I was up late, too tired to be productive and too awake to sleep, so was working through my playlist of YouTube favourites among which was this video from Jeff Kraker’s channel:
Watching that beautiful shay easing its way out of the engine shed is not unlike watching our cat wake up after a nap—waking up one bone at a time. Hardest among the things for us to represent on our model railways is not the weight of things but how weight affects how things react during movement. In that video, I really feel how heavy that shay is and what kind of effort is required to wake it up, get it ready for work, limber up its motion, and get it out onto the road. But that’s a tangent for another story.
Like any film we’ve watched, more than a few times there’s always a thrilling moment when we discover a subtle detail never noticed before. Most of the track in this scene is ballasted with a combination of ambition and best intentions and it’s superlatively inspirational. As the camera follows the shay through the turnouts I noticed a glimpse of fresh, crushed rock, ballast in the turnout itself. “Eureka!” Money’s in the kind of supply where we need to be deliberate in its employment. So, while we may not be investing as much as we’d like in plain track, regular maintenance around the turnouts has invited at least part of a carload of crushed rock here. Better drainage keeps the ties in place longer and the turnout is a little more predictable for a little longer and that makes everyone a little more relaxed during the work day.
I’m gonna do that.
I have a bunch of different grades and colours of Woodland Scenics ballast in different tubs in that tote of scenery materials I’ve been adding to over the years. From this, I dug out a variety of options. I’m a big fan of the Woodland Scenics ballast and like using it on my layout. Looking into these tubs I liked what I saw but also had in mind subtle variation in colour and texture.
“It’s funny how I’ve never thought to mix my own ballast before.”
So I did.
Above is my finished blend. I think it’s a mix of: medium buff, fine dark grey, medium light grey, fine cinders, cinder coloured grout, clay coloured grout. I love it. It looks warm and varied.
I’m having so much fun these days in the hobby. I mean, really completely happy in this work. This is my hobby again and I’m very grateful for a moment like this.