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Grade maximum on an HO Layout

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Grade maximum on an HO Layout
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 11:12 PM
I am planning a 10' x 16' layout and was wondering what the maximum grade should be. I realize this is the type of question that when you ask 10 people you will get 10 answers, but I was hoping to get an idea from personal experiences. I will be pulling no more than 12-14 cars. I want it to look relatively scale but I also need to consider the fact I don’t have that big of an area to use.

I was also hoping someone could explain how the grade is calculated. For example....a 3% grade means you will rise 1" every ? feet.

The reason I am asking is that there are several spots where I need to be 4" above the base level in about 8 feet.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Jeff
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Grade maximum on an HO Layout
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 11:12 PM
I am planning a 10' x 16' layout and was wondering what the maximum grade should be. I realize this is the type of question that when you ask 10 people you will get 10 answers, but I was hoping to get an idea from personal experiences. I will be pulling no more than 12-14 cars. I want it to look relatively scale but I also need to consider the fact I don’t have that big of an area to use.

I was also hoping someone could explain how the grade is calculated. For example....a 3% grade means you will rise 1" every ? feet.

The reason I am asking is that there are several spots where I need to be 4" above the base level in about 8 feet.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Jeff
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Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 11:33 PM
If you are using steam engines 1-1.5% max.
If you are using diesels, 2-3% max.
Less is better.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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  • From: Omaha, NE
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Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 11:33 PM
If you are using steam engines 1-1.5% max.
If you are using diesels, 2-3% max.
Less is better.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:05 AM
You can try to lengthen the run to the "Top" any way you can. If you just can't find a alt. Route, you got yourself a helper division. Designate a suitiable engine as a helper and pu***hose trains over the summit. You can also leave 7 of 14 cars dat the bottom in a hold track and "Double" the hill by taking the first set of 7 over returning with caboose and getting the remaining 7 of your 14 car train. Suddenly mountain railroading has meaning.

With that said, in real life mountain grades are expressed as percentages. When I drove a semi I have encountered every interstate mountain there is including some off the beaten path. Some were more dangerous than others. The gradient is express as number of feet every 100 feet. If I crossed Black Mountain in NC that is 7 percent which means it is a 7 foot drop (Or rise going up) every 100 feet. Black Mountain is about 7 miles if I remember correctly so that meant a considerable change in elevation.

"Ruling grade" on a railroad is expressed by the steepest section on the division. I have watched trains fight across Raton Pass near the Colo./NM border and certianly it is a brutal climb. The Cheat River Grade in the east is another dangerous climb or descent for railroads.

Logging roads such as the CASS Senic Railroad uses Shays to climb grades of 8% Those grades are too steep for normal rod engines from a traction viewpoint.

Any way you can reduce grades by lenghening your distance to the top will help your model engines alot. I have some favorite engines that will start in excess of 50 cars out of the yard but suddenly dig into the rail with 10 of them on a hill. That is where I looks to operation problem of getting rest over the top.

Remeber to consider 3 inches from the top of the rail to the crossing above for your trains. I think the new modern car racks are even higher. Good Luck to you let us know how it goes.

Lee
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:05 AM
You can try to lengthen the run to the "Top" any way you can. If you just can't find a alt. Route, you got yourself a helper division. Designate a suitiable engine as a helper and pu***hose trains over the summit. You can also leave 7 of 14 cars dat the bottom in a hold track and "Double" the hill by taking the first set of 7 over returning with caboose and getting the remaining 7 of your 14 car train. Suddenly mountain railroading has meaning.

With that said, in real life mountain grades are expressed as percentages. When I drove a semi I have encountered every interstate mountain there is including some off the beaten path. Some were more dangerous than others. The gradient is express as number of feet every 100 feet. If I crossed Black Mountain in NC that is 7 percent which means it is a 7 foot drop (Or rise going up) every 100 feet. Black Mountain is about 7 miles if I remember correctly so that meant a considerable change in elevation.

"Ruling grade" on a railroad is expressed by the steepest section on the division. I have watched trains fight across Raton Pass near the Colo./NM border and certianly it is a brutal climb. The Cheat River Grade in the east is another dangerous climb or descent for railroads.

Logging roads such as the CASS Senic Railroad uses Shays to climb grades of 8% Those grades are too steep for normal rod engines from a traction viewpoint.

Any way you can reduce grades by lenghening your distance to the top will help your model engines alot. I have some favorite engines that will start in excess of 50 cars out of the yard but suddenly dig into the rail with 10 of them on a hill. That is where I looks to operation problem of getting rest over the top.

Remeber to consider 3 inches from the top of the rail to the crossing above for your trains. I think the new modern car racks are even higher. Good Luck to you let us know how it goes.

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:55 AM
Jeff,

Speaking as a person who recently dismantled a beautiful, finished layout because of very steep grades (one of several mistakes I made), I would say don't go steeper than 2 percent. It seems that everyone does the steep grade thing at least once. I definately regretted it later.

