Well, I’m working a small layout for under a small tree. Tonight I tried putting down some ballast before I do it on the circle. The two on the left were trial runs putting glue down, one with the glue with spreader device ( despise it) and the other with a brush. Brush wins. Two on right I used the ballast spreader. Like it, but wish it had a way to control the flow. But I guess “pouring out” is what is should do. Far right one looks better, just a little clumpy. The other photo is experimenting on some flex track, brush method and ballast spreader. Also was trying to spread some grass, another first. That should be done before ballast spreading, I’m guessing? I’ll gladly take any suggestions / critiques folks!
This is the ballasting method I have used successfully for many years. I use a 5 oz. Dixie cup as my "ballast applicator." Half fill the cup with ballast and pinch one side of the top rim into a spout shape. Drag the spout end along the ties between the rails, letting it click along the tops of the ties. This will deposit a long mound of ballast along the track. With practice, you'll be able to regulate the amount of ballast, but if you get too much don't worry. The next step will correct any mistakes. Iuse an old toothbrush as my "ballast spreader." Drag the toothbrush along the track. It will naturally tend to push some ballast over each rail and between the tie ends. The ballast left between the rails will be pushed down between the ties. On my N-scale track, I drag the toothbrush handle first. The width of the bristles is just right for N-scale track. For HO-scale track, turn the toothbrush 90 degrees and drag the brush sideways along the track. This should work well with the wider HO track.
Once you have the general shape the way you want it, make several more passes with the brush. Next drag the brush handle first, (regardless of scale) with the bristles spanning the rail. Some bristles inside the rail and the others outside it. This should distribute the ballast fairly evenly along both the inside and outside parts of the tie strip. Then, do at least two passes with the bristle tips sliding along the inside web part of each rail. This will knock out any ballast particles that might interfere with the wheel flanges later, when they roll along inside the rails.
Take your time, and ballast only a foot or two of track at a time. Get the ballast shape as perfect as you can.
To glue the ballast in place, first do a very light, very gentle, spray of tap water with a bit of alcohol in it. Spray from a simple household trigger pump spray bottle held at least a foot above the track. The idea is to simply get the ballast a bit damp, not wet. We just want it to stay in place when we add more water and later, dilute glue, instead of clumping up, or washing away. I use 8-10 parts water to one part alcohol. Note: The 70% alcohol you see at the store is 30% water while still in the bottle, so take that into account. If in doubt, use more alcohol, rather than less. Extra alcohol will only help the water spread more easily, and then evaporate. No harm will be done.
Now you spray again, a bit heavier. This time we want the ballast wet, but not blown all over the place, or eroding away from too much water sprayed too close to the track. Maintain that 12"-18" distance between the spray bottle and the track. Once the ballast is wet, I drool some dilute white glue (Elmer's type) onto the track between the rails. An old plastic water bottle with the pull-open/push-closed top is what I use for the dilute glue application. An eyedropper can also be used. Let the glue dry overnight. The next morning check a small section of ballast to see if it's well bonded down. If necessary, repeat the wetting and gluing steps.
With some practice, you will be able to lay down a good-looking ballast profile. The toothbrush makes this much easier than any other way I've ever used.
good luck, have fun;
Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos: