Master Scale Program

In 1980, FGIS entered an agreement with the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology - NIST) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) transferring responsibility to FGIS for maintaining the Master Scale facility in Chicago, and calibrating all master scales in the continental United States annually. Seven master scales are owned by individual Class I railroads, two are owned by the States of Oregon and Minnesota and one is owned by FGIS. Master scales are used exclusively to calibrate railroad test weight cars that are used to test railroad track scales.

The Master Scale Depot (MSD) in Chicago is a NIST certified metrology laboratory certified to calibrate Class F field test weight standards from 25 to 10,000 pounds, test carts, and railroad track test weight cars on the FGIS master scale. All FGIS railroad test weight standards and carts are calibrated at this facility. AAR member railroad test weight cars are calibrated at the MSD as part of the AAR agreement. FGIS also offers calibration services at MSD to commercial entities for calibrating test weight standards and carts for a published fee.

FGIS also offers a special “railroad test weight car field calibration” service which provides calibration of railroad test weight cars, usually composite type cars, on site at locations where the railroad test weight cars cannot be easily moved out of the immediate area due to mechanical constraints.

Scale Testing and Test Weight Certification

FGIS provides official testing for a variety of scales used in official grain weight certification under the USGSA including Automatic Bulk Weighing (Hopper) scales, Vehicle scales, Railroad track scales and small Platform scales used in commodity check weighing. This service is performed by FGIS Industrial Specialists or by a delegated State Agency that has been authorized by FGIS to perform the official services. Currently, authorized delegated State Agencies include the Department of Agriculture in the states of Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, Washington and California.

Railroad Track Scale testing service is provided by GIPSA using five special designed Test Weight Carts of calibrated weight up to 110,000 pounds traceable to NIST that are transported on the rail lines in special box car units with self contained power generation and hoist equipment.

FGIS is accredited under the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Metrology certification program for calibrating Class F test weight field standards from 25 to 10,000 pounds providing weight traceability to NIST standards. FGIS calibrates its own test weight standards used in the Test Car Units. FGIS also provides special service to calibrate test weight standards on-site inside grain elevator head houses. This calibration service utilizes portable equipment that is set up at a calibration station in the grain elevator in accordance with FGIS requirements as set forth in Chapter III of the Weighing Handbook.

If you would like additional information, please contact Marcus Harwitz, FGIS, Policies, Procedures and Market Analysis Branch via email at Marcus.Harwitz@usda.gov or telephone 1-708-458-1655.