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Hi,

 

We've the concrete trackbed and am now giving it a few days to cure properly, before removing the shuttering.  We ran out of shuttering material at the end of the job, but seem to have got away with it, the dry earth and hardcore doing a job.  It undulates in parts, so I've bought a load of obsolete plastic drink stirrers to even out any camber and level out gradients.

 

The working title for now is the Elvington and Sutton Light Railway.  The local railway station was called "Elvington (for Sutton)".

 

The question: I have read many methods regarding the use of Rowlands Mix.  Laying dry, slapping it on wet, using screws, not using screws...  When I temporarily lay a section of track (Peco SM32) it is quite solid.  Once Rowlands Mix has cured, will it hold the track without the need for screws?  I'm thinking place a section of track, make sure it's level, add Rowlands Mix dry, then watering (on a still and dry day).  I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has done this or used an alternative method.

 

Many thanks,


Alun

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  • 3 weeks later...

In case anyone comes across this, asking the same question, the answer is "yes you can" if your trackbed is perfectly level and you have long curves.  My undulating trackbed and 4' curves mean 3 or 4 screws per 1 yard of Peco SM32 Flexitrack and a couple of screws on each point are necessary.

 

Alun

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As I recall, Rowlands Mix is a more "rustic" variation on the older technique of laying track in a sandy mortar mix over a concrete track bed. Dad and I used the sandy mortar technique when we built our garden line 40+ years ago. Lay track on trackbed, level and align, apply dry mortar mix, brushing into place with soft paintbrush, then spray with fine water mist until thoroughly visibly damp and leave for a minimum of 24 hours before touching it again. It was a good idea to cover it while curing so as to both prevent rain from washing it out, and to prevent excessively rapid drying. Once dry, a scrub with a stiff hand brush removed any stray mortar from the rails and sleeper tops. This resulted in a robust track, which could withstand dogs, goats and small children walking on it, at least in moderation, but which could also be easily lifted with some gentle work with a small chisel. Whilst I haven't used Rowlands Mix, I see no reason why it couldn't be applied the same way, with equally satisfactory results. 

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10 hours ago, PatB said:

As I recall, Rowlands Mix is a more "rustic" variation on the older technique of laying track in a sandy mortar mix over a concrete track bed. Dad and I used the sandy mortar technique when we built our garden line 40+ years ago. Lay track on trackbed, level and align, apply dry mortar mix, brushing into place with soft paintbrush, then spray with fine water mist until thoroughly visibly damp and leave for a minimum of 24 hours before touching it again. It was a good idea to cover it while curing so as to both prevent rain from washing it out, and to prevent excessively rapid drying. Once dry, a scrub with a stiff hand brush removed any stray mortar from the rails and sleeper tops. This resulted in a robust track, which could withstand dogs, goats and small children walking on it, at least in moderation, but which could also be easily lifted with some gentle work with a small chisel. Whilst I haven't used Rowlands Mix, I see no reason why it couldn't be applied the same way, with equally satisfactory results. 

 

Hi @PatB,

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences and I intend to ballast dry, as you've described above.

 

I have sourced sustainable medium grade peat, which will need to be sieved to get the roots out.  For a bit of "Rowlands Mix" history and a few different recipes and methods, click here.

 

All the best,


Alun

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  • 4 weeks later...

Rowlands is only the start.

 

If you are in damp or north facing spot it may not be the best form of 'ballast' as the peat will retain water which will freeze and break down the mix over time and you will have sections, every spring, to renew.

 

If you track is in a sunnier spot it will fair pretty well and only break down over time. To make it more robust some EXTERNAL PVA can be added this will stick things together more fully and give a more resilient 'ballast' it will still grow a covering of moss. It will last about 15 years before it all breaks away seemingly overnight...

 

I have used micro concrete which is a 4:3:2 mix of 3mm grit, silver sand and cement, into which I have added a good slug of external PVA. Laying this with trowel and handbrush tamps it into all the crooks and nannies. This will stay put for years and years. I have sections in woodland which are nicely mossy, areas in full sun that is still as good as the day it was laid but it all greens up into the autumn and until the spring. 

 

The only downside is the more impervious nature of this 'ballast' is water retention and I end up with water troughs between the rails.

 

Breaking out damaged sections with micro concrete is a heavy tools job once you have the fastenings out you'll need bolster, club hammer, gloves goggles...

