Monday, September 24, 2012
Ballasting garden railway track
Winter is approaching and so it's time to do a little work on the garden railway to ensure it survives the poor weather - at least in a state where it won't take too much effort to get things running again in the spring.
This year hasn't been kind to outdoor railway fans. While we model boaters might have appreciated all the rain filling up our sailing pool, I'm not playing trains in the wet. Therefore the railway has seen very infrequent trains during the year and even less maintenance. To be fair, the LGB track has stood up well to being ignored but the ballast it sits on has been less impressive.
I spent a lot of time looking at ballasting options when we built this line and liked none of them. Brought up on indoor lines, I don't want to spend hours getting the railway ready before playing trains. In desperation, I did what we do indoors - fine gravel held in place with watered down PVA.
In theory this shouldn't work. PVA, especially the craft stuff, isn't intended for outdoor use and even the stuff that is, should live between two bits of wood, not in gravel. You know what though ? It actually works pretty well. The track itself is still, after 2 years, firmly held in most places. The shoulder around the edges has suffered a bit but that's probably because the glue didn't concentrate in this area.
Anyway, I've re-packed the ballast and given it another dose of the glue. I didn't find getting a smooth mix difficult and ended up with some pure PVA blobs in places. Then I realised everyone was out and there was an electric hand mixer hanging up in the kitchen. A quick buzz with this and my mix was perfect. The glue washes off easily enough, after all, it's a weak water-soluble liquid, so all is well.
After 24 hours, the gravel seems to be pretty solid. I suspect another session in the spring will be required but hopefully this will be cosmetic and take little time. For the moment, at least the line looks nice from the warmth of the house.