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Ballast and Grass

Hi Hornby Forums,

I am currently building my first layout and I am wanting to gain experience.

I have my track pinned down to the board, but which is the best to apply first to the board? Grass or Ballast?

Also I have the standard

Hornby Power Clip in a straight piece of track, how do I go about adding ballast to the track without destroying the power clip and possibly blowing up my locos etc?

Thanks very much :)


Posts: 170 posts

Hi Shadow.Monk,

I would apply the ballast first so that I could remove any excess and loose ballast before adding any scenic material.

Remember that grass and weeds will grow in the ballast between weed killing sessions on a real railway

and that the ballast would havs been contaminated by oil from the cylinders on a steam railway. You therefore need a mixture of ballast material to make it look realistic.

You should dilute the PVA glue with 25% water and add a drop of washing-up liquid

to the solution. Apply the adhesive with a fine Artists Brush between the sleepers. Use a minimum of adhesive. Do not fix the rail which will have the power clip, and do not fit this clip until you have finished ballasting. Remove the rail and clean off any

ballast and adhesive from the bottom of the rails where you will fix the clip to ensure a good electrical contact. Alternatively, use a power rail. Also, remove any ballast from the top and inside of all rails and be careful when ballasting points and make

sure they work freely after ballasting and that there is no ballast on the frogs or to prevent the working of the point mechanism.

I hope this helps.


Posts: 676 posts


I'm in the process of doing my first board and I'd have to echo Brightstar's advice.

Good luck :)


If it's not got steam coming out of it, it's not a locomotive!


Posts: 20 posts

Just to keep a level edge to you ballast, use masking tape then ballast. When you apply grasses this will help keep a fairly straight defined edge. The application of grasses will be made easier.

Toys for big boys


Posts: 2211 posts

Isn't that a bit heavy on the PVA to water mix Brightstar. Most people give a 50/50 PVA to water mix, but some say even that is too much PVA.
A diluted latex based glue such as Copydex will make lifting the track easier at a later date if you decide

to alter your track plan.
If you have any soldering skills it is best to solder droppers to the bottom of the rails instead of using power clips. Slit plastic straws in half and put them over the rails to avoid getting glue on the rail tops, or you could

use the zip part of ziplock bags on straights and curves.

Get off the line Bobby.


Posts: 6308 posts

If you are using grass mat then lay that first and cover the edge with ballast.

If you are using loose grass then I would paint the area either green or brown first then ballast and then apply the grass.

Regarding the power clip I would do

away with it completely if possible, solder two wires directly to the underside of the rails and drill two small holes through the baseboard. That way the power connection is completely hidden.


Posts: 116 posts

just to add

I use 50/50 PVA/Water mix which I drip onto the ballast, although to be fair I use pre ballasted underlay so just use extra loose ballast at the edges and for around points.

For grass I use 40/60 PVA/Water which I spread onto

the area to be covered, sometimes mixing in a bit of the paint as well, and shake on the grass.


Posts: 116 posts

I have just returned to railway modelling after more years away than I would care to mention! I have track laid, but not pinned, am about to proceed to ballast and landscape. This is probably a stupid question, but as my layout is fixed, and does not have

to be moved, why can't I use ballast without the addition of diluted PVA?

Barry Moss


Posts: 7 posts

Loose ballast has a mind of it's own and will get into gears and motors in no time.

Get off the line Bobby.


Posts: 6308 posts

Barry Moss


Posts: 7 posts

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