 

Rowlands can be swept away and any stubborn areas a bolster will soon scrape clear.

 

External PVA will take on a milky hue for a few weeks until it is finally settled then it will become transparent,

 

I used LGB track and 'micro ballast' so I can 'walk my length', a scale mile, with a broom and in 30 minutes everything is ready to go even after five or six weeks...

 

So choose what best suits what your micro-climate is like and where it is situated...then lay the 'ballast' appropriate with the time you want to spend on track fettling and that you wish to enjoy running trains.

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7 hours ago, Sturminster_Newton said:

Rowlands is only the start.

 

If you are in damp or north facing spot it may not be the best form of 'ballast' as the peat will retain water which will freeze and break down the mix over time and you will have sections, every spring, to renew.

 

If you track is in a sunnier spot it will fair pretty well and only break down over time. To make it more robust some EXTERNAL PVA can be added this will stick things together more fully and give a more resilient 'ballast' it will still grow a covering of moss. It will last about 15 years before it all breaks away seemingly overnight...

 

I have used micro concrete which is a 4:3:2 mix of 3mm grit, silver sand and cement, into which I have added a good slug of external PVA. Laying this with trowel and handbrush tamps it into all the crooks and nannies. This will stay put for years and years. I have sections in woodland which are nicely mossy, areas in full sun that is still as good as the day it was laid but it all greens up into the autumn and until the spring. 

 

The only downside is the more impervious nature of this 'ballast' is water retention and I end up with water troughs between the rails.

 

Breaking out damaged sections with micro concrete is a heavy tools job once you have the fastenings out you'll need bolster, club hammer, gloves goggles...

 

Rowlands can be swept away and any stubborn areas a bolster will soon scrape clear.

 

External PVA will take on a milky hue for a few weeks until it is finally settled then it will become transparent,

 

I used LGB track and 'micro ballast' so I can 'walk my length', a scale mile, with a broom and in 30 minutes everything is ready to go even after five or six weeks...

 

So choose what best suits what your micro-climate is like and where it is situated...then lay the 'ballast' appropriate with the time you want to spend on track fettling and that you wish to enjoy running trains.

 

Hi,

 

Thank you for sharing your experience.  I was very tempted to go with LGB, but rightly or wrongly I had my heart set on 32mm.

 

I'm still assessing how to ballast and whether to add the mix wet or dry then water (I keep changing my mind).  However, I might need to make my mind up soon as I have just started two weeks of isolation and a big order for track should be arriving tomorrow.  My vague plan was to use Rowlands Mix (or a variation) on all but the Terminus, where Swift Sixteen or similar ballast and water proof PVA might give a better maintained appearance.

 

Regarding the garden, south facing (through station and passing loop) is sheltered by Conifers and doesn't see much direct sunlight.  The Terminus is to the East.

 

Can I confirm that you are ballasting wet and are you then dripping PVA over the laid wet mix?  Can you still see your sleepers?  Any particular precautions around the point mechanisms?

 

Fifteen years wouldn't be a terrible lifespan and we'd be looking at downsizing the house by then.  I am not too worried about annual maintenance as it isn't a massive railway.

 

Thanks again,


Alun

Edited by YK 50A
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If you're interested to see progress (or otherwise), click here.  It will never be the work of art some people have, but what's been laid so far is reliable, without having done much levelling of camber (yet).

 

Alun

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Well at least you'll remember why you once had knees...:D

 

Looks to be a grand plan I'd suggest that you use something less friable than Rowlands Mix given the multiple occupancy use of the space especially where it is likely to get wet or be walked on or used as a cycle track.

 

The most vulnerable track is pointwork and it gums up in no time where ever it is sited. And is expensive to replace.

 

I used LGB brass girder track, 150metres of it, as I needed to be certain that it would survive chunks of oak falling from 40' up which it has. My garden is in woorland.

 

Plus I know  that I can walk along it with a broom to clear the line prior to applying the hand brush ahead of an operating session.

 

(LGB used to run an advert with an elephant standing on the rails... I do not recommend walking on streamline.)

 

I designed the line to a common level on a very gently sloping site, at one end it is at knee height at the other, 30 metre distant, about 8" above the soil.

