Ballasting ply sleepered track

Discuss the prototype and how to model it.
petermeyer
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Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:29 am

I have searched the Forum for advice on this but thus far have not found the answer I'm looking for.

Received wisdom is that ballast is laid onto the trackwork and then fixed with water and dilute PVA mix. But water and thin ply may not be a good partnership. In addition, my track is laid directly onto paper (Templot printouts) that has been stuck down with dilute PVA. The ply sleepers themselves were all fixed with neat PVA. My thoughts are that soaking this lot when ballasting could result in the whole track flouting off on a sea of diluted PVA as the paper holding it down dissolves.

In order to avoid this, I have resorted to using an alternative technique. This is to apply neat PVA first and then the ballast atop of this. I am only doing every fourth sleeper or so to avoid disturbing anything but have not got very far.

So the questions remain: have I missed something, is there an easier and quicker way to do this - what is the recommended best practice for ballasting ply sleepered track?

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steamraiser
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby steamraiser » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:15 am

I have laid plywood sleepers on top of a Templot paper template, then ballasted using Deluxe Materials ballast bond.
So far no problems.

IMG_20180713_153058 A.jpg


Gordon A

petermeyer
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:29 am

steamraiser wrote:I have laid plywood sleepers on top of a Templot paper template, then ballasted using Deluxe Materials ballast bond.
So far no problems.

IMG_20180713_153058 A.jpg


Gordon A


Thanks and I have some of that too.

Your track appears straight whereas mine is entirely on a curve so there will be tension in the rail which might pull it all loose. I might try Ballast Bond on some of the straighter bits but maybe I am being overly cautious.

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David Thorpe
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby David Thorpe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:08 am

I did mine like this - http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index. ... per-track/ - using neat cheap PVA, thin ply sleepers, and a templot base. It worked well.

DT

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Le Corbusier
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Le Corbusier » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:40 pm

petermeyer wrote:IReceived wisdom is that ballast is laid onto the trackwork and then fixed with water and dilute PVA mix. But water and thin ply may not be a good partnership. In addition, my track is laid directly onto paper (Templot printouts) that has been stuck down with dilute PVA. The ply sleepers themselves were all fixed with neat PVA. My thoughts are that soaking this lot when ballasting could result in the whole track flouting off on a sea of diluted PVA as the paper holding it down dissolves.

I am not sure your reasoning is correct here. Once the PVA has cured (particularly if it is waterproof PVA) then it is no longer soluble in water. So if you bond the paper and/or the sleepers with neat PVA you should be able to flood them with water once cured without breaking the bond.

I bonded cork to a plywood base with PVA. I then bonded the templot template to the cork using PVA and finally bonded the sleepers to the template using PVA. Once all was set and dry I applied the ballast dry as required and then using a dropper applied a week solution of PVA which was drawn in by capillary action. Nothing has moved and the integrity of the ply sleepers has not been affected. There are other methods but this one has worked fine for me.
Tim Lee

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Re6/6
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Re6/6 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:09 pm

We used Exacto 'FastTrack' and 'Klear' floor polish with various aids, some proprietary, some home made since meticulous slow ballasting was not an option for us on Balcombe with the vast amount of ballasting that was required.

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The applicator (from Greenscene IIRC) was modified to restrict the output. Two or three fairly rapid passes deposited just the right amount with practice. Then the P4 modified ballast sweeper was used https://www.themodelcentre.com/GVDOO/ and finally tamping was done with the homemade tamper constructed from coffee stirrers and balsa wood.

The 'Klear' (old formula which we still had in stock) was applied using a disposable plastic pipette. The newer formula (now called Pledge) was tested and apart from leaving a smell like a lavatory cleaner (which dispersed after a couple of days!) worked just as well as the original stuff.

All this kit made life a lot easier when large amounts of ballasting is needed.
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John

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Will L
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Will L » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:22 pm

Le Corbusier wrote:I am not sure your reasoning is correct here.


I'm with Tim I think your seeing problems that don't exist, even with ordinary, not waterproof, PVA. Lots of people have constructed track this way and if your fear was realistic i'm sure we'd know by now. Some people find the PVA/granite mix a bit rigid and thus noisy, but that's an entirely different issue.

nigelcliffe
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby nigelcliffe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:28 pm

A friend of mine, working in EM, is building track this way, his prototype has mostly ash ballast:

Paper Templot output glued down.
Died Walnut sleepers (decided these looked better than ply) glued to paper.
Ballast by trowelling on Polycell light weight filler (comes in medium tubs from DIY sheds, plastic can feels "empty" on a new can).
Leave to almost dry, then slightly stipple with stiff brush.

