay affiliate scheme which means that although the price to you doesn't change I get a small commission on the orders you place. Please see the disclaimer for more details.
5 comments
  1. Thanks Andy the varnish acts as a fast drying glue and hardens offto stop bits falling of as I move them around often its easier to reapply and it not softens the PVA glue

  2. My method is to mix the gravel you require with a mix of PVA 60/40 with water then spread on the places it needed let it dry
    Then spray with a semi Matt varnish
    Add all the grass and weeds as well as the autumn leaves ( which I use dried tobacco)
    And spray again that deals with all the loose bits
    As I only make Dioramas so they are moved often for display

  3. i have been away for quite q while,but i seem to rember using powdered wood glue mixed with kitty litter. spread balist where you wanted it, gently spray with water. looked good to/me.

  4. Thanks for this, Andy. This is basically the same I currently use, having adopted the method from articles in the Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine. Your comments confirms I am on the “right track”. I model in N scale and use the Woodland Scenics brand of ballast (essential crushed walnut shellss, dyed gray) which matches much of the southwest U.S. roads. The IPA does help with the wetting, even though I need to coax some stragglers.

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.