It has been a nice hot and humid August so far in New Jersey, and despite outdoor chores and family commitments that makes for a good reason to spend some time in the cool and dry basement. Recently I spruced up some of the scenery near the Iroquois plant by adding ballast and some basic scenery.
Worth noting here is how much the color of the ballast changes during the installation process. The image above is how it looks once it has been installed and glued in place, and then left to dry for 24 hours. The final product here is a nice approximation of the color mix on the Chicago Line. However, getting to this point took some experimentation. The mix is dusty out of the bag and looks too white, and then during the process to set and glue the ballast, it looks too dark - see below!
With the dramatic changes in color, getting started with ballast was a leap of faith as it would have been a big setback to have to remove the entire track structure to re-ballast it should the color have not worked out. As a review I have settled on Arizona Rock & Mineral 'UP-Silverton Grey' mix, with a bit of 'NYC' limestone mixed in for some variety. The cinders are from the 'Southern Pacific Yard Cinder' product, and they make a nice blend along the right of way.
Here you can see the difference between freshly ballasted track to the left, and weathered-but-unballasted track to the right. This is the location of a highway scene coming soon, which will be installed over the unballasted track, hiding it from view at this location so as to add distance to the mainline run. The temporary cardboard view blocks here will (thankfully) disappear with that installation.
In other news, the new spur down to Blue Circle Cement is going in, and so far has turned out well. I have a few more switches and lengths of track to glue in place and we will then be able to wire it up for operation within the next few weeks.
Backdrop research continues and a purchase will be made soon, starting that process for the fall. The installation of the backdrop will be a startling visual change for the entire layout area. I'm looking forward to it!