Thread plastic chairs onto rail, and fix the plastic chairs to the sleepers with solvent. (The crossing V's are pre-assembled and fixed down ahead of ballasting, but nothing else is fixed before ballasting). Connect electrics and turnout tie bar mechanisms. Test run track and electrical system.

Finally paint the ballast and track.

Result looks good, and the technique is reasonably fast for a large layout.

David Knight
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby David Knight » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:33 pm

My method differs it would seem but here goes. I lay out the centre line of the track on the chosen baseboard, apply a layer of “children’s glue” (after some advice from Keith Norgrove) for about 6”-8” and wide enough for the normal width of track plus ballast. The sleepers are then added followed by an application of ballast. Weight is added to the sleepers and the glue is allowed to set up then the next section is done etc., etc.,. Loose ballast is brushed off and the rail added then weathered. It probably helps that I model light railways and/or branch lines as the track is not totally uniform, but it works and the trains stay on it even while moving :o .

Cheers,

David

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:06 pm

Hello Nigel

Your friend working in EM is then using the vees (pre-positioned) to work out from when laying the rest of the track as the templot print is by then under the pollyfilla ballast? Or does he trace another templot print onto the tops of the sleepers?

Andrew

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RobM
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby RobM » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:11 am

Having recently completed a three way once the pre-assembled Vs are in the correct position everything else is gauged from the Vs and not from the underlying templot plan, that just serves as an approximate guide.
Rob
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Updated December 2016

Tony Wilkins
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Tony Wilkins » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:44 am

Having attempted to lift PVAed track with varying degrees of success in the past, I think you are being overly concerned about potential problems. To remove the track, it was well soaked with water (use a brush) and covered with a layer of plastic, sometimes for several days whilst the glue softens. Often additional water had to be added as it soaked in. The effectiveness of this obviously depends on the type of PVA used, waterproof PVA giving the least successful results. For future track laying, I shall be using so called washable PVA.
Regards
Tony.

martin goodall
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby martin goodall » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:06 pm

I am not aware of any problems arising from the use of PVA as a ballast adhesive as such, and it can be highly recommended if you want a really noisy layout, with the grinding and graunching of motors and gears amplified to an amazing degree. If you souse the cork underlay with PVA to stick it to the baseboard and then use PVA to stick down the track, you will produce a track base that is as hard as concrete, with no give in it at all; PVA is perfect for removing any resilience that the track underlay might otherwise have had. And granite ballast (or other stone-based aggregate) will enhance the noisiness even further. If you are nostalgic for the sort of graunching noise that your 00 gauge toy train set made, then granite ballast and PVA is the stuff to use, and plenty of it!

I remember visiting an old friend's layout a good few years ago when roughly half of it had been ballasted with granite chips firmly glued down with PVA, while other half of the layout had yet to be ballasted. The trains ran quietly over the unballasted track, but as soon as they ventured onto the granite/PVA ballasted track, the noise had to be heard to be believed. Magic!

If, on the other hand you are looking for quieter track, without compromising the resilience of your chosen underlay material, then a more flexible adhesive is perhaps to be preferred, such as 'Copydex' (or some similar latex-based adhesive). I have heard it said that if, after ballasting your track using Copydex, you then try to drill a hole in the ballast, the latex-ballast mix (even though perfectly dry) will instantly wrap itself around the drill. But then maybe you shouldn't ballast your track until all your hole-drilling and other work on and around the track has been completed.

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Le Corbusier
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Le Corbusier » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:19 pm

martin goodall wrote: it can be highly recommended if you want a really noisy layout, with the grinding and graunching of motors and gears amplified to an amazing degree.


I must be going deaf :? ....my track doesn't seem vastly louder ballasted than simply on the cork .... yet I seem to have committed the whole gamut of deadly sins including using Buxton granite :shock: It was a pretty dilute mix of PVA complete with a dash of fairy ... hey ho!

Still, I do like how it looks :thumb
Tim Lee

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grovenor-2685
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby grovenor-2685 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:28 pm

petermeyer wrote:So the questions remain: have I missed something, is there an easier and quicker way to do this - what is the recommended best practice for ballasting ply sleepered track?

The protofour manual advised laying track and ballast together and that has always worked well for me.
See http://www.norgrove.me.uk/shed-relay.html towards the bottom of the page.
Regards

petermeyer
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Wed Sep 05, 2018 9:12 pm

Thanks all, quite a lot to mull over here. The Templot advice that I took at the time of starting the track build (many moons ago now) was to fully test the track before ballasting. And that is what I did and there's no going back now as it's all built.

Having followed Iain Rice's book to a certain degree, I am aware of the ballast as you go approach he follows, but the idea of obscuring the Templot plans under ballast did not appeal particularly as I have a single slip which I did not have the confidence to build off plan. Iain's book of course predates Templot.

