Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New grade crossing, Ballard —Part 3

In my previous post on this topic, I had completed the rough paving, along with the ties and paving between the rails. You can read that post here: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/09/new-grade-crossing-ballard-part-2.html .
     My next task was to complete soldering of all rail joints which required solder, and to drop and solder feeders to the ends of the two sidings. I used to rely on rail joiners for electrical transmission in many locations, but have since learned the lesson of the “subtle open circuit” which can develop at such locations, and now solder most joints. Also, as most modelers know by now, DCC power is more demanding of consistent voltages, so voltage drops through a series of rail joiners can be bad.

     With the soldering done and all rail sides painted brown, and electrical continuity verified throughout with a multi-meter, I used the same dirt to ballast the new track which was used elsewhere in Ballard. This dirt had been collected around home plate of a softball diamond, and much of it was very fine, just what I wanted. I screened out the oversize bits and was left with a (former) peanut butter jar of good, natural dirt. That’s the ballast in this area.
     My personal ballasting method is to apply the ballast material dry, spreading it just as I want it to be arranged. Here is how the area looked at that point.

     Once the ballast distribution looks good to me, I wet it thoroughly, using a misting sprayer with “wet water,” containing a few drops of dish detergent, and take the time to make sure that all areas are truly wet and that the water penetrates deep into the ballast. Then I use an eye dropper to apply a mixture of two-thirds water with one-third matte medium, the results of which I have found I like best. Tedious? Yep, but my philosophy is that I don’t mind tasks like that, as long as they only have to be done once.
     With that done, I could come back with acrylic paints to make the replaced paving a better color (the raw paper mache look is visible in the photo above). As I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, I wanted this new paving to differ in appearance from the rest of the roadway, to suggest a repaired and repaved area. I also used acrylic washes of brownish and grayish colors to give some variation to the color of ballast and ties.
     Once that was complete, the area looked like this. The ground throw for the switch at left has not been installed yet. The one at lower right is for a switch in an upper track, operating a long throw wire through a brass tube buried in the scenery.

I still need to dirty the paving in the traffic lanes, but overall this grade crossing is pretty much what I set out to accomplish.
Tony Thompson


  1. Great stuff as always.

    Also, congratulations on receiving the Guy L. Dunscomb Award for outstanding
    achievement towards the preservation of the history of the Southern Pacific Railroad and its subsidiaries.

    Almost made it to San Luis Obispo but it didn't work out.

    Congrats again!

    George Corral
    La Grange, KY

  2. Thank you, George. I was proud to receive the award. The SLO convention was a good one, and I will be posting about it shortly.
    Tony Thompson