A rail weights Wiki?

Just a thought over the last mouthful of coffee in my mug.

I like track. I feel pretty good about my ability to fabricate model railroad track that is electrically and mechanically reliable. I’ve developed some methods to colour, weather, and ballast my model track that I’m pretty comfortable with and am consistently pleased with the results of. I need to grow this and cross the transition from learning to better detail that track I make. A model of track instead of just track for a model. The leap itself shouldn’t be too far, I already know how much I enjoy exploring, measuring, photographing, and drawing details from those times when I’m able to go trackside and see the real thing. I just need to start learning about ways to bring this home and make models of these parts. We have some truly fantastic resources that indulge in describing the technical approaches toward track and the mechanics of it. What we could use, I thought, was a record of what is actually there. For example: if I was building a model of a railroad station, a comb of my architectural library would prove invaluable in helping me decide on window and door sizes, as well as like general dimensions, but it wouldn’t be as effective at helping me build a particular station. If the goal was a recreation of a particular Intercolonial Railway station, I’d need an archive of data on their stations such as an actual drawing and photographs.

We have great books that discuss in wonderful detail, providing this information for things like Rio Grande freight cars or Canadian National Railways engine sheds. What I think we could work on is developing an open data base, like a Wikipedia, for railroad track. This resource could help with details specific to a railroad or, even better, a place on a railroad. Being an obsession, I’ve mentioned various parts of the railway on Prince Edward Island many times. I know from the notes others have kindly shared with me about the construction of particular segments of track so I can start there. From my library, I can supplement this further with details describing the same for other railroads. I know that in Laurie Cooksey’s book on the Rye and Camber he notes the weight of rail, size of ties, and ties spacing specified in the construction of the R&C. I believe I have the same data on the Kennebec Central and the Monson railroads. If this snow ever melts (yup, there’s still snow on the ground here on PEI – between three and five feet in my back yard right now) I plan on spending some time at Elmira measuring the intact wye still in place there and from that will have information on tie sizes, typical spacing at various locations, as well as rail weights. If I were to ever build a layout based on the Esquimalt and Nanimo at Parksville, set in 1975, how heavy a rail should I try and use? What about the ties?

I can add a page to this blog to share what information I have. Ultimately, if the idea has merit, I don’t mind supporting a Wiki housed elsewhere that others could readily contribute data to. It wouldn’t have to be historical, the idea here being: the next time you go trackside to watch a train maybe bring a tape measure along and measure the height of the rail where you are or the space between the ties (do so safely and respectfully!) and upload it with the location. What do you think?

Categories: How I think

4 replies

  1. For those modelling in O14 there is a great resource “Finescale 7mm Narrow Gauge Trackwork” that covers much of what you mention. It can be found here

    Click to access O14_track_articles.pdf

  2. There’s a pretty good resource for modelers here: http://www.urbaneagle.com/data/RRrailsizes.html

    In most cases, the modeler will be constrained to two or three commercially available rail sizes, so I’m not sure how much detail beyond “light”, “medium” and “heavy” will be needed.

    As far as a rail size vs. location wiki, most railroad track charts contain this information: http://icrr.net/CAGYprofiles.htm

    The bar graph across the bottom shows the weight of the rail (85-lb/yd to 115-lb/yd in the example), the year it was laid or replaced, and the length over which this weight of rail extended. Notice how much the rail size varied over a relatively short distance.

    All the info you want to capture through field surveys already exists in railroad documents. Having said that, I would definitely support a wiki that captured images of track charts from the different railroads.

    • Hi

      Thanks for the links. I have seen Rick Blanchards (…urbaneagle…) site before and enjoy using his tables to compare actual rail weights to their equivalent rail sizes in model form. It’s a very useful tool and I’m grateful it exists.

      I agree that in terms of rail sizes available we are constrained to those that are made (codes 40, 55, 70, 83, 100, and on). Being a native N scaler, I rely on either 40 or 55. That said, when I last worked in HO I stuck with those same weights of rail as they were just about perfect to represent the very light rail that the layout I was working on, at the time, had in place.

      I’m looking forward to checking out the second document you shared. It sounds really interesting and “right up my alley”.

      I agree that much of the data we’re looking for is widely available. What I feel we’re lacking is a common source to reconcile it. That’s where I started thinking that a repository like a wiki might be useful.

      If we’re modelling the railroad on our doorstep and in the current time, we can go trackside to see what is enough. If we’re modelling something from further away in a different time period, this rail and track wiki could be useful to help describe the design of the track we’re modelling just as like references for the railroad’s rolling stock and structures already help us.

      Some details in this wiki I’d go looking for, that I don’t have in my library, for example, would be questions about the tie spacing (and size) and rail weights around Parksville, BC on CP’s Esquimalt and Nanaimo in 1988. Equally, I’d love to know the same for CP’s Dominion Atlantic in Truro, Nova Scotia.

      Thanks again. I really appreciate your comments and thoughts.


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