Monday, July 4, 2016

Ugh, what a mess....

Yesterday I added the cinder fill ballast to the area on both sides of the mainline and the cannery and Derby & Ball spur in Waterbury. Everything went fine - I spread the cinder ballast, soaked it with alcohol & water, then used a dropper to add the diluted white glue. 
Went down to the layout room this morning, flipped on the lights, and was greeted with this mess. 
Instead of soaking in and drying the glue became a sticky, gooby mess! (Yes the photo above shows the "dried" version!)
I said "That's disappointing." (not an actual quote - what I really said was unprintable!) 
All I can think of is the large jug of Elmers I used had somehow separated or aged and simply didn't set correctly. It's similar to an issue I've had with Woodland Scenics water - that stuff never really dried completely, it remained slightly tacky for months. This stuff looks and feels the same. 
I may very well have to tear out the track and replace it, but I figured trying to salvage it in place was worth the effort. 
The first step was to dry brush a coat of grimy black, Railroad Tie Brown, and Earth paints on the top of the ties in an effect to flatten the still-glossy glue. 

Once that dries I'm going to try placing a thin "skim coat" of fresh cinder - and this time use Matte Medium to secure it in place. I'm hoping that will cover most of this mess. 

The only saving grace - and it's not much of one - is the fact that these are two spurs meaning I might be able to use grass and weeds and dirt - along with a second "skim" coat of ballast - to disguise most of the mess. I've always wanted to try track buried in weeds - guess this is my chance. 

Happy Independence Day!


  1. I've been fighting similar issues for a couple of years now. Sprinkling additional material on it while still wet work well. I've had the problem regardless of the type of glue. My current theory is humidity.

  2. Bummer. I hope it dries out for you.

  3. Marty,

    Nice recovery. I had this happen some time ago on another layout. My guess is the white glue had gone "Sour" or it wasn't shaken enough. I now add a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to the white glue and water mix. This seems to help the glue flow much better. Weeds, burnt grass or sand are good alternatives to add to cover the white glue. I don't think humidity was the contributing factor, because I live in the desert. Just plenty of heat. Looking good.

    1. Frank, I suspect you're right. I bought a gallon of Elmer's a few weeks ago from the local True Value (only place that sells it in gallon jugs). My guess is their turnover is marginal at best - and the stuff may have gotten "shelf stale."

  4. It might be the glue, but in my case it's happened with new Elmer's glue, new Elmer's school glue, new Mod Podge, Matte Medium and Future. In all cases it's been used with alcohol, without alcohol, with wet water, no wet water, etc. I was thinking it was because I was using grout for some of the ground cover, and Pierre Oliver had similar problems when he tried grout, but now I'm having the issue without grout.

    My current working theory is that it has something to do with humidity, and might also have something to do with the specific basement environment. In my case the problem first occurred using the exact same materials from the exact same containers that I had used extensively on a layout in another basement on the same day. So it had to be something other than the materials.