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Maximum Grade for incline for HO

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Maximum Grade for incline for HO
Posted by hennepin98 on Saturday, August 30, 2008 12:46 PM

I have kinda a wierd question.  I am looking at putting a 2 track shelf around the top part of my garage.  What is the maximum grade of incline that I can put in?  I want to tie it in with my main layout, but the only way I can do that is a fairly steep incline to get it up to where it clears the doors and windows in the garage.  I have some passenger cars and auto haulers that require 22" + radius and I cannot fit that on my standard layout.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!  I do not have any certain track type that I am using yet if that makes any difference.

 I am just getting started with all of this, therefore I am open to any/all suggestions.  If you would like photos to show my room, please let me know and I will be happy to send some to you.

 Thanks In Advance!  Nic

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Posted by gandydancer19 on Saturday, August 30, 2008 12:58 PM
What % of grade are you looking at with your available space limitations right now?

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by tangerine-jack on Saturday, August 30, 2008 1:40 PM
Well, how long is a piece of string?  That depends on what you need.  As for max grade, you could go as high as 10-12% if you only want to pull one or two cars and don't mind the ramp looking silly.  What you are pulling with, what you are pulling, and max amps available determine max grade.  Rule of thumb is to use the lowest % possible (normaly less than 4%), but you may have to do as the real railroads did, and that is to double up on motive power, shorten trains or blast.

The Dixie D Short Line "Lux Lucet In Tenebris Nihil Igitur Mors Est Ad Nos 2001"

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Posted by BlueHillsCPR on Saturday, August 30, 2008 2:01 PM
As a rule of thumb I try to stick to a maximum of a 3 inch rise in a 100 inch run but that's just me.  Opinions will vary.
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Posted by selector on Saturday, August 30, 2008 5:11 PM

A ramp is a tool.  People who use tools as part of their professions are taught that the use of the correct tool for the work is what permits efficiency and longevity, both in form and in function.  This applies to both the tool and the user.

Once again, a ramp is a tool.  What work must it do?  What conditions?  What will use the tool, and how?  These may sound like weird questions about a hobby, but they are very important if you don't want to waste time, materials, and money, and if enjoyment of the tool is going to be important in the end.

Logging railroads had steep grades, but they also had special tools.  Their locomotives were purpose-built, just as were the tracks on which they performed their work...including the grades/ramps.  Terrain dictated what grades were necessary to get to where the collected resources were.  If they were too bad, steam donkeys were used to relay the logs down to where the trains could safely go.

You have constraints.  One of them is space.  Another is the weight and tractive effort of your chief tools, your engines.  You need to determine how much of a grade your chief tools will manage.  You can do tests on the basement or living room floor to determine the highest grade your trains will work for a given number of cars (called the load).  If you will necessarily have to build curves into the grade, you will learn that your train will have to be somewhat shorter because grades suffer when curves are incorporated.  Or rather, the engines do.

This is a long way to say that no one can answer your question but you.  It would be a sound investment of time to do mockups of various grades and determine "..what the maximum grade for incline in HO" is for your particular circumstances.  My engines are not the same as yours, most likely, and my space is not like yours.  So my engines will behave differently on my grades.

I hope that helps to orient you to the solution you need.

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Posted by BRJN on Saturday, August 30, 2008 9:28 PM

In real life, railroads avoid grades like the plague.  A 6% grade is considered unreasonable, unless something really valuable is at the end.

In the hobby, we have tended to become more like the industry.  Most people think little of building a 1% or 2% grade on their mainline, but consider 4% a helper district; get extra locomotives.  (Tony Koester had a discussion of his experience with train length, engine power, and max slope in a recent Model Railroad Planning, perhaps the 2007 edition.)

There have always been steep grades for short distances, little-used tracks, and really short trains (as in engine plus finger's worth of cars).  But if you plan to run long trains up and down this ramp, better make it shallow.

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Posted by Snow on Sunday, August 31, 2008 11:57 AM

I too am building a shelf layout around my garage.  I have a grade going down to a 'hidden' staging yard under the main layout on the shelf.  It's a about a 5 in drop over a distance of about 6 feet (this is just off the top of my head) but it works out to be about a 6.4% grade.  My Athearn GP-50 can pull a train of about 16 cars (longer than will fit in my clasification yard) up the grade with a bit of a slow down as not the entire train is on the grade at the same time.  My Athearn GP-38 won't do it without help however.  Realisticly a bit steep for a main line but I was constrained by space,  I have seen commuter rail lines this steep in real life though.