Peter

Tony Wilkins
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Tony Wilkins » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:35 am

Le Corbusier wrote:
martin goodall wrote: it can be highly recommended if you want a really noisy layout, with the grinding and graunching of motors and gears amplified to an amazing degree.


I must be going deaf :? ....my track doesn't seem vastly louder ballasted than simply on the cork .... yet I seem to have committed the whole gamut of deadly sins including using Buxton granite :shock: It was a pretty dilute mix of PVA complete with a dash of fairy ... hey ho!

Still, I do like how it looks :thumb

Hi Tim.
If you are happy with the results, That is all that really matters at the end of the day.
Certainly rigidly glued track can be very noisy, but it seems to depend on the combination of materials. Combining several hard / rigid materials glued solidly together with no acoustic decoupling produces noisier results. It is also true that the better quality mechanisms we have today produce less noise to begin with.
Tony.

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Le Corbusier
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Le Corbusier » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:44 am

Tony Wilkins wrote:
Le Corbusier wrote:
martin goodall wrote: it can be highly recommended if you want a really noisy layout, with the grinding and graunching of motors and gears amplified to an amazing degree.


I must be going deaf :? ....my track doesn't seem vastly louder ballasted than simply on the cork .... yet I seem to have committed the whole gamut of deadly sins including using Buxton granite :shock: It was a pretty dilute mix of PVA complete with a dash of fairy ... hey ho!

Still, I do like how it looks :thumb

Hi Tim.
If you are happy with the results, That is all that really matters at the end of the day.
Certainly rigidly glued track can be very noisy, but it seems to depend on the combination of materials. Combining several hard / rigid materials glued solidly together with no acoustic decoupling produces noisier results. It is also true that the better quality mechanisms we have today produce less noise to begin with.
Tony.


Hi Tony,

My current test track is a simple length of ply board rather than a framed and constructed set of typical baseboards. It may be that the noise is not an issue because there is no sounding box beneath?

As an experiment of technology transfer (we deal a lot with acoustics - both impact and air-borne - as theatre and performance space architects) if I can engineer the layout such that there is no below baseboard electrics etc, I am going to see what acoustic wadding will do fixed to the underside of the layout. In theory it should dampen the sound removing the sound box effect and to a degree absorbing the transferred rumble - a bit like playing a guitar with the sound box packed with cotton wool. ;)
Tim Lee

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Will L
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Will L » Thu Sep 06, 2018 3:47 pm

Tim

I think your point about the presence or absence of a resonating space under the track base has as least as much to do with noisy layouts as the method by which the track is glued down. Set PVA isn't of itself a particularly hard or rigid substance. When used to glue things together there is typically very little PVA in the joint, and the characteristics of the resulting composite structure will be as much to do with the nature of the materials being glued as the glue. So, for instance, if you glue two bits of paper together with a little well-watered down PVA, the result behaves pretty much like a thicker bit of paper. It is true PVA won’t prevent vibration/noise travelling through the resulting solid, and if you use it to glue together a lot of granite chips, what you get is something reasonably akin to solid granite. So yes, when stuck to the middle of a thin ply top baseboard which resonates nicely, the result is going to be noisy. None the less the most effective solutions, if the noise offends, will be those that address the resonating baseboard rather than the track construction.

nigelcliffe
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby nigelcliffe » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:15 pm

BrockleyAndrew wrote:Your friend working in EM is then using the vees (pre-positioned) to work out from when laying the rest of the track as the templot print is by then under the pollyfilla ballast? Or does he trace another templot print onto the tops of the sleepers?


There are a few things done to ease the rail positioning:

The pre-assembled crossing Vs are built and checked using a milled crossing jig (an enlarged version of the one the 2mm Scale Association makes for 2mm track). The rails are connected with brass shim, which is chosen to be chair spacing height. The end result is V and wing rails as a complete soldered unit, which can be checked in the jig (should drop in and out cleanly). That is glued to the sleepers, using the visible track plan as a guide. Long rulers and other guides are used to ensure V lines up with the intended rails through a formation, horizontal level is also checked. Plastic half-chairs are added after ballasting (they are mostly cosmetic).

Part of the functioning bit of the tie bar are assembled prior to ballasting, so the position of the tie bar and blade lengths are thus known. The tie bar is a sleeper on edge, sunk to be level with the actual sleepers, and drilled to take brass rod which is bent over to solder to the blade, thus the blade can pivot on the tie bar.

A few strategic marks are added to some sleepers for rail position where it might be ambiguous. There is a jig which measures rail spacing from sleeper end for plain line track, thus plain line is assembled with the rails/chairs symmetrical on the sleepers.

Then the ballast applied.

Most of the track assembly through turnouts is with gauges which start from the crossing V's, and the position of the tie bar. On longer plain line, its with the measuring jig, and a few strategic marks on sleepers.


