While I wait for my new Minitrix switches to arrive from a couple of US, Canada, and European sources; and my  Tomix cant track curves from Japan (who would've thought model trains would be so international?) I've been taking care of some various projects in preparation for the new track.

My first task is the result of admiring several layouts where the owners have painted their track a rust or dark brown color.  When I first really started to notice this technique it scared me....I usually spend extra time trying NOT to get any paint, dirt, etc... on my track!  But to deliberately do it?  That scares me, and I assumed that the folks who did this were designing non-operating dioramas versus working layouts.  As time went by, I realized this was not the case.  So I've jumped onto the bandwagon of rail painters!
Since using a brush for this effort sounds really tiresome, I tried to use a device that looks fairly simple to paint the rails, but I really wasn't happy with the results and found the effort to apply the paint fairly exhausting.  My 'fall back' plan was to use an airbrush.  Although I've had a Paasche VL double-action airbrush for a couple of years, I never been able to achieve good results.  It turns out the problem wasn't the airbrush or the paint, but an older compressor from Badger that just wasn't putting out the pressure that I needed!  I recently bought a cheap 85psi air compressor and the results are amazing!  Its really noisy, but as my layout and most of my work occurs in the garage, this isn't a problem for me.

My color of choice has been Tamiya Red Brown.  Its also easy to get and I've heard good things on various message boards about how well Tamiya works for air brushes.  I have to say, I've been very impressed.  The only challenge is trying to not get too sloppy or rush too much and end up with excessive 'rusty ballast'!

What I don't know yet, is whether or not any part of my fears of doing this were justified.  I'll find out soon enough.

Speaking of ballast, that's been my other project.  Given the mix of Kato Unitrack, Atlas flextrack and Minitrix switches (not to mention several sections of Fleischmann profi-track flex track AND Tomix cant track curves!) I need to unify the look.  Painting the rails is one part, but adding a consistent ballast color is the next part.  Below is an example of the two methods I used of applying 'rust' to rails (the track in the background was with Tamiya using the airbrush, the track in the foreground used a dark brown and roller device I mentioned), as well as the 'wet' ballast waiting for vacuuming and touch ups tomorrow.  Doesn't look great now, but an improvement over what I used to have.
Let me say that despite my growing enthusiasm for some of the non-Kato track pieces I'm using, ballasting is still not fun.   But I'm muddling through it and hopefully learning a bit more about how to do it correctly without everything looking like the surface of the moon instead of realistic railroad ballast.
The above photo also shows the 6 inch extension across for the city (in addition to my Unitrack ballasting).  This minor extensions will be a sort of 'backdrop' using some of my excess buildings, and will also keep the trains away from the layout edge!  I'm doing something similar further up the layout, but rather than buildings, this will be rolling hills.

I'm also preparing the yard by putting down the cork, in addition to soldering leads to my some of the yard trackage. 
As you can see, and as I'm sure many of you will recognize from your own experience, the layout is an absolute mess right now.  But its a good mess....this is leading up to some exciting improvements!


  1. Thanks for posting your experiences on your layout. It's quite interesting to see that you're migrating to Minitrix track. I did the opposite and changed all my Minitrix tracks to Kato Unitrack. I'm looking forward to reading your next blog entry.

  2. Hi Train Spotter! First, thanks for dropping by, and I just checked out your blog, looks like a lot of similar interests! I'm looking forward to checking out your experiences!

    As far as moving away from Kato, its just for the yard areas. For all my 'mainlines' its still primarily Kato!

  3. Hi Jerry,
    That's coming together nicely! I noticed on the third picture that you grass is looking very realistic, about the effect I am after. Could you tell which products you used?


  4. I visit your blog often. It's given me lots of inspiration to keep working on mine although my progress is much slower.

    I read the comments you left on my blog. Thanks. I'm glad to hear you decided to go with the polarized frogs on your Minitrix turnouts. I think you will experience fewer problems that I did. You made the right choice. Have you thought about the solenoids? Before I changed to Kato, I had considered attaching the Minitrix solenoids upside down so as to conceal it with ballast. Just a thought. You may have already planned for that.

  5. JES: The grass in that photo is Noch 7408. More here:

    Good luck! I keep trying to find easier solutions that buying or building one of those 'static' things myself!

  6. Train Spotter: Yes! I definitely plan on installing them 'upside down'! In fact, if I couldn't do that, I probably wouldn't have chosen Minitrix! BTW, I love how the Unitrack looks in your station approach...its perfect!

  7. Hello Jerry ,

    You did a beautiffull work on the track with the airbrush .

    Last week i use one but with chocolat.
    i will show you pictures if you like .