Thing you have to watch out for is the transisition from level to incline track.  If you do it abruptly the cars will become uncoupled, espically with long cars.  I tweaked it using layers of cork roadbed so a 89f autorack could safely transverse the grade without uncoupleing or bottoming out.  

Another problem i have encountered is that the metal snowplow on the front of some of my locomotives will touch the rail coming out of staging and causing a short.  Still working on a solution to that one! :)

Good luck!

 

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Posted by loathar on Sunday, August 31, 2008 2:56 PM
 hennepin98 wrote:

I have kinda a wierd question.  I am looking at putting a 2 track shelf around the top part of my garage.  What is the maximum grade of incline that I can put in?  I want to tie it in with my main layout, but the only way I can do that is a fairly steep incline to get it up to where it clears the doors and windows in the garage.  I have some passenger cars and auto haulers that require 22" + radius and I cannot fit that on my standard layout.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!  I do not have any certain track type that I am using yet if that makes any difference.

 I am just getting started with all of this, therefore I am open to any/all suggestions.  If you would like photos to show my room, please let me know and I will be happy to send some to you.

 Thanks In Advance!  Nic

It sounds like you want to go from a layout which is probably about 4' high up to clearing doors and windows which are probably about 6.5' high. That means a rise of 2.5'. You would need 100 feet of of track to make that a 2.5% grade. If what I've described is what your trying to do, I don't think it's practical.
One good quality loco can pull about 15-20 cars up a grade that steep.(give or take)
Do you have room for a helix??

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Posted by mobilman44 on Sunday, August 31, 2008 5:48 PM

Hi!

If you are trying to get an HO 10 car plus trains up a grade with one loco, then 2% (2 parts rise in 100 parts length) usually works OK.  If you have serious pullers with straight runs, then 3% would probably work OK.  Getting over 3%, train length and power needed to pull said trains is really a factor.  As an earlier poster said, real RRs avoid grades like the plague for the same reasons................

Good Luck!!!

Mobilman44 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by Flashwave on Sunday, August 31, 2008 10:42 PM
Tip. If your trains are short enough, PUSH them upgrade. long trains will dive off, but when fighting the steepest grade in the US at 5.89% Madison Railroad discovered that pulling uphill was a good way to buy new coupolers regularly. the enigne on the back usually helps counteract gravity for short string shoves. but it;s bette rofr 6 cars than 60.

-Morgan
PR, CEO of the Madison Railroad in HO. no, not that one, the one based off the City of Madison Port Authority.
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Posted by caldreamer on Sunday, August 27, 2017 3:39 PM

Would a 4.6 percent grade be acceptabe going down to a quarry?  The branch comes off a mainline through two tunnesl to the rock loading tipple.

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Posted by cowman on Sunday, August 27, 2017 6:30 PM

According to some of the above answers, there are some prototypes that are steeper. 

Will your loco push/pull the load up the grade?

Make sure you have a smooth transition, it will be quite long.

Good luck,

Richard

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Posted by graymatter on Sunday, August 27, 2017 6:51 PM

Nic

I am trying to do the same thing. I have a layout at 36" and I would like to do the shelf layout modular thing at 56". I am trying to avoid a helix. I am using a track planning software to try to stay at max 3%. I found from testing that most of my locos can do 2.5 to 3%. The advice from SNOW to watch the transition from flat to incline and incline to flat is spot on! Guess what happens when your loco gets to the top and the rolling stock, especailly passenger cars, uncouples?

 

 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Sunday, August 27, 2017 8:11 PM

Snow

I too am building a shelf layout around my garage.  I have a grade going down to a 'hidden' staging yard under the main layout on the shelf.  It's a about a 5 in drop over a distance of about 6 feet (this is just off the top of my head) but it works out to be about a 6.4% grade.  ...   Realisticly a bit steep for a main line but I was constrained by space,  I have seen commuter rail lines this steep in real life though.

Wow, that is the steepest grade I think I have ever heard of on a std gauge HO layout.  Holy momma that is steep!  You've got guts!  I'd say half that (3.2%) would be my upper limit but I want to run trains in the 20 - 30 car range, and hopefully have them live long and prosper.

Personally I wouldn't advise anyone to exceed 4% for layouts intended for shorter train of around 10 cars, but suggest keeping below 3% as a best practice.

The layout I just tore down has a grade on the nolix at 2.9% max and that was pushing it for my tastes.  If a train comes uncoupled on a grade like that its going to pick up speed pretty quickly and with no guard rails could take a plunge.

