PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

Jerry Britton's PRR Middle Division in HO Scale

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Lewistown, like dozens of other locales across the Pennsylvania Railroad system, had a track scale for weighing of cars loaded with bulk commodities. In the case of Lewistown, the predominant cargo was limestone from the multiple quarries on the Milroy Secondary.

This article follows my build of the Lewistown scale house and its gauntlet track. As an aside, this project will be presented towards my NMRA AP certificate in Civil Engineering which requires three scratch built track items. This project will address two: gauntlet switch and gauntlet track.


Early view of the Lewistown scale house. (2/21/20)

1956 view of the Lewistown scale house, Note the addition of the large doors and the replacement of the roof. (2/21/20)

Lewistown scale house circa 1981-82. (2/21/20)

Lewistown scale house circa 1981-82. (2/21/20)


PRR standard drawing 57186 "Scale, Track, Masonry for 46'" provides dimensional data for the scale pit. ( (2/21/20)

58460 BPRR standard drawing 58460-B "Scale, House & Beam Cupboard" provides dimensional data for the location of the rails. ( (2/21/20)
PRR Publication CT1000E (1923) "List of Stations and Sidings and Instructions for Making Reports to the Superintendent Car Service" contains a list of track scales. It shows Lewistown as having a 46' scale with a capacity of 200,000 pounds. Nearby Mt. Union's scale is also listed as 46' with a 200,000 pound capacity. For reference, at right, is a photo of the Mt. Union scale track, courtesy of Lee Rainey. (2/21/20) Picture1
IMG 4117When I originally constructed the benchwork and subroadbed, I cut out the area of the scale track. This was to enable me to construct the scale track on a workbench, rather than in place.

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To provide a more conducive subroadbed for spiking of hand laid track, the shape is transferred to two layers iof homabed and two layers of masonite. The resulting "sandwich" matches the thickness of the original plywood. The piece is test fit into the benchwork and the locations of the desired rails are marked on the ends. A straight edge is then used to mark the dead (non scale) rail locations across the homabed.

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The centerline of the scale "pit" is then determined by the center of the operator's windows in the scale house. The model was constructed by the late Joe Henry Kline.

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The length of the scale pit is known to be 51' (the 46' scale plus a 2'6" perimeter concrete wall). The outer extent of the pit wall is marked on the base. The first width of cork roadbed is then glued down using latex caulk. I use N scale cork roadbed on my secondary lines.

