Too much ballast

 photo SSWM-EssCurve_zps60f08fe1.jpg
(This photo is one of the inspirations for my modules – and it prompted some changes)

As I work towards this coming weekend’s North Shore train show in Laval, Québec, I realized that I was unhappy with the ballast on the two modules I’m building to use with the S Scale Workshop exhibition layout. Looking at some of the prototype photos I’m using for inspiration, the problem was immediately apparent.

There was too much ballast.

As these photos from an earlier post show, the ballasted track was a big scar through the scene – it sat above the surrounding greenery, almost floating above the terrain:

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-TrackPainted-01_zpsccc78d86.jpg

 photo TMTV-DivSt-Scenery-01_zps6314492e.jpg

This was not the effect I wanted. As the lead photo shows, a more subtle ballast profile was called for. So one of my tasks this past weekend was to layer some more ground cover onto the sloped sides of the roadbed.

The following photo shows what I did:

 photo TMTV-BallastSlope-03_zpsea8e1d6c.jpg

At upper right, the original ballasted roadbed. In the middle, I’ve brushed on some of my basic terrain-coloured paint (a greyish brown called “Monk’s Cloak”, if memory serves). At lower left, some ground cover material scattered over the paint.

Here’s another look, comparing before and after:

 photo TMTV-BallastSlope-02_zpsa32d33c1.jpg

And a third look. The module section at the back has been worked on, while the three closer sections await treatment:

 photo TMTV-BallastSlope-01_zps85be8cc0.jpg

I’m much happier with the revision, although I’m also glad I did all that ballasting as the ballast provided a good “grip” for scattering material on a slope.

It looks even better with static grass applied along the railway RoW – as I’ll show in a subsequent post…

6 thoughts on “Too much ballast

  1. Trevor,
    If you using the black and white photo at the top of the post as your inspiration, it appears to me that the problem isn’t as much a profile problem as it is a value (dark/light) and contrast problem. Your perception of the size of the profile is being distorted by this contrast problem.

    To see it, convert the original color photos you did of your modules’ right way to black and white. If I’m right, you will notice that the surrounding vegetation is much darker than the roadbed. Huge contrast.

    Now look at the photo you are drawing inspiration from. The value difference between the roadbed and the surrounding vegetation is much less pronounced. The value you have for your vegetation on your modules is almost the same value found in the deep shadow areas in your photo. That’s what is creating the separation, the”floating” effect. of the roadbed profile.

    Also take a look at the photo of you being filmed at a grade crossing a couple of weeks ago. Notice the value of your pants vs. the vegetation next to and between the tracks. The value of the vegetation is almost the same value as the roadbed where as, at least in these photos you posted, your module vegetation is closer to the value of your pants.

    Those are just my thoughts. Love your blog and the the Roadshow was awesome. They should use you more. Just saying 🙂


  2. I also like the revised ballast, I’m going to keep this in mind when I do my own ballasting. Thanks for posting this!

  3. I’m not convinced that the prototype picture has ‘less ballast’, but rather has ballast over grown with weeds. The height of the roadbed (ballast plus track) in relation to the surrounding terrain looks to be about the same in both the prototype and the model. The model just originally had less weeds growing in the ballast.

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