I’ve gotten a number of emails in the past week illustrating progress on switching layout construction.  To a person each project looks fantastic, well designed, simple but efficient, and neatly constructed.  You’ve come this far, don’t shoot yourself in the foot now.  Next up for many of you will be the steps of painting the rail and applying ballast.  Both are critical in terms of the final appearance of the layout.   Both are almost impossible to correct if you mishandle them.  If you are using Atlas code 83 or Walthers track it is very important to paint the rail a darker color to downplay the out of scale spike details.  Rail brown (essentially a tan) or Rust (pumpkin orange) will highlight the deficiencies of the track and are incorrect color palette selections.  Don’t use them.  All you need are rattle can sprays of Floquil Roof Brown and Grimy Black.  Paint the rail and ties entirely with the Roof Brown first and then fog on the Grimy Black.  Do short stretches and immediately wipe the railheads clean moments after painting.  Keep your area well ventilated for safety and wear a respirator (a dust mask is not a respirator).  That’s all there is to it, Roof Brown fogged with Grimy Black.  (For those using Micro Engineering rail, going with lighter rail colors is less of a problem).

For the ballast it is all too easy to get lazy and run down to the local hobby store and grab some Woodland Scenics product.  Not only is their color and shape too uniform, it is tricky to work with.   You need to use natural rock ballast products from Arizona Rock and Mineral Company.    This product is not that hard to track down at large dealers and is easily obtained by calling the owner Phil Anderson directly.   Even for those of you in the UK it’s worth the effort to get the better Arizona Rock product.  Phil is a modeler himself and extremely helpful on the phone helping you pick blends.  I use a mix of N and HO scale “CSX/Wabash”.  Other good soils are ‘concrete’, ‘industrial dirt’, and regular ‘dirt’.

So folks you’ve come this far don’t fail yourself now!