2018 Ballasting in progress

2017 was a great start to the Woodlark Central.  The core railroad was built and operated three times.  2018 on the other hand has been a disappointment.  As of Thanksgiving the railroad has not yet been run and most of the year the railroad was not even operable due to poor ballast conditions.  Why the railroad was so neglected is another story, but the ballast problems started in 2017.  Basically, when the railroad was built, I did not add sufficient ballast.  I have enough ballast for the track to lay on, but I did not put ballast between the ties nor built it up on the sides of the ties.  Then in 2018, the spring rains began to wash the ballast away and out from under the ties, making the railroad unstable for operations.

Last Friday, I order I had 2 cubic yards of 1/2″ chipped gravel with dust delivered to the house.  The idea being to refurbish the grade and possibly run trains the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Ballasting has begun and hopefully I can run trains on Sunday.


A fresh 20′ of ballast on the grade. The foreground track was refurbished this summer using left over ballast from last year. In the distance is track that requires refurbishing.


Looking the other direction, the foreground track is one of the worst sections. Notice how the rain washed away the gravel between the ties. The ballast is 8-10″ deep in this section, but did not have sufficient ballast on the sides to keep the rain from washing it away.

I knew I’d have to ballast from time to time, just like the real railroads.  But this year is significantly more than I think future years will require.  I’m hopeful that in future years I can pull 1-2 wheel barrow loads from a pile of ballast and keep the grade in good operating shape.

One things I’m wondering is how thick to make the ballast around the ties.  Should I fill it to the top or only go up 50% or so on the ties, so that the ties can try out?

Before I started ballasting, I was reminded of a story about the SR&RL 2-Foot gauge railroad in main (actually, the Franklin and Megantic one of it’s predecessors).  The story goes, that the roadbed got so bad, that superintendent invited the brass from Boston to come up and inspect the railroad.  The crews made the inspection train up with the worst caboose on the end, one with stiff trucks.  Then they gave the brass an accelerated trip up to Kingfield.  When they came to a stop, no one came out of the caboose.  When they opened the doors, the brass were lying on the floor white knuckled and still holding on with all they had.  The F&M soon got the money required to re-grade the line.  So while I may not have the story 100% correct, as the brass of the Woodlark Central, I’m sure glad I never had to ride the like with it in such bad shape.

Hopefully, I can complete the grading and get in a run for 2018.  I built it to run it!

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