Sunday, March 21, 2010

Layout Progress as of 3/21/2010

I have successfully completed the first ballasted section of track on the layout. After selecting the right ballast (see photos below), I ballasted the mainline, turnout and siding at South Emerson. This is the first step towards my goal of completing the scenery at the extreme south end of the layout.

» Photos

The following three photos show the ballasted trackwork that has been finished at South Emerson. You can see where the ballast ends just before the I-75 overpass:

This photo highlights two features of the trackwork: the superelevated mainline curves and the tall ballast profile. Both are hallmarks of a modern well-maintained, heavily-used Class 1 mainline:

I also painted the rails of the South Emerson turnout. The Micro Engineering code 55 flextrack I am using comes with weathered rails, but the Atlas code 55 turnouts do not. The shiny rails of the turnout have stuck out like a sore thumb for quite some time now; painting the sides of the rails and the tops of the guard rails worked like magic to blend the switch into the rest of the trackwork:

This photo shows the turnout at North Emerson before the rails have been painted. Compare the shiny rails to the painted rails in the previous photo. I use Polly Scale roof brown and a 000 (3/0) paintbrush to do this work:

I had planned on using Woodland Scenics fine ballast on all of the layout's trackwork. In my mind's eye, the Woodland Scenics light gray color would be an ideal match to the ballast on the CSX W&A Subdivision. Before I permanently ballasted the track, I thought it would be a good idea to do some sample sections by temporarily applying a bit of ballast (no glue) to a few sections of track.

Here is the Woodland Scenics light gray fine ballast on a section of mainline and siding. While I really liked this color, I thought it made the concrete ties of the mainline virtually disappear, even though it looked great on the siding:

The Woodland Scenics medium gray ballast solved the problem of the vanishing concrete ties, but I did not like the looks at all. Even though this color of ballast looks great on many other layouts I know of, on my layout it looked way too blue and certainly did not look anything like the ballast in my prototype photos:

Finally, I remembered at one time I had purchased some ballast from Arizona Rock & Mineral for one of my many previous layouts that never got off the drawing board. I found six bags of this ballast in two different shades of gray--along with a receipt from N-Scale Supply dated 2001! One of the shades, labelled #138-2 CSX/Southern Pacific/Wabash, was a perfect match and is what I settled on (as shown in the first set of photos at the top of this page):

I used about half a bag for the first section of track ballasting. My next task is to contact Arizona Rock & Mineral and try to order several more bags of their excellent ballast. I have heard the company is up for sale and may be closing any day now, so I have my fingers crossed that I can find more of this ballast or a suitable match.