 

You mention camber = super elevation most narrow gauge lines run slowly so have a flat earth approach it is difficult to maintain in an outdoor scale of less than 10.25" and will eat into your operating time so be very careful if you introduce it. It may be more trouble than it's worth.

 

I assume you will be planting the smaller areas of grass so that the plant life breaks up the trainset nature of the line as installed. This allows models to come in and out of view and provides a sense of journey. Practically it also saves trying to mow/strim fiddling patches of grass.

 

(Time for a garden vacuum.)

 

I wish you well with the project expect to fail and smile when it all works first time and keeps on working.

But don't cuss too much when you spend a week end on your knees easing a length of repairing track into the grand scheme. Been there done that and still doing it...

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17 minutes ago, Sturminster_Newton said:

Well at least you'll remember why you once had knees...:D

 

Looks to be a grand plan I'd suggest that you use something less friable than Rowlands Mix given the multiple occupancy use of the space especially where it is likely to get wet or be walked on or used as a cycle track.

 

The most vulnerable track is pointwork and it gums up in no time where ever it is sited. And is expensive to replace.

 

I used LGB brass girder track, 150metres of it, as I needed to be certain that it would survive chunks of oak falling from 40' up which it has. My garden is in woorland.

 

Plus I know  that I can walk along it with a broom to clear the line prior to applying the hand brush ahead of an operating session.

 

(LGB used to run an advert with an elephant standing on the rails... I do not recommend walking on streamline.)

 

I designed the line to a common level on a very gently sloping site, at one end it is at knee height at the other, 30 metre distant, about 8" above the soil.

 

You mention camber = super elevation most narrow gauge lines run slowly so have a flat earth approach it is difficult to maintain in an outdoor scale of less than 10.25" and will eat into your operating time so be very careful if you introduce it. It may be more trouble than it's worth.

 

I assume you will be planting the smaller areas of grass so that the plant life breaks up the trainset nature of the line as installed. This allows models to come in and out of view and provides a sense of journey. Practically it also saves trying to mow/strim fiddling patches of grass.

 

(Time for a garden vacuum.)

 

I wish you well with the project expect to fail and smile when it all works first time and keeps on working.

But don't cuss too much when you spend a week end on your knees easing a length of repairing track into the grand scheme. Been there done that and still doing it...

 

Thank you for the encouragement and wishes!  I remember the LGB elephant ad, although I have seen LGB track bent by a horse!

 

Regarding knees and ground level, it seemed the most sensible under the circumstances.  If I want a loop, there's inevitably "level crossings" which can be stepped over.  I have wondered about Ready Mix or some other recipe (micro-concrete?) on the main thoroughfare, to create a couple of feet of hard standing.

 

The camber I wrote about is corrections where the trackbed isn't absolutely flat.  I've been using plastic drinks stirrers, having read a tip on a 16mm Association members website (I can't find it now).  I have no intention of introducing a deliberate camber.

 

The greenery is my wife's responsibility.  The vague plan is to plant around the outside of the track and between the terminus and reverse loop and avoiding line/chord, etc.  The reverse loop itself will be hidden.  There will be quite a bit of concrete to hide too and an operating day will no doubt start by clearing creepers.

 

It's all gone remarkably well so far.  That said, I have just been out in the rain with new track and I might have to introduce a piece of 30" Setrack to the reverse loop, which I wanted to avoid.  The shortest curves so far being 48" with the intention of using 38" on the reverse loop.  Maybe I shouldn't worry about it, it won't be seen, although it will limit the stock that can be run.  That said, I'm told a Darjeeling Garratt will go smaller than 30".

 

We will finish laying the loops, level the track, ballast (still thinking) and then we can get on with "beautifying" as best we can, while I move onto the Terminus.

 

Alun

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Reverse curve can trip up the unwary and perhaps you need to ease things to make a longer flowing curve with less of a right/left/right or vice versa or you will need to insert a piece of straight track between the changes of direction; ideally this piece of straight needs to be as long as a wagon to keep everything tracking as it rolls along. Smerty-Two is available down to 768 radius which seems impossibly tight but small loco's and short stock will go around.

 

I had some 32mm track templates custom cut to ensure the tighter radius I need for an O-gauge indoor line. They are cheaper then you might imagine and it is also possible to get infinity radius cut too which is always helpful.

