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I agree fore finger is the way to go with ballasting, accurate, neat and readily to hand! One thing I find it it's possible to get the ballast nice and neat to the top of the sleepers and packed down so it does not settle when pva mixture is added, I use a teet pipette for glueing. A few drops per sleeper sapce and then on the edges as needed

As for colouring detail, I tend to dry brush/brush on neat paint

here is a shot of some track painted with railmatch sleeper grime:

Good tips so far, I'm going to try washes of colour next time to see if the results are better than previous methods. I may also try airbrushing

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