Roundup Time! – How Green is Your Railroad?

While doing research on older prototype railroad scenes from the 1970s and before, it is hard not to notice how green many of the old photos look and how overgrown some of the tracks appear to be. Since about 1980 there has been regular use of the herbicide Roundup®. This has changed the way the tracks look and many modelers may have forgotten or never knew how the lines used to look.

The Boat Yard along the Detroit River in Detroit Michigan in 1957 shows how green things were before the use of herbicides by the railroads.

Last year (2022) there was a shortage of the herbicide and the local short line tracks near me were considerably more overgrown than usual. The following video shows just how much. Back before 1980, the situation must have been very similar to what we see below and our modeling should reflect that.

Notice the weeds growing up through the track. Apparently, the new owners to the Adrian and Blissfield were not able to purchase weed spray, and were not able to spray the tracks in 2022. Typically, these tracks looks clean, with ballast shining through.

I have to wonder, what steps did railroads take to keep the right of way from being overgrown in the old days. I you have insight, please post a comment!

Author: Marshall Stull

2 thoughts on “Roundup Time! – How Green is Your Railroad?

  1. Interesting point. Ballast at times should just be the first layer of several layers of track scenery, and definitely not the last!

    1. I cannot seem to find where I read it (probably a message board somewhere) where there was a debate on which should be first. Scenery or ballast. Most (as far as I can remember) actually said they did ballast last. I myself do scenery in layers. Ballast is not first, but it is not last either. I do not want the ballast sitting on the grass but I do want some things showing through the ballast. Anyway, full agreement!

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