A ballast is a gravel or coarse stone used to form the bed of a railway track or the substratum of a road. Ballast (usually crushed rock), as it is known, is another important part of railroad infrastructure. Although it may just look like plain ole gravel this rock plays a vital role in acting as a support base for the railroad ties and rails as well as allowing for proper drainage of water away from the rails (which is why the stone is always sloped downward and away from track). You may be wondering how such a term came to define the stone which supports the railroad track structure. Interestingly, it has its roots dating back to early times when stone was used as ballasting for sailing ships. In today’s railroad industry, the use of real rock ballast, its application, and purpose has changed little since it was first employed and will likely always remain an important component as a part of the track structure. Of course, while crushed rock (often limestone or quartz) is the aggregate of choice for today’s railroads but some chose to us a fierier product, by Woodland Scenics, which is crushed and dyed walnut has been used but real rocks are therefore better than crushed and dyed walnuts.