Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
Click image to link to my web site,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Car Weighting

I have continued the car weighting program, having completed about 40 cars so far. These have been boxcars and covered hoppers, along with one gondola that has a load to conceal weight below it. Interesting to put all these cars together on the track and give them a push with your had. Wow, a HEAVY train indeed.

I have been setting the 50' boxcars at about 8 ounces, give or take a .1 here and there. I have a few 40' boxcars still in service and these are around 7 to 7.5 ounces. Some cars are easy to pop the shell off. Others, like the ExactRail cars requires carefully prying the roof off. In most cases there is some spot gluing that helps keep the roof on. Using my finger nail I can usually work between the walls and the roof and then use a small screwdriver to work the roof off. A few cars, especially ones I constructed and then painted and decaled look like they will be problematic and may damage the finish, so I am setting these aside for now and addressing all the easier cars first. When I reinstall the roofs, I do not glue them so I can more easily get back inside if the need arises.

I used up my supply of leftover bolts, nuts and washers, so taking advice from Mike Confalone, I ordered some wheel weights. I found a box of these with double sided foam on Amazon for about $30 a box. The box has 30 strips that are 3 ounces each, and segmented into quarter ounce segments.

Each box has 30 three ounce strips in 12 segments

Each strip has double sided tape that sticks really well inside the freight cars.
As most of the cars are already around 4.5 to 5 ounces, a single strip will finish the car. In some cases an additional weight segment, or washer or 2 brings it up to 8 ounces. So a box will do about 30 cars, and cost about a dollar a car (not counting the washers in some cases). A few cars are lighter and need another 1-3 segments, but this is offset by a few smaller cars, like 70 ton covered hoppers than don't need all 12 segments in a strip.

This CL&P car had additional weight from washers added when built years ago, bringing it to 4.5 ounces. A strip of weights plus 2 other segments brought it right up to 8 ounces.

The amazing thing is how nice the heavier cars feel when you handle them and put them on the track. It makes the other cars seem super light, even at NMRA standards. It just feels like a working railroad piece now and less like a model. Switching a few cars is really cool and feels totally different. Hard to put into words, but the extra weight really changes the dynamics of car handling.

While doing this on each car, I check the wheels, ream out the points on the trucks with the truck tool when required, check and in some cases change the couplers. Most cars get the KD #158 whisker scale coupler. Some with KD #5's that operate fine are being left as is. I know the scale size couplers are a little less tolerant when operating, but I prefer the look of them. I then test the car on the track to make sure it tracks well, and adjust truck screws as needed. I mark the bottom of each car with my initial, which addresses a need when I take cars on the road for Free-mo events. And finally I use a silver Sharpie on the end of each coupler glad hand to represent an air hose. Not totally a prototypical look of an air hose I know, but I am not removing them, and the sharpie helps me quickly identify a car that has been weighted and run through the checklist of maintenance procedures. The final step is to log this activity to the back of each car card.

These couplers have silver ends on their glad hands which helps me quickly see they have been weighted and checked out.
Next steps will be to operate these cars and see if they exhibit any issues. Even before this process, I would find some cars would cause issues that needed the trucks to be adjusted or couplers to be changed. It just takes some actual operations to see if a car has any issues or runs well.

I will keep adding weight to cars over time. It is actually an  easy and relaxing task that I can do even when I only have a few minutes. i can grab 2 or 3 cars, get them weighted and checked out in 10 minutes.

Soon I will start to address other car types. Mike Confalone uses sand to weight his tank cars, drilling a hole in the bottom that cannot be seen, adding the sand and caulking the hole. Looking forward to trying this. Mike C. fills his cars fully, but I am thinking this might exceed the weight I am shooting for, so we'll see once I start adding sand. I might just partially fill the cars. The good news here is that this is an even cheaper way to add weight. I can probably use the same method to address some of the more delicate boxcars on the roster.

I have a few flat cars and open top cars that will be trickier. On open top cars most people seem to simply add in the weights, and then paint and weather them to match the car. It is a trade off for operational needs versus aesthetics.

Further updates to come!

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Interesting stuff, Mike.
I'm also thinking about adding more weight to my rolling stock, although I have to balance it with what my small steam locomotives can pull. I'm using Sergent couplers, and I think extra weight would improve coupling reliability.
I look forward to following your thoughts on this - thanks for sharing them.
- Trevor

Trevor Marshall
Port Rowan in 1:64