 

Being narra gayge it needs to be a little rustic so a bit of off level is permissible UNLESS you intend to run at high speed. (a trip on the IoM always used to be an eye opener given the way the stock used to sway and pitch about) as too much undulation will have stock 'on the deck' which is a frustrating activity as couplings floppy 3 link chain set as rigid as welded steel...

 

Unfortunately you have designed in a host of operating problems for yourself which will reveal themselves as you move into operation. EVERYONE does this it comes from thinking BIG railway and transferring it into narrow gauge. Look at the Leighton Buzzard line or any of the slate railways away from their freight sorting/transhipment yards. Narrow Gauge apart from Lynton and Barnstaple were scrimp and save operations and this should always be uppermost in the design process. I got it wrong too just to prove the rule has a basis...

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13 hours ago, Sturminster_Newton said:

Reverse curve can trip up the unwary and perhaps you need to ease things to make a longer flowing curve with less of a right/left/right or vice versa or you will need to insert a piece of straight track between the changes of direction; ideally this piece of straight needs to be as long as a wagon to keep everything tracking as it rolls along. Smerty-Two is available down to 768 radius which seems impossibly tight but small loco's and short stock will go around.

 

I had some 32mm track templates custom cut to ensure the tighter radius I need for an O-gauge indoor line. They are cheaper then you might imagine and it is also possible to get infinity radius cut too which is always helpful.

 

Being narra gayge it needs to be a little rustic so a bit of off level is permissible UNLESS you intend to run at high speed. (a trip on the IoM always used to be an eye opener given the way the stock used to sway and pitch about) as too much undulation will have stock 'on the deck' which is a frustrating activity as couplings floppy 3 link chain set as rigid as welded steel...

 

Unfortunately you have designed in a host of operating problems for yourself which will reveal themselves as you move into operation. EVERYONE does this it comes from thinking BIG railway and transferring it into narrow gauge. Look at the Leighton Buzzard line or any of the slate railways away from their freight sorting/transhipment yards. Narrow Gauge apart from Lynton and Barnstaple were scrimp and save operations and this should always be uppermost in the design process. I got it wrong too just to prove the rule has a basis...

 

The only genuine reverse curves are around "Pool" and they do have straight sections between the changes.  In other news, I've realigned the flexi which eases into the Setrack section and I've got the 38" curve round the Birch Tree again (reverse loop).  There will be no curves shorter than 38" and most are 48" or greater.  I am using laser  cut templates to help form the 48" curves, there's pictures on the link I posted.
 

I've had fun on the IoM and many other railways, but I intend to run slowly.  Evening up any camber just makes sense, from a reliability and safety perspective.  Unintended camber is a no no!

 

All model railways are train sets and toys.  After that, it's degrees of experience, expertise, skill, patience, accuracy and resources (money, time, space - see money).  I am comfortable with what has been achieved and what is coming next.  Until two months ago, my only experience of concrete was wheelbarrowing many tons of it across the Leeds University Chemistry building roof in 1994.  Labouring was a summer job between my first and second years.  We don't have land and what there is needs to be shared with a 10' pool, a 12' trampoline, a chalet, a shed, a BBQ, chickens, an aspiring gymnast and several sun worshippers.  Their garden's been ruined, hopefully temporarily! :) I've been a member of the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers for several years and I am grateful for the input of a few members with the trackplan, which is an adaption of one in their Guide.  If times were different, I would have had more on-site help.  I've learned a lot from the mistakes already made.

 

My railway will never be the work of art that some people own and was never intended to be.  I will hopefully have many lonely years of retirement for that and I am not wishing my time away.  Rule one applies and I am happy to be modelling something, somewhere at some point.  It could be the Lynton and Barnstable or Leighton Buzzard or Chattenden and Upnor or Ebbw Vale or anywhere else.  Sometimes people fixate on the "rustic", much like 4mm scale attracts the GWR branch line.  I get it, it's pretty!  However, this ignores the industrial, military, rundown and complex.  If I want to play with real trains, I work on the big railway and I've been a volunteer at 2 standard gauge and 1 narrow gauge heritage lines (currently second man and signaller, standard gauge).

 

I would like to include signals, which are an obsession, but again I have to be careful with everything else the garden gets used for.  Permissive might have to do for now.

 

I completed a loop today and could have watched toy trains go round in circles all afternoon.  But it rained.

