Modelling Lindsay’s track scale

“And distant memories are buried in the past forever…”—–The Scorpions, Wind of Change.

The model rail hobby can bring those memories back in 3D.  Here’s how.

CN Lindsay scalehouse & scale pit foundation0001

What was left of Lindsay’s track scales in the fall of 1986.  This part of Lindsay’s Durham Street yard was torn up in the fall of 1964, leaving the scale house isolated until torn down circa 1967.  The scale house foundation is the concrete pad to the right; the foundation for the scale pit itself is faintly visible poking through the grass.  My photo.

Track scale stuff0001Sample (for illustration only) scale ticket from the CN General Weighing Instructions manual, 1970. The weight figures “117800” looking like they are typed in, were printed by metal type in the scale mechanism by the person weighing when the balance beam on the scale was balanced. This was the total (gross) weight of the car; subtracting the car’s empty (tare) weight of 43,800 pounds results in the shipper being billed for 74,000 pounds or 37 tons of freight at the applicable tariff rate.  As the car on this ticket is rated for a total rail weight or load limit of 133,200 pounds, it is not overloaded.  Keep in mind that a scale ticket is a legal document.  Ray Kennedy, on his Old Time Trains website, states that weighmen or yard foremen (yard conductors) had to take a sworn oath that they would favour neither the company nor the shipper when weighing cars! 

Lindsay, like many CN terminals, had a track scale for weighing cars travelling from the branchlines for furtherance out of Lindsay and also to establish an accurate empty car weight to be re-stencilled on them after being repaired.  By the time that I came on the scene to document what was left of CN’s Lindsay yard in the mid to late-1970’s, most of its railway facilities were gone. What I had left to work with was the foundation of the scale and scale house, in the above photo.

Lindsay0007 copyTo the left of this photo are cars awaiting weighing on Lindsay’s track scale, 1952.  The incline up to the scale is hardly noticeable, but very necessary.  From the collection of the late Al Paterson.

Years later I made the acquaintance of Keith Hansen.  His book, Last Trains from Lindsay, is an essential read for those interested in the railways of the Lindsay area. He supplied me with some 1965 CN Bridge and Building plans and diagrams for Lindsay and the Campbellford Subdivision.  One of the plans, dated 5 November, 1965,  contains a description of Lindsay’s scalehouse.  Notes indicate that it was fitted with a Fairbanks-Morse 100-ton scale. Yes, that Fairbanks-Morse who also built locomotives.

The floor plan and written description shows it to be very similar to CN scalehouses across the system, including those that stood at Hamilton, Brantford, Palmerston, etc.  Hamilton’s scalehouse I am rather familiar with, having worked in Hamilton for a number of years from when I hired on and also weighed few cars there.

CN scale house, Hamilton, 1993.  Steve Lucas photo.

CN scale house, Hamilton, 1993.  My photo. Note how the scalehouse is elevated above the scale deck on its own raised foundation.  This kept the scale mechanism under the rails and scalehouse above water, the yard being partly on landfill. The stacks may have been for a coal or oil stove, or maybe they simply served as vents for the scalehouse basement and scale pit.. There was a small three-pane window at the rear of the foundation. Only live rails are provided on this scale.

The track to the scale gained elevation as it approached the scale on most CN installations to raise the scale mechanism above the water table in an effort to keep it dry, and also to permit easy and accurate weighing of cars. You can see this track incline towards the scale in the above Lindsay photo if you look for it.  Here’s how cars were weighed at CN.  The description of poor weighing practice is almost folksy–

Track scale stuff0002Cars were switched onto the scale track by the yard crew.  They were allowed to run over and past the scale if necessary, as the scale mechanism, when locked, allowed normal traffic to pass over the live rails without injury to the scale mechanism.  Some CN scale installations such as at Brantford used live and dead rails and switches at either end of the live rails, but I’ve seen more CN track scales with just a pair of live rails.

When it came time to weigh cars, the crew would pull out the entire cut from the track. The first car was weighed, then kicked by the loco and uncoupled in motion to allow it to roll away from the scale with a yard helper (brakeman) working the handbrake to stop it where desired.  In this way, cars could be easily weighed uncoupled at one end.  After each car was weighed, it too was kicked towards the cars already weighed and secured with the necessary number of hand brakes.  Scale tickets were prepared as each car was weighed. When finished weighing, the yard crew could switch out the entire cut of cars by destination. The scale tickets were stapled to the waybills (more legal documents) for each car.

To verify the accuracy of track scales, the railways used scale test cars of a known weight.  In my 1956 modelling era, these were four-wheel cars with handbrakes only and roller bearings.  Scale test car weights were often multiples of 20,000 pounds, 60,000 pounds being common.  A through 1 1/4″ inside diameter heavy-wall AAR standard brake pipe ran under the car so that train air brake continuity could be obtained between loco and caboose, which these cars were hauled just ahead of in a train. The lack of air brakes reduced the change in weight due to cast iron brake shoe wear as time went on.  The use of roller bearings on these cars reduced fluctuation in weight due to journal bearing brass , babbitt, and journal wear, as well as the necessary addition of oil to plain bearing journal boxes from time to time.

CP scale test car 420926

CP scale test car in the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway’s Aberdeen Yard in Hamilton, ON, 1983.  Roller bearing journal boxes are the same used on CP’s streamlined 2200-series coaches and baggage cars.  I wonder if CP just used spare passenger wheelsets for this car.  My photo, taken using Ilford XP-1 black and white film (if you are old enough to remember that stuff).  Stencilled on the car side are certification dates stating when inspected by the Canadian Department of Weights and Measures.

A method for checking the accuracy of track scales absent a scale test car to do so was to do “three-spot weighing”, where the three weights obtained had to concur.  A scale test car , if available, was ideal for this due to its short 8′ or so wheelbase.  Again, from CN’s instructions–

Track scale stuff0003

We’ll come back with how I modelled Lindsay’s track scale in the next installment.







2 thoughts on “Modelling Lindsay’s track scale

  1. Great information on the Lindsay track scale and on scales in general. I’ve seen them or remnants of them in a few yards.

    Fairbanks-Morse was very popular in grain elevator scales, too. Most elevators I have been in will have a Fairbanks-Morse scale either for the truck or for weighing grain en route to the rail car.

    Liked by 1 person

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