Adding Ballast to FasTrack

23 01 2013

If you have realistic scenery on your model railroad, there is no question that Fastrack offers a big improvement in appearance over tubular rail. The raised roadbed, ballast and ties provide a good representation of real railroad track. You can take this a step further and soften the transition between the plastic base and your finished scenery with a very simple and fast technique.

glue

Begin by spreading a layer of white glue across the shoulders of the ballast.

Scale ballast is available in many sizes and colors from a variety of manufacturers. For our FasTrack Modules, I used a course, light grey ballast from Woodland Scenics. By applying a layer of this stone to the sides of your FasTrack roadbed, the tracks blend in seamlessly with the surrounding scenery.

To apply the ballast, first begin by rubbing the shoulders (sides) of the FasTrack with white glue. Apply a nice even layer and smooth it with your finger. You can also put a little glue along the platform itself at the base of the track. Avoid getting glue on the top of the roadbed.

ballast

Sprinkle on the ballast then brush it all into place.

Next, sprinkle on your ballast. Keep it close to the sides of the track and brush stray stones back into place with a stiff brush or your finger. Take your time and make sure everything is just the way you want it before adding the final coat of glue. Just do a few feet at a time (maybe less as you get started) so you don’t get hurried and sloppy.

glue

Soak the ballast in glue. You can do the surrounding scenery at the same time. Notice the protective tape and plastic on the front of the layout.

When satisfied, gently spray the area with isopropyl alcohol. This will break the surface tension of the glue/water to come and allow it to soak through the entire scene.

Then set everything in place with a 50/50 mix of white glue and water. I’ve found the most effective way to apply this is to dribble it on from an old glue bottle. Give it a good soak – it will dry clear and solid as a rock.

finished

After the glue has set and all the stray stones brushed away, the final result is very convincing.

I first thought I would have to finish the job by going back across the top of the track, carefully placing ballast between each of the ties. After seeing the results from just coating the sides, it became clear that the work for the top was probably not worth the effort. Unlike the relatively fast and simple shoulders, the top will require some more careful and precise placement. If you are using a ballast color that is more contrasting than the grey FasTrack, it may be more worth the effort.

The shoulders provide a perfect buffer and transition from the look of the FasTrack to the scenery around it. And from most viewing angles, the tops of the ties and roadbed are not highly visible anyway. It’s a fast and easy way to make a good thing even better!

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5 responses

23 01 2013
22 04 2013
Mike

I don’t like fast track. It loses contact if it moves ever so slightly. The Tubular track is still the best. Lock- ons are accessible to fix. Fast track, if you loose a wire, your pulling up track.

23 04 2013
Jonathan Hatfield

I’m not sure what you are talking about. We have a 20×8 double loop Fasttrack layout with a small yard in the middle and we have exactly one power feed to the whole layout. The track plan has been changed many times with no problems. The old tubular track may be your preference, and that’s fine, but it is far worse at loosening up and having electrical issues over time than Fasttrack is. Your comments are misleading to readers that may not know better.

22 04 2013
J.P.

I’ve been using the same technique on my 14 by 40 all FasTrack layout with wonderful results…. I love the way the glue secures the track to the pink foam (the 2 inch pink stuff)….an added bonus!!

2 05 2013
Leon Duminiak

I’ve found that Elmer’s School Glue gives the same results as standard white glue but with the bonus of being easy to remove. Wetting the dried School Glue with a little water that has a few drops of dishwashing detergent per pint will soften the glue and allow it to release.

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