The reasons for having 4, 5 or 6 percent grades are that one can climb (in a short run) high enough to cross over the other track and it is possible to have two levels of track in a small space. Most locos will not pull trains up these grades with out traction tires. I was using Marklin gear (traction tires: standard equipment), so at least my trains ran up the steep with no problems

The more insidious problem with steep grades is how they look. One cannot put buildings next to them lest they look out of plumb. Trains look unrealistic climbing them as well. Advice: consider using a helix if you must climb or lengthening your run up. Perhaps a re-design of the track plan.

Your figures sound to to be about a 4+ percent grade - 96" rising 4" (figure a one inch rise every 100 inches is one percent). I suspect, unless you are using shays, you might regret grades this steep later on down the road.

Let us know what you decide,

Guy
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:55 AM
Jeff,

Speaking as a person who recently dismantled a beautiful, finished layout because of very steep grades (one of several mistakes I made), I would say don't go steeper than 2 percent. It seems that everyone does the steep grade thing at least once. I definately regretted it later.

The reasons for having 4, 5 or 6 percent grades are that one can climb (in a short run) high enough to cross over the other track and it is possible to have two levels of track in a small space. Most locos will not pull trains up these grades with out traction tires. I was using Marklin gear (traction tires: standard equipment), so at least my trains ran up the steep with no problems

The more insidious problem with steep grades is how they look. One cannot put buildings next to them lest they look out of plumb. Trains look unrealistic climbing them as well. Advice: consider using a helix if you must climb or lengthening your run up. Perhaps a re-design of the track plan.

Your figures sound to to be about a 4+ percent grade - 96" rising 4" (figure a one inch rise every 100 inches is one percent). I suspect, unless you are using shays, you might regret grades this steep later on down the road.

Let us know what you decide,

Guy
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 6:29 AM
The easiest way I was told (had almost the same question) is
1 inch per 100 inches is 1%, 2 inches would be 2% and so on, I agree about the grades you want to keep tham at 2% or less if possible from another one who made the same mistake.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 6:29 AM
The easiest way I was told (had almost the same question) is
1 inch per 100 inches is 1%, 2 inches would be 2% and so on, I agree about the grades you want to keep tham at 2% or less if possible from another one who made the same mistake.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 6:53 AM
My HO layout is 10'x12' and I have grades up to 6.5%. I have 2 Bachmann 3 truck Shays, a Rivarossi 2 truck Heisler, and a Bachmann 10 wheeler. My freelance theme is mountainous with the emphasis on logging and mining. With DCC it is a natural to MU the 2 Shays to haul 20 cars, although most of my trains consist of 5-7 cars. The Bachmann 10 wheeler will only pull 3 passenger cars up those grades. Hope this helps.....
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 6:53 AM
My HO layout is 10'x12' and I have grades up to 6.5%. I have 2 Bachmann 3 truck Shays, a Rivarossi 2 truck Heisler, and a Bachmann 10 wheeler. My freelance theme is mountainous with the emphasis on logging and mining. With DCC it is a natural to MU the 2 Shays to haul 20 cars, although most of my trains consist of 5-7 cars. The Bachmann 10 wheeler will only pull 3 passenger cars up those grades. Hope this helps.....
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Posted by BentnoseWillie on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 8:36 AM
I run a model shortline with short trains and diesels, so one spur is 5.5%. That said, I don't recommend more than 2% for a mainline grade, and the concern about how buildings will look is well-taken. Mine was a special case, as there was to be little but trees until the upper deck levelled off at the top.

I'd stick with 2% (2 inches per hundred) or less starting out.
B-Dubya -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Inside every GE is an Alco trying to get out...apparently, through the exhaust stack!
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Posted by BentnoseWillie on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 8:36 AM
I run a model shortline with short trains and diesels, so one spur is 5.5%. That said, I don't recommend more than 2% for a mainline grade, and the concern about how buildings will look is well-taken. Mine was a special case, as there was to be little but trees until the upper deck levelled off at the top.

I'd stick with 2% (2 inches per hundred) or less starting out.
B-Dubya -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Inside every GE is an Alco trying to get out...apparently, through the exhaust stack!
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 8:44 AM
I have a loco that will do a 100% grade if you get a running start at it.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 8:44 AM
I have a loco that will do a 100% grade if you get a running start at it.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:46 AM
Top of table to floor flee? heh. heh. heh.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:46 AM
Top of table to floor flee? heh. heh. heh.
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Posted by Puckdropper on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:04 PM
The easiest way to figure odd grades is to use the formula:

The number of units a grade goes up, divided by the length of the run. Multiply by 100 to get the percentage. (As stated 1 divided by 100 is 1%) This way, your 2" rise in 38 1/8" is a 5.25% grade.
(2 divided by 38 1/8 equals about .05245. Multiply .05245 by 100, and you get 5.245% or round it to 5.25%)

One note: You must use the same units. Centermeters and inches together won't play nice.
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Posted by Puckdropper on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:04 PM
The easiest way to figure odd grades is to use the formula:

