Grey Ballast

Grey ballast forms the track bed upon which railroad ties (sleepers) are laid. It is packed between, below, and around the ties. It is used to bear the load from the railroad ties, to facilitate drainage of water, and to keep down vegetation that might interfere with the track structure. The ballast also holds the track in place as the trains roll over it. It consists of crushed stone. The term “ballast” comes from a nautical term for the stones used to stabilize a ship. The ballast for railway modelers comes in many sizes and colors. You will need to choose the size—this dependent on the scale of your model railway. Choose the color because of the location of your railway. Size is critical as over or under size ballast looks wrong. Color is not as important as variations occurred around the country dependent on what local stone was available. It is possible to combine two colors to create the effect you require, but mixing the materials must be done accurately to allow you to combine the two colors again should you need more material. Choose the size and color that are appropriate for your scale and locale and complement the colors of your scenery.  Periodically, ballast must be removed and replaced with clean grey ballast to ensure adequate drainage. Culverts and other passages for water must be kept clear lest water is impounded by the track bed, causing landslips. Where track beds are placed along rivers, additional protection is usually placed to prevent stream bank erosion during times of high water. Bridges require inspection and maintenance, since they are subject to large surges of stress in a short period of time when a heavy train crosses.

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