Thing you have to watch out for is the transisition from level to incline track.

Yes.  Always transition into a grade gradually.  Standard grade engineering 101.

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Posted by Lonnie Utah on Monday, August 28, 2017 10:04 AM

First off, Holy back from the dead threads batman! :) 

 

When I set out to build our little layout, one of the criteria my wife gave me was we had to be able to run two trains at the same time without the risk of them crashing into each other. In a small space, this eliminated alot of design choices.  My kid said that the layout had to have a tunnel and a bridge.  In order to meet those two criteria, and get enough clearance for cars to pass under, I was forced into 3% grades.  Things work fine most of the time, but smaller engines struggle if the trains get too long.  If I had to do it over, I MIGHT do it differently (but maybe not).  I FOR SURE would not go any more than what we have on there right now.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, August 28, 2017 11:20 AM

I will have grades between 4 and 5 percent on my railroad. Just on the "local turn" route. My tests show an RS-2 can pull 5 cars and a caboose up this grade no problem.

.

If you want a grade on a mainline, I would keep it at 2 percent or less. Test what you want to do on the floor first with 1/4" plywood and Kato Unitrack. One experiment can answer all your questions.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by railandsail on Monday, August 28, 2017 3:31 PM

Doubletrack Mainlines
I made another significant modification to the Atlas 'Central Midland trackplan that would allow for continuous double train operation without regards for the original single-track bridge restriction. This consists of a curved ramp that shortcut-links the upper inner mainline with the lower inner mainline in the ‘access hole’ area destined to be hidden by a removable foam mountain structure. This link rail is a steep grade, but I have been able to run long trains both up and down the grade without derailing. I also included protective barriers on the sides of the ramp to contain any derailments. Two long trains running in the same direction get out of phase due to the difference in the length of the two loops. Two trains in opposite directions is quite photogenic as well.

I posted this on a forum a long time ago, but the photos that went along with it disappeared somehow?? Never measured the exact grade but it was steep. Maybe one day I will discover them on an old hard drive.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, August 28, 2017 4:06 PM

Lonnie, necro'd topics are modus operandi on these forums.  You get used to it after a while.

SeeYou190

If you want a grade on a mainline, I would keep it at 2 percent or less. Test what you want to do ...

-Kevin

Its good to gave goals and a 2% is a good goal for mainlines.

I built a garage layout single track mainline max grade was 2.5% and 2 4-axle diesels could just pull a 20 car train up.  Keep in mind I'm modelig a mountain RR with power heavy sets.

The layout I just tore down had 2.9% grades and 2 SD45s could pull a 22 car train up.  But I would recommed keeping as close to 2% as possible for main lines.  For branch lines, go as steep as yout engine can handle like snows 6.5%.  Up to you-all.

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Posted by Colorado Ray on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 1:25 PM

riogrande5761

 

SeeYou190

If you want a grade on a mainline, I would keep it at 2 percent or less. Test what you want to do ...

-Kevin

 Its good to gave goals and a 2% is a good goal for mainlines.

 

MR and TRAINS have had numerous articles about prototype mountain railroads.  I believe it was the B&O that set the standard for maximum grades at 2.2%.  I believe that was also set as a requirement for the transcontinental railroad.  The 2.2% was based on one of B&O's signature grades, Cranberry or Sand Patch, I can't recall which one. 

Ray

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 1:46 PM

Colorado Ray

MR and TRAINS have had numerous articles about prototype mountain railroads.  I believe it was the B&O that set the standard for maximum grades at 2.2%.  I believe that was also set as a requirement for the transcontinental railroad.  The 2.2% was based on one of B&O's signature grades, Cranberry or Sand Patch, I can't recall which one. 

Ray 

D&RGW mainline up the Front Rang was kept at 2.0 IIRC, at least ruling grade.  The Tennesee Pass line max was 3% on one side of the pass.

And there was the Saluda Grade back east at 4%  IIRC.

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Posted by Lonnie Utah on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 2:31 PM

riogrande5761
The layout I just tore down had 2.9% grades and 2 SD45s could pull a 22 car train up.  

That's about our max as well with two locos and similar grades. I think we were doing roughly a 25 car train last night and that's the longest we've ever done. The engines were not happy at that point. 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 4:30 PM

Hello all,

Flashwave
Tip. If your trains are short enough, PUSH them upgrade. long trains will dive off, but when fighting the steepest grade in the US at 5.89% Madison Railroad discovered that pulling uphill was a good way to buy new coupolers regularly. the enigne on the back usually helps counteract gravity for short string shoves. but it;s bette rofr 6 cars than 60.

