While progress in the layout might have stalled slightly this week (long days travelling into work to teach on a training course), I did manage to spend a little time yesterday experimenting with track painting and ballasting. I was going to do a post on what colour to paint the rails but after an initial experiment trying four RailMatch paints; sleeper grime, light rust, dark rust, and oily steel. There really was no contest though as only the sleeper grime looked at all convincing. The added bonus is that I was already intending to use it to paint the sleepers so using a single colour for rails and sleepers will make the job much easier. Having fixed on sleeper grime I repainted all the rails (although not very well as you can see the light rust peeking through) and then set about experimening with different ballast colours.
As you can see from the photo I've tried three different approaches (I did this in a bit of a rush hence the ballast isn't very neat):
I used two different colours of Woodland Scenics fine ballast; gray and light gray. The gray ballast is on the left and the light gray in the middle, while on the right I used a 50/50 mix of the two. Personally, none of these looks perfect. I think the gray looks the most realistic as the other options are two light, but it shows almost no variation in colour which isn't really very natural. I'm thinking I'll try another experiment using a 90/10 mix of gray/light gray to introduce a small amount of variation to the gray ballast while maintaining the darker colouring, but I thought I'd ask what you, my dear readers, thought of the different options.