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Found an inexpensive source for ground cover and ballast. Country Max fish and reptile section has a wide selection of colors of fine sands for fish and reptile enclosures. They have a nice stone one that looks like granet ballast or gravel roads. Few different shades of brown. The black is perfect for coal loads or asphalt roads. $8 for 10 pounds. Cheaper than most non self made products I have found.
 

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We use a lot of tea, both hot and iced.
I dried the tea bags, opened them and used the tea for ground cover
I mixed the various kinds that we use and get variety in the coloring
if left natural and added color to some.
 

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A potential problem with organic materials is that they can dry out and decompose. That said, I have lots of sticks from my yard, and about 3 dozen trees made from sedum florets on my layout.
 

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The tea "cover' has been on my layout for 15 years and I have not noticed any problems.
I would suspect the tannic acid in tea makes an excellent preservative- which is how 110 year old shoes
at the bottom of the North Atlantic are preserved, ahem. TMI. Anyways, the tea leaf idea sounds splendid
and I shall try it forthwith.

An additional health benefit of tea is that it is shown to chelate, or reduce, toxic heavy metals such as lead and
mercury from the body. Drink more tea! Landscape more territory!
 

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For HO ballast, I use play sand (from Home Depot or Lowes). Most of the individual particles are a little smaller than 1 mm. This calculates out to about 3" in prototype scale. I checked out the local CSX line, and most of the pieces of ballast were roughly 3" to 4" in size.
 

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We use a lot of tea, both hot and iced.
I dried the tea bags, opened them and used the tea for ground cover
I mixed the various kinds that we use and get variety in the coloring
if left natural and added color to some.
rog..... This is a great idea I have not heard of. I was planning on using real dirt on my layout. But using tea from used tea bags sounds much easier then the process I was planning to use for real dirt. Could you explain further as to how you dry out the tea bags and color the tea to use on the layout.
 

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My way was very simple. Laid the bags on paper towels for a few days then tore them open and spread the tea on paper towels to dry more.
I just noticed that various types of tea have slightly different colors, green tea is a little tighter than black and many of the teas made from other substances varied.
Sometimes I just mixed them together and spread them on a base coat of paint. Sometimes I used thinned water based paint on it after spreading.
I just found yesterday that I still have some in a plastic jar. Must be ten years old. Boiling the water for tea also probably kills a lot of "bugs".
If the pieces are too large they can be crumbled when applying with your fingers.
I do 3 rail O but have near high rail type scenery.
 

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I picked up a pail of fine sand for $5 at a landscape supplier. It’s a lifetime supply. I use as the base, and for my road shoulders. I noticed on my last upgrade, that after I placed and formed the shoulders, that I could just put my scenic glue on without using a wetting agent (isopropyl alcohol). Saved time and money.
4A304F24-53D6-4FDB-B8C5-B09628C12630.jpeg
 

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Sometimes I just mixed them together and spread them on a base coat of paint. Sometimes I used thinned water based paint on it after spreading.
rog ..... I get the drying aspect of using tea as ground cover. Did you use a glue mixture to spray on the tea after spreading it on the layout? Or perhaps you just let the base coat of paint dry and that was enough to hold the tea in place. Also, were you able to change the color of the tea from "dirt" to "gravel" by using thinned water based paint on the tea after applying it to the layout. I am thinking that I could use tea as "gravel" on the shoulder portions of roadways.
 

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Sawdust for ground cover. Walnut works well for leaf litter. Lighter colored can be painted. I screen it to separate the stuff that's too big for HO scale.
 

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I wonder with the tea... could you spread it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at a low temp for a few hours to dry it? Would that affect the color?
 

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No. Only the natural color change that occurs when it dries out. Unless you burned it, of course.
 

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I picked up a pail of fine sand for $5 at a landscape supplier. It’s a lifetime supply. I use as the base, and for my road shoulders. I noticed on my last upgrade, that after I placed and formed the shoulders, that I could just put my scenic glue on without using a wetting agent (isopropyl alcohol). Saved time and money.
View attachment 540751
If what I see here is common tan-colored sand, why did you color it black ? It looks too much like street macadam, not RR ballast..Call it tough love.. M
 

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The black ballast is woodland scenics “cinders”. The sand I use is the base for the scenery, and I use for road shoulders..
 

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From american-rails.com: "while crushed stone (often limestone or quartz) is the aggregate of choice for today's railroads, in years past everything from slag to cinders has been used (always resourceful, years ago railroads would use whatever they could find). Some light density railroad lines would appear jet black as nothing but burnt coal cinders were used to ballast the route."
Like they say, "There's a prototype for everything." :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
 

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"Inexpensive ground cover and ballast"
Your ballast and ground cover look faultlessly done, ash!
Could you give us a link to those CountryMax products?
 
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