What Does ‘Ballasting Track’ Mean?

With model railways, “ballasting track” refers to the process of applying ballast materials to the track bed to create a realistic representation of the ballast found on real railway tracks. Ballast is the layer of crushed stones or rocks that is laid beneath the railroad ties (sleepers) and tracks in real-world railroads.

With life-size railways, ballast plays a crucial role in the construction and maintenance of railway tracks. It is the layer of crushed stones or rocks that is laid beneath the railroad ties (sleepers) and tracks and is used for stability and support, drainage, track alignment, vibration and noise reduction and maintenance access.

On model railways, ballast is only used for aesthetics and to emulate their real-life counterparts and rather than being laid under the tracks it is carefully adhered between and around them after they have been secured to a base board.

Scale Replica Material For Ballasting Track

When it comes to choosing the best scale replica of ballast for model trains, the choice depends on various factors such as the scale of your model train, the era you are modeling, and your personal preferences. However, here are a few options for you to consider:

  • Crushed Limestone: Crushed limestone is a popular choice for ballast, especially for HO scale and larger models. It is readily available, affordable, and can be easily colored using weathering techniques to match the desired appearance.
  • Fine Sand: Fine sand, like the kind used in sandboxes or aquariums, can also be used as ballast, particularly for smaller scale models. It provides a realistic texture and can be colored or weathered as desired.
  • Real Dirt or Gravel: Some modelers prefer using real dirt or gravel for added realism. If you decide to use this option, make sure to clean and sift the materials to remove any debris and adjust the size to match your scale.
  • Chinchilla Sand: Chinchilla sand can be used for ballasting track on model railways, particularly for smaller scales such as N or Z gauge. Read More
  • Woodland Scenics Ballast: Woodland Scenics is a well-known brand that produces a range of ballast materials specifically designed for model railroads. They offer various colors and textures to suit different scales and eras. Read More
  • Scenic Express Ballast: Scenic Express is another popular brand that offers a wide selection of ballast materials for model railroads. They provide different sizes, colors, and textures to match specific scales and scenery requirements. Read More
  • PECO PS-305 Weathered ballast: This is a well-known brand among model train enthusiasts and has a pre-weathered appearance, mimicking the look of aged ballast found on real railway tracks. Read More

If you’re not sure which material to use for ballasting track I recommend you consult with experienced model railroaders, visit local hobby shops, or participate in online forums and communities dedicated to model railroading to gather more insights and recommendations specific to your modeling needs. Facebook has some excellent groups – here’s a few I like:


Ballasting Track With Chinchilla Sand

Chinchilla sand (also known as Chinchilla Bath Dust – Chinchillas apparently use it to ‘wash’ with) is a fine-grained sand that resembles the texture of real ballast and can provide a realistic appearance when used on model railroad tracks and can be used ballasting model railway track, particularly for N or Z gauges.

Chinchilla sand can be purchased from various places, including pet stores and online retailers such as Amazon, Chewy, and Petco.

Here are a few things to consider when using chinchilla sand as ballast:

  • Scale Compatibility: Chinchilla sand is often suitable for smaller scale models due to its fine grain size. It may not be as suitable for larger scales such as HO or O gauge, where coarser ballast materials are typically used.
  • Color and Texture: Chinchilla sand usually has a natural beige or light tan color, which can be modified or weathered to achieve the desired appearance. You may consider using weathering techniques or adding dyes to match the specific color and texture of the ballast you wish to replicate.
  • Stabilization: It’s important to ensure that the chinchilla sand is properly glued or adhered to the model railroad track. Using a liquid adhesive, such as white glue or scenic cement, will help secure the sand in place and prevent it from shifting or dispersing with model train movement.
  • Testing and Compatibility: Before using chinchilla sand extensively, it’s advisable to test its compatibility with your specific track materials and adhesive. Ensure that the sand does not interfere with the track’s electrical conductivity and does not cause any operational issues.

Chinchilla sand is a cost-effective and readily available option for ballasting track, but be sure to consider the scale, aesthetics, and practicality of its usage for your specific model trains projects.

I recommend you experiment with small sections or test pieces before applying it to your entire layout to ensure the results are to your liking.