On my HO pike I have a 3% incline on an asymmetrical curve. The curve begins with 22-inch radii sectional track and ends with 18-inch sectional track.

To get six 34-foot loaded hoppers up the grade I use three GP30's.

A single GP30 is at the head-end and an GP30 consist; back-to-back, is "pushing" at the rear.

The reason I use the single loco on the head end is to perform the switching duties at the top of the grade at the unloading shed. Then it shuttles the empties down the spiral trestle to the mainline.

The two-unit consist then runs back down the grade to the mainline.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by floridaflyer on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 10:31 AM

Using Loathar's estimate of a 30" rise, a 5% grade would require a 50 ft run, a 4% grade would require a 62.5 ft run, a 3% grade requires a 83 run,. All these grades also require a trasition section at the top and bottom to meet the level track and at these higher grades the transitions would be fairly long, adding to the overall length of the grade. With your desire to run passenger trains and auto haulers, the number of cars that could be pulled would be reduced vs shorter cars. I would mock up track at each grade level, run what you believe will be a typical consist up the grade and see what happens. Include curves if any will exist on the real thing. You really are pushing the envelope with this setup. Plan "B" may be needed.    

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Posted by JerryStephen on Thursday, August 31, 2017 5:43 PM

I am currently designing a layout (I'm forever designing, never *building*) of a Colorado mountain narrow gauge railroad.  It is a two level layout with grades of 2% or less (mostly less) until about halfway up the upper level.  In order to generate "something to do" there is a small transfer type yard where freight going up to a mining complex is dropped by the mainline steam engines, which then take freight going back down.

The freight still going UP is taken by a geared locomotive (I just love Shays) to handle a 3% and then a 3.7% (ruling) grade...

 

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:43 PM

Class one railroads hate grades. They try to keep them as gentle as possible - 2% is considered steep for the prototype. Of course, there are exceptions.

Modelers always want to push grade steepness because we have very little space. Been there myself - One of the reasons I tore down my last layout was because of steep grades. If you want advice - limit it to 2% for the best operation and appearance....of course, opinions will vary...

Guy

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, September 01, 2017 6:22 AM

trainnut1250

Class one railroads hate grades. They try to keep them as gentle as possible - 2% is considered steep for the prototype. Of course, there are exceptions.

Modelers always want to push grade steepness because we have very little space. Been there myself - One of the reasons I tore down my last layout was because of steep grades. If you want advice - limit it to 2% for the best operation and appearance....of course, opinions will vary...

Guy


Good advise.  BTW, it may seem some "want" to push grade steepness but more often than not, they don't want to but run out of options.  I built a 2.9% grade very grudgingly and it worked ok.  In general, one should try as hard as possible to reduce grades.  Even to get my 2.9%, I had to do some "engineering" and make other compromises to get that figure.  I'm hoping to have sufficient space in the future to reduce grades well below that figure save for possibly "effective grade" in a helix.

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Posted by selector on Friday, September 01, 2017 10:17 AM

To tie Jerry's and Guy's comments together, just above, steep grades should not be avoided just because they are steep.  They will, most certainly, disappoint you as a choice if you fail to manage them as obstacles in your planning.  So....PLAN!!  If the prototypes had to double head end power, or double and add a shover locomotive at the back, then maybe you should just figure on doing that. (Real railroads had helper districts during the steam era.) Then, you get to have that grade after all because it's part of your intention and it's necessary to get the track plan you want.  Or, just get used to really short trains.

The less you fudge or leave to chance, or a strong hope, in this hobby, the more satisfaction you'll derive from your efforts.  Plan realistically with real information about what your toys can accomplish, and the rest will fall into place.  

In summary, yes, steep grades are avoided when possible.  If you simply must have one in order to achieve your dream, plan on dealing with it as realistically and grimly as the real roads did back when...and today.  MORE POWER!

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, September 01, 2017 6:50 PM

And if you do go with steep grades, and run trains of any length, make sure all your couplers are KD and adjusted so you'll avoid breaks in the train where cars go careening down the hill and possibly end up taking a fall.

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Posted by Mister Mikado on Saturday, September 02, 2017 1:12 PM

Magnetraction?

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Posted by jjdamnit on Saturday, September 02, 2017 2:44 PM

Hello all,

riogrande5761
...so you'll avoid breaks in the train where cars go careening down the hill and possibly end up taking a fall.

Another reason to use pushers up a steep grade!

Good advice on the couplers too!!!

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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