Weighing the big scales of the past and present

Published 10:15 am Friday, July 3, 2009

One of the rather unusual local jobs and titles from the past was that of “city weigher.”

According to one of Irv Sorenson’s “Hi-Lites and Shadows of the Past and Present” illustrated Tribune features in 1957, there was a person with this designation back in 1910. This city weigher worked at a 24-by-32-foot frame scale house on Main Street and weighed wagons and teams of horses.

As I emphasized in the last column, larger platform scales were developed to weigh trucks and their trailers. And one place where these more modern scales are an essential part of the equipment is at grain elevators. In fact, I’m not aware of any grain elevator that doesn’t have a large platform scale.

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However, there were, and still are, large truck and trailer scales in Albert Lea. One was located on Prospect Avenue to the south of what’s now Ole’s Eastside Shell and the bus depot for many years. At the present time there are large scales at both Trail’s Travel Center and Love’s Travel Stop east of the city.

Then there are two truck scales in Freeborn County which could be classified as phantoms.

When Interstate 35 was laid out and constructed in the early 1970s, provisions were made for two truck scale stations right at mile marker 16. This is about a mile south of the Clarks Grove-Hollandale exit.

Proof for these northbound and southbound locations can be seen with the paved off ramps. Adding to this proof are green and white signs with the words Weigh Station. And below several of those signs are attached signs with the single word: “closed.”

I have a strong hunch there were intentions of having permanent buildings constructed on each side of the freeway. The one on the northbound side would serve as the state’s official welcome center for truck drivers. The other station directly across the freeway on the southbound side would obviously be a farewell to Minnesota for the semi drivers.

Oh well. Those closed weigh stations northeast of Albert Lea are now serving as unofficial rest areas for semi drivers and tired tourists.

I have no idea as to why those two weigh stations were never completed. It could have been based on budget problems.

What could have evolved at mile marker 17 on Interstate 35 can be seen between mile markers 208 and 214 on the same freeway down in Worth County, Iowa. Those twin weigh stations are usually not operating. When they’re open, some truck and semi drivers could have problems regarding overweights, equipment violations and licensing problems.

This mentioning of legal problems for truck and semi drivers and the state to the south reminds me of a former roadside scale on U.S. Highway 65 near Manly, Iowa.

Those drivers in the two-lane pre-freeway days had a choice for a southbound route as they drove into Albert Lea. They could go on U.S. Highway 65 to Northwood, Iowa, and on to Des Moines. They could also go south on U.S. Highway 69 to Lake Mills, Iowa, and also end up in Des Moines.

Whenever the scale near Manly was open, those drivers who were less than legal or rather shady operators would deliberately go south to Lake Mills, then cut back over to U.S. highway 65 further to the south of Manly on one of several east-west roadways. Thus, they could avoid the hassles at the Manly roadside scale.

Now, how did those particular drivers in the Albert Lea area know when the Manly scale was open? The answer can be explained in part with a once-popular form of communications from northbound drivers known as citizens band — CB radio.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.