Let’s face it, no one likes the ballasting track. It’s so time-consuming. But if you’re just starting out and want a quick rather than perfect-looking finish there’s a simple answer to your woes.
All that faffing around. There has to be a quicker way.
Luckily, there is.
This handy tip shows what must be the fastest way to fix ballast down without the mess with glue.
The ballast spreader is the one I reviewed previously, as the video shows it’s pretty foolproof.
Obviously pulling out the track section and working on it away from the layout makes it slightly easier but the technique and tool used work just as well and just as fast on track regardless of where it is. The only difference is that instead of lifting the board to clean off excess ballast, you’d use a small house-hold cleaner to clean up afterwards.
As mentioned, I use the same ballast spreader as covered in my how to guide on ballasting and have it in both the OO and N gauge track (the N size model works for 009 while the OO version naturally works with HO gauge) and it has saved me hours if not days of work. The pipettes used are available here if you can’t get them locally.
Finally, just a couple of extra notes.
In the video, errant bits of ballast are brushed off the sleepers and the rails are knocked with a brush handle a few times. This tapping vibrates the sleepers so the ballast chips shuffle off the sleepers. Personally, I don’t use a brush for this (the taping could conceivably loosen the hairs in the ferrule) and use teaspoon instead — not your Sunday best ones! 😉 Tap gently so as not to damage the rails.
I’d also suggest experimenting with the colouring in the glue to see what works for you. Apply some to the ballast and let it dry to see how it comes out. Laying your ballast and finding it dries the wrong colour is mighty frustrating!
Don’t forget to come back and comment here with how you get on and share any other tips you discover along the way.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
- 26th May 2020, Replaced video with alternative, showing the same tool but with a better technique.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.