Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Railroad Scale Test Cars

Someone asked what a "scale car" was. I answered with a description. But now I can't remember which group it was in so that I can add a picture to the answer and to copy my description to this posting. So I write one from scratch.

Matthew Gustafson posted nine photos of a CB&Q scale car that he is going to restore at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Some yards have scales to weight freight cars to determine billing, acceptable axle loadings, etc. Periodically a test car will be put on the scale, and its reading better match the weight of the test car. Note that they are neurotic about handling these cars gently so nothing gets knocked off and changes the weight. I wonder what the "shed" in the middle of the newer cars is for.

Roger Durfee posted
A BN two axle scale test car in Sioux Falls, SD. As is usual for these smaller cars, no brake shoes or rigging to keep the weight as consistent as possible. Built in February, 1936 !
[Note the poling pockets on this old car. It looks like they are cast into the body.]
Roger Durfee posted
A newer BN scale test car, built April 1984. These had complete brake systems.
Tim Wilson posted
Former Conrail Scale Test car spotted in CSX Local B770-17 at Piedmont, WV - 17 January 2015
Roger Durfee posted
"Weigh" car Wednesday, another ex Conrail car at Ashtabula, Ohio. Note NS logo applied.
John C Durant Was assigned to George Markiewicz former EL Scale Inspector before his passing... R.I.P. George!
Photo by Mike Matalis in Lombard, IL
[The scale cars are now more robust? I notice that this car is not on the end of the train. It does have several "Do Not Hump" stencils. And an indication that repairs should not be made unless directed by a scale inspector.]
Todd Hollritt posted
NS Scale Test car.
Roger Durfee posted
Two axle car, still in IC colors, on the CN in Waterloo, Iowa September 2009.
John C Durant In CR days haul on rear of train next to the last car, do not exceed 30mph.. Center wheel locks the hatch which lead to a compartment used for carry scale inspectors tools. Car looks like those built by Lake Erie Engineering, Buffalo, NY.. Nice!!
Matt Adams posted
Well, that's one way to move a scale test car....
Richard Olson Neat folding ramp too.Rob Jacox No air brakes on scale test cars. But on most roads they have to be handled on rear of train only. This fixes that issue.Rob Jacox It has a parking brake.Chris Atkins Can be humped.Marty T. Myers There is nothing worse than 60 mph track speed and you are slowed to 45 or slower due to special cars like this.Dc Sharp Special handling for short cars exclude them from many consists. Rear of the train would be the only place to handle this otherwise. Too much drawbar pressure elsewhere.Dc Sharp You have to check the scales at different locations to verify their accuracy in order to accept the weight they provide. Many companies have private scales and these have to be checked too. The truck version of this looked amazingly similar in design functions. Since this web site shows all different types of cars you can see how weighing some of them would be difficult on a 50 foot or slightly longer scale which was the normal size back in the 60s and 70s. Double weighing was used for longer cars that would not completely fit on them.
Ted Curphey posted
Always the "Second to Last Car in the Train"
Andrew B Baird No brakes so it is not permissible to be the last car.
Matt Adams Would you believe the computer overlooks these cars when it checks the trains for placement exceptions?
John Doyle I know on BNSF, it considers these cars 40 feet long (try 15), and it does not overlook them. I had one heading to Grand Forks, in the correct location (2nd from rear), had an exception that it is a rear end only.
Matt Adams John Doyle I also know on BNsf it doesn’t because I found one on the rear of a train, Fred and all.
When we called the YM he hit F5 or whatever button it is and said it wasn’t finding any exceptions.
Ended up getting the car number and cross referencing it in the TTSI and it and the car ahead of it got set out.
Giant green lettering on the side of the car like seen here and nobody noticed it.
As Mel Wilson would say.... Hhhhhhhhhhh

Missouri Pacific Historical Society posted
Steve Holcombe A scale test car is a type of railroad car in maintenance of way service. Its purpose is to calibrate the weighing scales used to weigh loaded railroad cars. Scale test cars are of a precisely known weight so that the track scale can be calibrated against them.
Joe DeBruhl What this is is a pain in the butt when you think you have a great run thru but end up with a 30 mph train account of this.
Dennis Faircloth That was the good one it could run track speed whereas the 2 axle one was 30 mph.

Zak Hill shared
Everyone had different types of scale test cars. Here is an example of one of the M.P.'s.
Jay Reitsma The CNW had some just like these.

Marty's Flickr photo of two EJ&E scale cars.


  1. Hi Dennis, the "shed" in the middle of the car was for tool storage. I wonder why that STC had operating brakes? That means its weight would change. These cars normally had a shoo-fly brake pipe arrangement so air would reach the caboose.

    1. The "shed" also contains a gas motor to run the 4 hydraulic lift jacks so the entire (100,000 lbs) can fit on a single 150 inch weighbridge module

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