Ballasting Tracks

Adding ballast to tracks makes them look great.  It takes a time but it is worth the effort.

Materials Needed

  • Ballast
  • White Glue (Elmers) 8 Oz bottle plus refill bottle
  • Mixing Bottle (64 oz or so with screw top lid)
  • Hot Water
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • India Ink
  • Paint Brush
  • Small Cup
  • Show vacuum

Selecting Ballast

There are several options available for ballast. All of them look good when done. Here are some of the other pros and cons.

Ballast Type Pros Cons
Starter Size Chicken Grit
  • Very inexpensive at less that $10 for 50 pounds.
  • Actual granite like prototype ballast.
  • Slightly heavier than other options.
  • Not sold in hobby stores, need to go to pet/farm feed store
Hobby Ballast - Scenic Express, etc...
  • Readily available at hobby stores
  • Relatively Expensive
  • Tends to float away when applying glue.
Rubber Ballast
  • Super light weight
  • Relatively Expensive
  • Tends to float away when applying glue.
  • Mail Order

A note about ballast a uniformity: It should not make a difference if different modules use different ballast.  Remember that real Railroads did not have color standard etc for ballast.  It just needed to make good drainage! 

Preparing the Glue

  1. Fill the 64 Oz mixing bottle about half full of white glue. (use the glue in the 8oz bottle first.)
  2. Add in about an equal part of hot water.
  3. Put in about a drop or two of dishwashing liquid. The dishwashing liquid helps break the surface tension of the water and glue and allows the mixture to more readily penetrate the ballast.
  4. Add a few drops of India Ink. Optional, depending on how much you may want to darken the ballast.
  5. Screw on the lid and shake well to mix. (Alternatively you might want to use a paint stirrer or mixer.)
  6. Fill the 8 oz Elmer's bottle with the mixture.

Applying the Ballast

  1. Use the small cup to pour ballast on to the track. Use the paint brush to spread the ballast around the tracks evenly.
  2. Use the 8 oz glue bottle with nozzle to drizzle the glue mixture onto the ballast.  Try to avoid getting too much glue on the track.  If you do however, it wipes right off.  I find that I can drip a few drops of glue between each set of ties in the middle  of the track and then move to the next fairly quickly.  I then run a long line of drizzle on the outside.
  3. You pretty much cannot put too much glue on so don't worry.  Remember that these modules will get bounced around a lot being transported to and from shows, so a little extra wont hurt.
  4. Allow glue mix to dry for a good 36 hours.
  5. Vacuum off excess with a shop vacuum. 
  6. Patch up any areas needing it.
  7. Once your track is glued down with ballast you may optionally remove any track screws holding it down. They are no longer needed.

Tips and Tricks


Do you have a tip that you would like to share? Send an email to .

As we encounter and solve problems we will try to share them here.  Sometimes the solutions are just whimsy like super wide corners.

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