The number of units a grade goes up, divided by the length of the run. Multiply by 100 to get the percentage. (As stated 1 divided by 100 is 1%) This way, your 2" rise in 38 1/8" is a 5.25% grade.
(2 divided by 38 1/8 equals about .05245. Multiply .05245 by 100, and you get 5.245% or round it to 5.25%)

One note: You must use the same units. Centermeters and inches together won't play nice.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:10 PM
No, I Put a big magnet in it and now it's a magna-traction. It does loop t loops and will run up the wall too. We have loco races, the EMD 500 and Alco 350 are the two favorite. I have a B40-8 that will run 700 scale mph down the straights on 36 volts.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:10 PM
No, I Put a big magnet in it and now it's a magna-traction. It does loop t loops and will run up the wall too. We have loco races, the EMD 500 and Alco 350 are the two favorite. I have a B40-8 that will run 700 scale mph down the straights on 36 volts.
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Posted by ndbprr on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 4:45 PM
You need to do two things:
1. keep the grade to the longest one that will get the height result you require
2. make long transitions into the grade.

Maximum grade isn't as important as minimizing the grade. In other words if you have 10' don't do it in 8'.
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Posted by ndbprr on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 4:45 PM
You need to do two things:
1. keep the grade to the longest one that will get the height result you require
2. make long transitions into the grade.

Maximum grade isn't as important as minimizing the grade. In other words if you have 10' don't do it in 8'.
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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 10:19 PM
Before committing yourself to 4" in 8 feet (4% grade) you might want to take an eight foot board and lay some track on it. Elevate one end 4" and try your loco with cars to see how well they do. For appearance, hide the grade with a line of trees etc. One trick you might use is to have an upgrade of 2% and a down grade of 2% this will lead to 4" separation after 8 feet. Remember to allow a transition from level to grade.
Enjoy
Paul
If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 10:19 PM
Before committing yourself to 4" in 8 feet (4% grade) you might want to take an eight foot board and lay some track on it. Elevate one end 4" and try your loco with cars to see how well they do. For appearance, hide the grade with a line of trees etc. One trick you might use is to have an upgrade of 2% and a down grade of 2% this will lead to 4" separation after 8 feet. Remember to allow a transition from level to grade.
Enjoy
Paul
If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, September 25, 2003 6:16 PM
Transistions should be at least a foot long. So your business cars dont get hung at the top or pinched at the bottom. Not fun. Or your heavy articulids engines lose traction on the rear set of drivers at the bottom or derails at the top. Not good.

If you are really good at laying grade, it may be possible to lay the first third of the hill somewhat less than max and suddenly transition to the top. It avoids having the entire "Mass" of the train dragging on the engine at one time going up and keeps control of the train going down by giving a sort of a run out.

Curves will add to the grade the engine will need to pull harder around them up or down.

If your train is long enough remember to keep pulling until you get half of it over the summit. Then throttle down before it runs away on the down grade.

I think woodland senics makes foam gradients that will be able to lay roadbed and track on and is flexible too. Give them a try. It beats trying to use a angle and a string.

Also transition into a curve at the top or at the bottom of a grade in addition to a transition section. Model cars do not handle movement too much in three dimensions.

Ill brew some tea while I ease my aching head. Good Luck and best wishes in your grade planning.

Lee
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, September 25, 2003 6:16 PM
Transistions should be at least a foot long. So your business cars dont get hung at the top or pinched at the bottom. Not fun. Or your heavy articulids engines lose traction on the rear set of drivers at the bottom or derails at the top. Not good.

If you are really good at laying grade, it may be possible to lay the first third of the hill somewhat less than max and suddenly transition to the top. It avoids having the entire "Mass" of the train dragging on the engine at one time going up and keeps control of the train going down by giving a sort of a run out.

Curves will add to the grade the engine will need to pull harder around them up or down.

If your train is long enough remember to keep pulling until you get half of it over the summit. Then throttle down before it runs away on the down grade.

I think woodland senics makes foam gradients that will be able to lay roadbed and track on and is flexible too. Give them a try. It beats trying to use a angle and a string.

Also transition into a curve at the top or at the bottom of a grade in addition to a transition section. Model cars do not handle movement too much in three dimensions.

Ill brew some tea while I ease my aching head. Good Luck and best wishes in your grade planning.

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 27, 2003 1:58 AM
I have a 4% grade that is 8 feet long, but I am currently planning to remove it as I expand my layout. My trains slow down quite a bit but seem to make it to the top. The problem is, I do not like how it looks as it is not very realistic. I would recommend that any grade over 2% be in a hidden area of the layout. Metal wheels on my rolling stock are a must for this situation.
Find a way to stick to 2% and try the woodland scenices incline sets- they make things a lot easier!
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 27, 2003 1:58 AM
I have a 4% grade that is 8 feet long, but I am currently planning to remove it as I expand my layout. My trains slow down quite a bit but seem to make it to the top. The problem is, I do not like how it looks as it is not very realistic. I would recommend that any grade over 2% be in a hidden area of the layout. Metal wheels on my rolling stock are a must for this situation.
Find a way to stick to 2% and try the woodland scenices incline sets- they make things a lot easier!

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