So far the method works - stock will run, under power, through fairly complex formations. Though the layout is far from complete.

petermeyer
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:42 am

Thanks again. As I alluded to in my last reply, a number of responses here refer to methods that predate Templot or at a stage of building that I am beyond as I have already attached the rails and electrics before considering ballasting.

Let me expand a bit more on the construction method used some of which is mentioned in my workbench thread. My entire layout was planned and designed in Templot, that's boundary fences, embankments, civil engineering, building locations, platform edges the track - the whole lot. All was printed out and stuck down onto baseboard 6mm ply. All the track, turnouts and plain track, was built directly onto the baseboards in order to maintain the flow. The sleeper spacing was set to LNWR standard in Templot.

As a single parent, I am not accustomed to lengthy periods uninterrupted so it would never have occurred to me to put down a layer of PVA to lay the sleepers into, instead every sleeper was stuck down with its own individual application of PVA which took an age. So in between each sleeper is still naked paper which is not sealed with PVA. With hindsight this may have been a foolish way to build but I was not thinking of the ballasting at the time.

I have a stash of Copydex but a number of things put me of using it:
1. The odour
2. Questions on whether it can be and how to dilute it
3. You can't drill into it

David Thorpe wrote:I did mine like this - http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index. ... per-track/ - using neat cheap PVA, thin ply sleepers, and a templot base. It worked well.

DT

The Gordon S method of ballasting, from RMWeb, would seem the safest option for me and is the version I have employed thus far but doing a few sleepers at a time. His track is painted before ballasting; twice - with primer then a top coat. That would seal the track prior to ballasting but for me, it would defeat the object of using wooden ply sleepers as I want to preserve their look.

I am going to experiment using this method doing a larger section and see if that affects the alignment.

I wonder whether the track making tutorials will eventually cover the issue of building the track directly onto the baseboard as computer based design of layouts has to be the direction the hobby is going.

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Le Corbusier
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby Le Corbusier » Fri Sep 07, 2018 10:29 am

Peter,

Although I laid my track after ballasting, my situation is pretty similar to yours. I stuck each sleeper individually onto the templot print out and the paper wasn't sealed. I ballasted portions of track dry and tamped down (I can't see that actually having the rails in place is greatly different). Then used a pipet with dilute PVA and relied on capillary action to draw it in. This is the method I picked up from Dave Franks of Lanarkshire Models fame.
There is a good link to his ballasting method here

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/102152-wharfeside-a-lifetimes-project/page-6

As I understand it he ballasts with the complete formation laid. might be worth a look.
Tim Lee

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David Thorpe
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby David Thorpe » Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:48 am

petermeyer wrote:The Gordon S method of ballasting, from RMWeb, would seem the safest option for me and is the version I have employed thus far but doing a few sleepers at a time. His track is painted before ballasting; twice - with primer then a top coat. That would seal the track prior to ballasting but for me, it would defeat the object of using wooden ply sleepers as I want to preserve their look.


Before ballasting using the GordonS method I stained my sleepers with a mix of Colron wood dyes, thus preserving their wooden appearance. I did not seal the Templot base as i needed to see it in order to lay the track - had that not been the case I'd have painted it grey. The PVA did not seem to adversely affect either sleepers or base, although with time the stain, which was never dark, has faded to some extent and it probably needs redone, which will be a pain on ballasted track.

DT

petermeyer
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:15 pm

Le Corbusier wrote:Peter,

Although I laid my track after ballasting, my situation is pretty similar to yours. I stuck each sleeper individually onto the templot print out and the paper wasn't sealed. I ballasted portions of track dry and tamped down (I can't see that actually having the rails in place is greatly different). Then used a pipet with dilute PVA and relied on capillary action to draw it in. This is the method I picked up from Dave Franks of Lanarkshire Models fame.
There is a good link to his ballasting method here

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/102152-wharfeside-a-lifetimes-project/page-6

As I understand it he ballasts with the complete formation laid. might be worth a look.


Thanks Tim for this link and yes I remember it. A great result and something to aspire to, as is the whole layout. Will try hard to get mine looking nearly as good.

petermeyer
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Re: Ballasting ply sleepered track

Postby petermeyer » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:19 pm

David Thorpe wrote:
Before ballasting using the GordonS method I stained my sleepers with a mix of Colron wood dyes, thus preserving their wooden appearance. I did not seal the Templot base as i needed to see it in order to lay the track - had that not been the case I'd have painted it grey. The PVA did not seem to adversely affect either sleepers or base, although with time the stain, which was never dark, has faded to some extent and it probably needs redone, which will be a pain on ballasted track.

DT


Thanks David. I was not nearly as ambitious as you and stained mine with Carr's Sleeper stain. I would not object to a faded look though.


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