TRACK DETAILS: Stained and Glued

I am in a hurry to see rail spiked to ties. However, I would like to add some aging and distressing to the ties before the tie plates and rail go down.I am working on is my “test tube”. I am experimenting with techniques and materials. I am also looking for hints and suggestions from modelers who have done this before.

My first step was to block sand the ties with 320 paper on a short sanding block.  I finished the sanding by running the block along the length of the ties.   Hopefully, this will minimize scratched running across the ties.  Ben Brown brought up an interesting point about the marks that sanding can leave on the ties.

wire brush
Before staining, I used a Xacto knife and small hand-held wire wheel to scar and distressing to the tie tops.   I also chipped the corners and took little chunks out of the ties with the Xacto knife.

stain being applied

This is not a very efficient approach.  I probably should batch stain the ties.  Most of my modeling in recent years has been in brass and styrene.   Wood has become a foreign material to me.  The stain I am using is called Silver Wood and it is sold by C.C. Crow.  The applicator reminds me of the liquid polish that I would use on my shoe welting.   My time in the Navy taught me about the art of spit shines and preparation of “inspection shoes”.

stained ties

Not leaving well enough alone for the day, I decided to try my hand at ballast.  I pulled out an old jar of Highball ballast and cinder mix and applied it to the track.  I used the time-honored method of a spray of water with Kodak Photo Flo added.  I followed that with diluted Titebond glue delivered with a pipet.

glue applied

I made the mistake of adding some O scale cinder fill to the mix.  The chunks are a little big for my taste.   I have started thinking about picking them out once the glue dries.   The mix needs more dirt and some gray colored crushed rock.   Sounds like a trip to my local hobby shop is in order.

The tape was applied to the side of the roadbed to keep the glue off my epoxy-coated floor.  I really don’t want cinder fill on the floor.

Stay tuned…..


10 thoughts on “TRACK DETAILS: Stained and Glued

  1. I had good results establishing wood grain using saw blades dragged along the length of piece. Then, stain the piece and allow it to dry. A light sanding of the top surface leaves the dark grain highlighted. A dilute lighter stain can be used to tone the sanded surface.

  2. Hi Gene:
    It looks great – and it’s great to see such progress.
    Before you go to the trouble of picking out the O scale cinders, you might want to quickly do up a piece of test track – say, 12″ long – with ties and this ballast mix. Add some rail, then hit it with the static grass. (I assume you’re planning to do that.) You may find that the cinders just disappear under the weeds and such. I found that to be the case with my own layout.

    • Trevor
      Weeds are in order for the line but not as much as your right of way. I take your suggestion and try it out on a my photo board. It is perfect for testing.
      Great suggestion!

  3. Gene,
    I think for a first pass, you did very well. I especially note that there is no fuzz hanging over the tie end. I think the ties ends are perhaps even more important than the upper surface.
    You know from the photos I sent you separately that most of my ties will be buried with the ballast-gravel flush or covering the ties tops. My prototype seemed to use a lot of sand colored gravel which I struggled to match until I found that Bachmann has recently brought in some really nice ballast which appears to be natural sand in my case. They have a beige and a white which look great for my needs color-wise, and being natural are heavy and don’t move around during the wetting process.
    One end of my line was quite grass covered and I am really anxious to model that area, As Trevor mentioned, static grass, whether a little or a lot in my case mitigates the ballast appearance. Oil stains also help the total look.
    Keep up the great work, you have me salivating to complete our move south and get construction underway.

    • Ben
      I didn’t see very much fuzz on the ends of the ties after sanding. I didn’t use a 3M pad to remove fuzz before staining. The plywood and homasote roadbed is very flat. You do have to sand the back of the California Roadbed where they made diagonal cut. There is some debris that will prevent the roadbed from lying flat. It is a form of paper fuzz.
      I have not been to a hobby shop in ages since I only have a Hobbytown close by. There is a serious lack of hobby shops in the greater (lesser) Sacramento area. I have not been able to see the Bachmann ballast. I do have a lot of Highball and Arizona Rock stuff that has been quietly ageing for nearly thirty years. I like the real thing for rock as in the case of Highball and others. In fact, I need to collect some dirt and sift it for use on the layout. There is a sports complex near my home which has some very good and fine “dirt” that should work well on the layout.
      I also came across a secret stash (forgotten) of Selkirk broadleaf foliage. This is super stuff but sadly the owner passed away recently after a long illness. It really makes some very nice trees material. The basic shape looks like punched paper that is coloured (it is Canadian after all). The shape is superior to chunks of foam sold by other suppliers like Woodland Scenic.


  4. Gene,

    I use Dr. PH Martin’s radiant Concentrated Water Color (bottle does not say ink, stain or what) to stain four batches of ties (different colors) at a time. When they are dry I mix them together to vary to color of the ties.

    I use Elmer’s white glue diluted with water and a drop or two of liquid dish soap to break the surface tension. After that has dried over night I sand the tops of the ties to be sure all is level.

    I like to ballast before putting the rail down. I spread the ballast or dirt and glue that down with the same dilute glue as I fixed the ties in place with.

    Here is the good part. After gluing the ballast the ties become wet with the glue too. The glue activates the die again and leaves the sanded part of the tie with a light stain that looks like weathered wood.

    After that I think the ties are good to go, but you could go back and distress them a bit as you have been doing. A soft paint brush with some thinned tie stain will highlight the distress areas.

    Jerry Kitts

    • Jerry
      Do you dilute the Dr. Martins water color? I have seen it in an art store recently. May have to go to Michaels sooner than later. Your technique sounds interesting. I will have to give it a try on the next section.
      Thanks for your input,

      • Hi Gene,

        Yes dilute the Doc Martin’s dye. I used about 1 dye to about 7 or 8 parts water. It depends a lot of the type of wood the ties are cut from.

        Russ Clover used the die for the ties he used to sell. I learned to use the dye at the Slim Gauge Guild in Pasadena in the 70s.

        I tried to add a photo of my ties, but could not figure out how to do it. Which must mean we are not supposed add our own pictures.

        Jerry Kitts

      • Jerry Send the picture to me and I’Il add it to the blog.

        Thanks Gene

        Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID RAZR MAXX HD

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