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Rail ballast and weathering

Ballast and Weathering of Scale Model Rails

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To ballast the rail tracks gives a complete other dimension to your layout. It creates a natural look as a real railroad looks like. Not everyone will be enthusiastic to start a job as this, because to glue the ballast to the track will make it difficult to remove the rail or even to sell rail when you should decide to stop with this fantastic hobby. Unfortunately your layout will never look professional and realistic without it.

First we start painting the sides of the rail with Vallejo Rust color Model Air paint using a fine brush. Sometimes it is recommended to apply two layers for a better adhesion.

Here at Modellbahn Rosenbahn the track will be aged, weathered and ballast using very fine ballast materials from manufacturer Polak. For the track we use a mixture of two colors (5363 & 5493). The ballast is applied using a 3-D printed ballast applicator. With a small painting brush the particles which are too high will be brushed between the railway sleepers. It is important that the ballast will not be applied too high because that should disturb the trains negative. When this is done we spray with a fine sprayer a mixture of water with a few drops of dishwashing soap over the track. This dishwashing soap is to remove the surface tension of the water and you will discover that the glue will flow much better. Immediately after this the glue will be applied. This is a mixture of wood glue (1 part), water (2 to 3 parts) and dishwashing soap (few drops).  Drip the glue carefully over the ballast material with a small applicator (a small pipette will do fine). Clean immediately the top of the rail with a small rag and let everything dry completely. The best temperature for this application is above the 20°C to be sure that it is dry within 24 hours and prevent that the rail rust.

When the ballast material is completely dry weathering can take place using 2 tints of Vallejo Weathering Powder Pigments (Rust & Old Rust). The railway sleepers can also get a dry-brush to highlight the wooden profile. Don’t weather over the top, keep in mind how it is in real.

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