Roadbed and trackwork

I milled homasote strips for roadbed, both straight sections and kerfed for curves. I glued both the roadbed and ties down with Mod Podge, textured each individual tie with a razor saw and dental pick, and stained and ballasted. Finally, I used Pan Pastels to vary the gray color of each tie and then followed with additional Pan Pastels of black, dark earth, mud, and rust to further texture the ties.

I’ve started to lay rail and hope to have all the track down and operating by the end of winter 2018.

The undulating quality of homasote makes it the perfect subroadbed and roadbed because it looks prototypical at eye level.

Texturing each tie individually is possible on a small branch line layout. It creates the run down character of a somewhat neglected branch.

Move cursor over image above to see tie detail. Proto87 spikes used.

Categories: Trackwork


  1. Daniel Mc Connachie

    January 24, 2018 — 6:15 am

    Scott, can you elaborate your staining procedure? Did you mix the two stains as you went or did you just use each individually as you went. Ties look great. I’ve tried to use dark walnut as well but I thought it was too dark and should be used randomly. Let me know your thoughts on this. Your track work looks great!

    • scott

      January 24, 2018 — 12:51 pm

      Hi, Daniel: I used the dark walnut stain first and let it dry completely. Then I ballasted using the traditional method of 50/50 white glue to water. After drying, I used two different Pan Pastel grays to randomly color the ties (Neutral Gray, Neutral Gray Extra Dark). This provides the underlying gray colors that older, well-worn ties have. After all the gray coloring is done I followed with three additional pastel colors (Burnt Sienna Extra Dark, Red Iron Oxide Extra Dark, Raw Umber). Again, I used the warmer browns randomly and was careful to make the ties look realistic and not overdo it. The Pan Pastels go down very nicely and quick. I vacuumed up any loose pastel. That’s it!

  2. Wow Scott, outstanding job on weathering the ties! Those are some of the most realistic model railroad ties I have ever seen. With a small layout I really pays to focus on the small details as your crews will be able to see and appreciate your work. I look forward to following your blog.

    • Thanks, Tom.

      There was a price to pay for that type of realism – hours and hours of me wondering if I’d ever get them all textured. I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t dare do the same approach on a larger layout. Whew!

  3. Scott, beautiful work from top to bottom (your table of contents 😉 and that includes your Web work, too. I have bookmarked your site and intend to refer to your work constantly as I begin my layout, so thank you much for taking time to build your site and share your terrific work.


    • Thanks, Brian!

      You can also subscribe to the site to get a notice when something new posts. Go to the homepage and click on one of the links in the lower right.

  4. Great work.

  5. Good work. I’ve took to using a long wire brush in a Dremel, but also using a X-acto and the dental pick a bit. But after seeing your work, I’ve been under doing it with the pick, I’m gonna go to town on the next batch I do, as I really like the work. I’ve also been staining much as you have, but using an Oak I think with some random applications of the really dark, Mocha or Espresso, whatever it’s called. And I had been doing some dry brushing to get the “driftwood”-sh color effect, but I think the PanPastels are a better way. I do love the powders for rail coloring, after spray bombing a rubdown with rust colored AIM powders does wonders, a Mike Confalone technique I’ve fully bought into. I’m laying mine with the tie plates however, but it’s a MASSIVE undertaking, but I’m quite pleased with the results. But it really changes my laying process, I’ve always done as you have, laying the ties down, sanding and prep’ing, and laying rails. But with the tie plates, I have to do everything to the ties I’m going too, prior to placing tie plates. What’s been working so far is to prep the ties, then space them onto a narrow strip of transfer tape, then into the fixture for placing tie plates. Then I have complete 10″ or so tie strips to adhere to the Homasote. This also lets me push the rail into the contact cement, pulling up ties that would otherwise have a space between the rail base and the tie plate. Once ballasted, it all hardens up nicely. But I will say the contact cement method is less than perfect, and is still requiring some spiking, especially in curves and around rail joints, which is exacerbated by my not using joiners. I expected to spike some through turnouts, but I’m having to do a bit more spiking than I anticipated. But the best trick I’ve found to help is to spike with hemostats, that seems to work best with the spikes, compared to regular pliers as I used to use.

    • Thanks for the comments, Andy.

      It never occurred to me to use a hemostat to spike with, and I have two of those rascals! I’m definitely going to give that approach a try. I appreciate the great tip!

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