I was putting down some ballast today and thought to myself, "You know, the real railroads didn't use a paint brush to spread this stuff out; there's got to be a better way."
Yes, I know, I could have made a scale model of a Jordan Spreader, or one of D&RGW flangers, but all I really wanted to do was to easily spread the ballast I had just put down.
I had some scraps of 3mm Sintra and decided to see if I could design a flange card that would be quick to make and easy to use.
I first cut a piece of 3mm Sintra that was as wide as my ties. The height is not critical, but I wanted something big enough to hold. I notched one side to fit across the rails, including the rail base. This works out well to clear the ballast from the center and the sides of the rail. I grasp it in one hand and just use a sweeping motion along the track.
Of course this only works for regular track sections, not switches or crossings.
To get between the rails on the switches, I cut a notch on the other side wide enough to clear the rail and guard rail.
I can also move my card along at an angle, rather than perpendicular to the rails, allowing me to fully clear the ballast on the switch.
The final task is to clear all the flange ways on the switch. To do this, I cut a short 3/32” piece of brass rod and glued it in place in a slot on the Flange Card. This allows me to pick out the small pieces of ballast that seem to get stuck in there all too often.
I didn’t like the holding power of the glue in the notch, so I put a small piece of Sintra on either side to firmly hold it in place.
I also cut a notch in the card to clear the screws that I use to secure my track to the roadbed.
It seems pretty durable, but even if not, it only takes about 5 minutes to make a new one.