IMG 0116I fashioned the perimeter concrete wall out of balsa, using the PRR drawings as a guide. 5/3/20 IMG 0154Without cork roadbed underneath, I had to shim under the rails. In addition, the two scale rails are slightly lower than the "through" rails. I started shimming with note pad cardboard. (5/14/20)
IMG 0155More shimming, now with dimensional balsa. (5/14/20) IMG 0158At each end of the track segment I used a Gapmaster from American Tie & Timber. These are printed circuit board material with a soldering surface and are typically used by modular clubs to keep track ends in alignment. (5/15/20)
IMG 0159I inherited some glass cubes which are perfect for weighing down ties and track while glue dries. (5/15/20) IMG 0160I used portions of Gapmasters within the scale pit, since rails will be at different elevations. (5/15/20)
IMG 0163All of the Gapmaster pieces have been installed in the scale pit. (5/15/20) IMG 0164Holes drilled for the switch machines. (5/20/20)
IMG 0165Ties leading into the gauntlet switches are from Fast Tracks (formerly Mt. Albert Scale Lumber). The longer lengths are dimensional balsa to hold the switch stand. (5/20/20) IMG 0186 Intermediate ties have been placed, irregularly, since this is a yard track. These are "bridge ties", which are a little longer, and are also from Fast Tracks. The Gapmasters next to the scale needed extensions to get to the wider tie width. Rail is next! (5/27/20)
IMG 0187Next step was to select a full length rail for the main through track. I marked the area where the points will meet (at both ends) and used a bench grinder to take away the base and side so the point will recess when thrown. (5/28/20) This closeup shows the indent on the inner side of the rail. (5/28/20)
IMG 0189After locating the rail on the Gapmasters, they are spot-soldered into place. (5/28/20) IMG 0190 Above the scale pit, I soldered two jumper wires to the underside of the main rail to pass track power to the scale rail. (5/28/20)
IMG 0191Using a scrap of dimensional balsa as a spacer, I located and soldered into place the first scale rail. (5/28/20) IMG 0192Progress so far, with the power wire soldered into place as well. (5/28/20)
IMG 0214The far scale rail is soldered in place with wire leads fo pick up power from the parallel through track. (6/8/20) I've added the far through rail, here with the ends still running "wild". (6/9/20)
IMG 0216Here I am cutting back the "wild" ends of the far through rail. I am leaving 27 scale feet between the throw bar and the end of the points. This is the distance on my Walthers #6 turnouts. (6/9/20) IMG 0217I've now fully spiked down the near through rail. The near scale rail and the far through rail have been trimmed and a rail connector added. All have been spiked/soldered in place. A car rolls very nicely on the through track. (6/9/20)
Here I have placed the diverging rail by first soldering and spiking the scale end in gauge with its companion rail. I then soldered the other end (right) into gauge and left the rest to fall into place. The process was easier than anticipated. (6/10/20) IMG 0219 I create the point rails by grinding down the sides of the end of a rail to make it very flat. I used a bench grinder. I then cut the rail to length. (6/10/20)
IMG 0220Here is the point rail test fitted into place. (6/10/20) IMG 0222Both point rails in place. A test car rolls freely through either route. I now have extended length, copper-clad ties on order from Fast Tracks to use for the throw bars. (6/10/20)
IMG 0241 Still waiting on the copper-clad ties to arrive from Fast Tracks, so I assembled two Rix switch stand kits. Though the turnouts will be driven by Tortoise machines, these will look like hand throws and the targets will rotate to indicate switch position. (6/20/20) IMG 0243Copper-clad ties arrived. The far side will be trimmed off. I filed through the copper near the middle to insulate the opposing rails from one another. Pre-drilled the hole for the Tortoise wire as well as for the Rix switch stand. Added cork for underneath the switch stand. Cut back the long head blocks as they are part of the Rix switch stand. Seem to work great on the first attempt! (6/21/20)
Drilling holes in the copper-clad PC ties was painful! The drill bit would invariably slid off the edge and create an open hole. I don't have a drill press, so I grew very frustrated as my first three ties became fodder for the junk yard. Then I had an epiphany in the middle of the night. Maybe it wasn't the drill bit "walking" but the tie itself. My solution was to place the tie into the tight grips of a vice. That allowed me two hands on the drill to keep it centered. Not perfectly neat, but it worked! IMG 0263Next up, I soldered the feeds to the rails - one wire to both rails per side. Looking a bit messy, but paint and ballast will hide all of that!
IMG 0269Next the ties and rails were hit with two coats of Scalecoat II "Railroad Tie Brown". (6/29/20) IMG 0270Then I applied Hunterline weathering stain -- "Creosote Black", "Yellow Ochre", and "Tie Brown" -- to random ties to provide variance. I applied Polyscale "Aged Concrete" to the concrete walls of the scale pit. (6/30/20)
IMG 0271Here you can see the different shades on the ties. The concrete received additional coats for coverage. (7/1/20) IMG 0272I cut strip wood to length for the scale deck and stained it with Hunterline "Tie Brown". (7/1/20)
IMG 0273Flipping the module over, I positioned and drilled pilot holes for the screws for the switch machines at both ends. (7/2/20) IMG 0274The scale deck boards have been glued in place and the base for the scale house building has been glued to the module base. The scale house model was acquired from the estate of Joe Henry Kline. A hole has been drilled through the floor to allow for electrical leads for lighting. (7/2/20)
IMG 0279Base coat of cinders applied. Transitions to dirt behind the scale house. (7/4/20) IMG 0280With the exception of the location of the switch stands, ballast has been added. (7/6/20)
IMG 0281Now to dirty things up! I used some more of the Hunterline "Creosote Black" to create a dark streak of oil down the center of the right-of-way. I then used Aging Solution on the concreate pit wall. Added some Bragdon powder -- "Soot" down the middle and "Ash" on the outside. (7/6/20) IMG 0282The current result, with the scale house structure in place. More building details to come. (7/6/20)
IMG 0283With most of the "top side" work completed, I attached the two Tortoise switch machines. (7/7/20) IMG 0284On the scale house, I've installed Woodland Scenics "Just Plug" wall mount lights on both sides of the bay window. The lights were angled towards the track to light the road numbers on cars as they were weighed late in the day or at night. (7/7/20)

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With the addition of Rix switch stands, which are animated, a figure in front of the structure, and the scale test car, this build is complete!