Saturday, January 9, 2016

Building a Track Scales - Part 1

Before describing this project, I just want to take the time to thank all people that took time of their life to read, comment and share this blog. Over the last year, readership reached well over 3000 hits per month and more than 50 000 visitors took a glimpse at Hedley-Junction. I was recently baffled to discover Mike Cougill quoted my words when I feel I should be the one to quote him.

We practice model railroading on an individual basis. Most of our achievements are done like medieval monks and friars working on artworks and scriptures. But just like them, we truly grow and evolve by doing so as a community.

For me, 2015 was the proof this is one of the most rewarding aspect of this wonderfully complex hobby. I may not be able to complete most of my project, but I was humbled when my little work was enough to prompt people to do something by themselves. It was also a year I discovered that my vision of a more achieveable hobby wasn't an isolated wish, but what many people wants too.

North America is well-known to be a place of opportunity. Too often we take it for granted and while the sky is still the limit, I firmly believe doing Grand things isn't always about the project size but our mindset.

Finally, 2015 was the year we went back to regular railroad operations. The layout reached that point where it was an entertaining game to play. It took us 10 years to go back to our roots when we founded the club back in February 2006. Do I have regrets? No. The trek was formative! But if I can only give you an advice, it's to play with your trains whatever happens.

While the layout's concept and track plan are now quite set in stone, a lot of challenges are awaiting us! We didn't set any specific goals or took resolutions this year. But it is evident making Ciment St-Laurent more operation-friendly is one challenge we must overcome and it's exactly what's this post is all about!

Building a Track Scales

Ciment St-Laurent's operation can be slightly boring when shoving mindlessly strings of cement cars. However, in real life, switching the plant was much more demanding. Each outbound car had to be individually weighted before shipment. So now - under Jérôme's request and guidance - I am building a track scales.

We could have gone the easy way by buying a Walthers model, but it was fitting our prototype (not a gauntlet type) and we would need to trash most elements anyway. It was thus decided to scratchbuilt the scale in MDF and styrene, allowing us to save the cash for an electronic weighting station.

The track scale itself is made of a 1/4" thick block of MDF covered in styrene sheet. I scribbed the sheet to represent seams in the concrete pad. A styrene curb was added on the perimeter.

Rails are code 83 PECO flextrack glued with CA glue on the styrene. Each rail was then secured in place with custom made tie plates and spikes. Almost 200 hundreds parts were required. They only required about 5 hours to glue! Lots of fun! I could have kept them simpler, but just didn't look right according to prototypes. Ciment St-Laurent's track scales was built back in 1954 and had very little in common with modern slick prototypes we are now accustomed to.

Next step will be to paint and weather the model, but before that, it's back on the layout for a fitting test and operation. I'm also planning to build the scale house that stood beside the scales. It was a fine exemple of modern 1950s industrial architecture.

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