Ballasting Track With Woodland Scenics Products

Woodland Scenics Ballast is a product line of ballast materials specifically designed for model railroads and dioramas. Woodland Scenics is a well-known manufacturer of model railroad scenery and landscaping materials. Their ballast products are widely used by model railroaders to create realistic track beds and scenic elements.

Woodland Scenics Ballast is available in various colors, textures, and sizes to suit different scales and modeling preferences. The ballast is typically made from finely ground materials, such as rocks, stones, or cinders, which are then carefully graded to ensure consistent size and texture.

Using Woodland Scenics Ballast, you can create realistic track beds by applying the ballast material to the area around the tracks. The ballast is typically glued in place using a liquid adhesive, such as white glue or scenic cement. Once applied, it can be shaped and formed to mimic the appearance of real ballast found on actual railway tracks.

Woodland Scenics Ballast products are often used in conjunction with other scenery materials, such as ground cover, foliage, and detailing items, to create a complete and visually appealing model railroad scene. These products are widely available in hobby shops and online stores catering to model railroaders and diorama builders.

Woodland Scenics are based in Missouri and provide international shipping. You will find their website at woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com (that’s not a type – their website address uses ‘woodlandscenics’ twice).

Ballasting Track With PECO PS-305 Weathered Ballast

PECO is a UK based model train products manufacturer they are based in Devon at ‘Pecorama‘ – a dream location for model train enthusiasts!

The PECO PS-305 Weathered ballast is a specific type of model railway ballast designed and manufactured by Peco. This particular ballast product is marketed as “weathered,” indicating that it has a pre-weathered appearance, mimicking the look of aged and weathered ballast found on real railway tracks.

The Peco PS-305 Weathered ballast is great for adding realistic detail and enhancing the visual appeal of model railroad layouts. Its weathered appearance adds depth and authenticity to the scenery by simulating the effects of time, weather, and wear on the ballast.

Model railroaders often use this type of ballast to represent older or well-used railway tracks. It can be used in various scales, such as HO, N, or OO gauge, depending on the specific product and modeler’s preference.

When using Peco PS-305 Weathered ballast or similar products, it is typically applied around the tracks, using an appropriate adhesive such as white glue or scenic cement. It helps to create a more realistic portrayal of ballast and contributes to the overall aesthetics of the model railroad scene.

It’s worth noting that Peco Products PS-305 Weathered ballast can be combined with other scenery materials, such as ground cover, vegetation, and detailing items, to create a complete and cohesive representation of a railway track and its surroundings.

Visit the PECO website

Ballasting Track With Scenic Express Ballast

Scenic Express is a US based company near Collarado and offers a wide range of ballast products designed for model railroads and dioramas. They provide various options in terms of colors, textures, and sizes to suit different scales and modeling preferences. Here are some examples of ballast products offered by Scenic Express:

  • Blended Ballast: Scenic Express offers blended ballast mixes that combine different colors and sizes of ballast materials. These blends are designed to replicate the appearance of natural ballast found on real railroad tracks.
  • Fine Ballast: Scenic Express produces fine ballast materials that are suitable for smaller scale models or for creating more finely detailed scenes. The fine ballast particles are typically used to represent freshly laid or well-maintained track beds.
  • Coarse Ballast: Coarse ballast is available for larger scale models or for representing aged or heavily weathered track beds. The larger particles of coarse ballast simulate the look of larger stones or rocks found in older or less-maintained rail lines.
  • Specialty Ballast: Scenic Express offers specialty ballast products that are designed to mimic specific types of ballast found in different regions or eras. These may include materials that replicate cinder ballast, granite ballast, limestone ballast, and more.
  • Weathered Ballast: Scenic Express also provides weathered ballast options, which have a pre-weathered appearance to simulate the effects of time, weather, and wear on the ballast. Weathered ballast can add depth and realism to the track beds, giving them an aged and realistic appearance.

The specific range of ballast products offered by Scenic Express may vary over time. Therefore, it’s recommended to visit their website (link below), download their latest catalogue or contact them directly to get the most up-to-date information on their current ballast offerings.

Visit the Scenic Express website (I’ll be honest, it’s not the best website you’ll ever see!)

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Happy modelling!