Achieving successful looking modeling results is 80% color and material selection with experience/skill probably only accounting for around 20% . The great news here is that beginners can achieve great results right out of the starting gate and more experienced modelers can improve their results quickly simply by switching to better materials. One crucial area where this is brought home is ballast selection. High quality ballast materials look so much better and are much easier to work with. Part of the problem is that the inferior ballast materials are readily available and in such mass distribution that there is a natural tendency to use them. DON’T! What you need are ballast and soils made from natural materials that have subtle color variations and granule sizes. Artificial ballast colors are too uniform in color and grade and are not stone so they tend to be difficult to work with. If you want to make your life easier and improve the looks of your layout the first step would be to place a call to Phil Anderson at Arizona Rock and Mineral Company. He will require a minimum order of six bags. Listed below is a suggested starting order for ballasting rail as well as material for a soil base. He ships within 24 hours and you’re looking at about $45 parts and shipping for that order.
Arizona Rock and Mineral. Phil Anderson. www.rrscenery.com 928-636-9275 (Mountain Time)
- (2 bags) 138-2 CSX Blend (this is just a basic salt and pepper color) HO scale
- (1 bag) 138-1 CSX Blend N scale
- (1 bag) 1221 Steam era yard mix N scale (very useful off black color)
- (1 bag) 1290 Concrete (a good muddy gray)
- (1 bag) 2000 Industrial Dirt
Note that I’ve listed a number of N scale grades. This is because they have finer grains. I generally do a lot of mixing in a paper cup. For track ballast I mix the N and HO grade CSX blends together. For dirty soil I mix the N scale CSX ballast and concrete together with a pinch of industrial dirt. Use your imagination.
For ballast adhesive I’ve made a change in the last year and only use pre-mixed matte medium. I suggest this from Scenic Express. I’ve also changed the method of applying the matte medium to that of solely spraying it on with a fine mister bottle (as opposed to eye droppers or bottles).