Color plays a huge role in our modeling and setting the location of our layouts. There are debates over the right paint color for freight cars, colors to use for structures, and just about everything else associated with modeling. However, the colors we use in our scenery are not often debated, but are up to the modeler to decide what looks best for their location.
As I close in on it being time to lay track and get it ballasted on my layout module, I was looking for ballast appropriate to the Yosemite Valley, and I recalled a conversation that I’d had with Jack Burgess about ballast while on one of the YV historical society weekend hikes, and my recollection was that the YV had gotten a good deal of their ballast out of the Merced River as crushed river rock. Without checking that recollection against anything, I set off and ordered a sample of crushed rock ballast from Superior Scenics of their “Western Blend” ballast in a few sizes. The product arrived about a week later, and I really like the mixture of colors as it looks like the shales and rock that I recall from visits to the area. Lots of browns and reds mixed into some yellow and gray.
Then I decided to check my sources and the Yosemite Valley email group at groups.io. Some quick searching brought me some information that contradicted my recollections of the conversation, and sent me hunting in my own photos of the area for a different set of colors. Here’s what I found:
“Initially (but I don’t for how long), the ballast came from gravel pits on
the Merced River near Snelling/Merced Falls; I doubt that that gravel was
crushed. That would make it the typical gray of granite although it wasn’t
the high-quality crushed granite used by the Class 1s.”
The above photo is from a YV group trip several years ago along the former right of way. In the river you can see a huge deposit of granite, which has the tones described in the documentation.
With that, I went back to Superior Scenics and ordered their Salt & Pepper blend. That arrived this last week, and is an excellent match to my own photo and the description of the ballast as gravel and the photo I took in the Merced River.
The Western Blend will still be put to good use. As I said it’s a good match to the colors of the earth and shales in the area, and as I go along, I’ll mix a little of it into my scenery here and there to convey the right colors of the rocks found along the YV.
Most of the scenery materials that I want to work with at least on this first section of railroad are actually here. I’m waiting on one delivery, a little be warmer and dryer weather, and then it’ll be time to lay track and make mud. Scenery is not long off, which I’m excited about. It’s time for the ground on the first module to stop being pink and start looking like earth.
What did I learn? Don’t rush, check sources first and don’t rely on my recollection of conversations.