 

Click here!

 

I am still wondering about ballast...

 

Alun

Edited by YK 50A
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Nothing inspires more than actually running something and a roundy roundy session boosts the ego and desire to get it all finished! Been down that route a few times.

 

Signals are fragile and easily broken given the other uses the garden may have I'd have a simple  S&T set-up in the comfort of the indoor spaces and put a few of the Dapol signals into a modest box and use some of those very special DCC levers to operate them. Possibly a set of points or two with DCC point motors to switch then you can interlock and play to your hearts content or use the DCC's ability to operate volt free contacts to switch automatically.

 

In my past I had a chain of electro mechanical timers set up to switch and reset a bank of units in my office. I had replaced the electro mechanical items with more modern fully electronic and there i something of a fascination if watching the dial indicators on a chain of units switch each into operation then reset. all great fun and very off topic...

 

My line featured in Garden Rail fairly regularly when I reviewed the latest offings. So I set up lots of cameo scenes in different places to illustrate the model. My line is effectively a test track with a gentle gradient and a variety of curves although my ruling radius is LGB R3 I have some areas with 20-30 radius. Its appeal lies in the length of run and watching a train retreat into the distance and those that have visited have had a good afternoon's exercise chasing trains... :)

 

There is a certain pleasure in seeing twin metals disappearing into the distance even with nothing running.

 

I joined and have lapsed my membership of the 16mm Ass. I've had one open day and tried to set up a regular calendar, posted dates and catered for...no-one...

 

BUT I got the chance to review and write for the magazine and used that to get pleasure from my line. I was at the time a 45mm loner in the midst of a 32mm heartland but we all derive pleasure in different ways. Writing put me in a position of knowing the 'trade secrets' so not being a sought after venue played very well into manufacturer's needs.

 

I wish you well with your project and the planting up that will be needed to incorporate the line into the garden. There are a few books on the subject and from time to time articles appear in the magazines. I'll drop a list to you but cannot say if they are still in print as it is a rare and unusual topic.

 

Once the line has been in 12-18months nature will have toned down the stark rawness and anywhere that traps water and is shady will grow moss naturally.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

A diamond concrete disc on a 4" grinder makes light work of the undulations, I used to it to take out any peaks in the undulations. Any remaining dips I let the track bridge them and tamped under the track with ballast though I'm using sieved granodust, darkened with mortar dye and bonded with SBR 

Screenshot_20200823-152837__01.jpg.9373f425e619069b24dae3f774a5bfb6.jpg

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Thanks @dan_the_v8man,

 

Funnily enough, my Father-in-Law is bringing his angle grinder on his next visit, although it is mostly to deal with a couple of expansion joints which haven't quite worked as I'd hoped and some remodelling of the through station, from experience of running live steam as opposed to "diesels".

 

It's my first time working with concrete (other than a labouring job when I was at college circa 30 years ago) so it's inevitable there would be some teething problems.

 

As an aside, I am using plastic coffee stirrers to help bridge the dips and was similarly expecting the ballast to hold everything in place.  A bit of remodelling and repairs aside, I've moved in doors and looking at rolling stock jobs.  It's a bit wet in the garden!

 

Alun

 

PS  Mine's a TD5

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  • 10 months later...
Posted (edited)

10 months after starting the thread, I thought it was time for a postscript.  I've finally ballasted the first section of track and also built a platform.  It took more time to get there than I hoped as the expansion joints failed over the winter (bad design), and I needed to lift much of the track to remake them.  Based on my experience of running trains, I took the opportunity to remodel the through station and alter a couple of alignments.

 

I went with a method not far from what @Sturminster_Newton suggested.  I laid a dry mix of 2:1:1 3mm chippings, building sand and cement, brushed and tamped into place and wetted with a fine rose.  I then doused with 50%/50% diluted outdoor PVA and the proverbial drops of washing up liquid.  It will weather quickly and I will do my best to encourage moss growth (without the peat or compost).  The ballast has dried rock hard.

 

I'm still considering Rowlands Mix for some areas of the track which get more sunlight.

 

It's not perfect, but I'm happy with the results.

 

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51326702303_114a235723.jpg

 

51326701443_246a8c712a.jpg

 

51326702033_09e1354ff3.jpg

Edited by YK 50A
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