Norfolk Southern Saluda 5% Grade

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sulkair

New Member
Anyone on the Norfolk Southern have any experience with the Saluda grade, the steepest railroad grade in the nation? I think it is around 5%. I wondered what the biggest train in terms of tonnage and / or length the NS could take over the Saluda grade is, and would it typically require distributive power? Thanks all.
 
Last I heard, Saluda Grade and the line on which it is located has been indefinitely idled. I recall that doubling and tripling of trains was usually required to climb the grade; no idea if distributed power could make a difference.
 

sulkair

New Member
Last I heard, Saluda Grade and the line on which it is located has been indefinitely idled. I recall that doubling and tripling of trains was usually required to climb the grade; no idea if distributed power could make a difference.
Thanks Damon, I appreciate the info. Nick
 

Jon Bentz

New Member
Durring the final years of operation Saluda usually only saw two trains per day. I've posted a couple of photos that I took in April of 1980 of a train headed down hill at Saluda and again at Melrose which is the location of the second run away spur and the bottom of the steepest part of the grade. Later in the '80's NS started running an empty coal train down the grade as well.

Uphill operations were a real bottle neck. Most trains had to be doubled or tripled up the hill. Needless to say, this was very time consuming. Down hill trains did not need to be split up and as seen in these photos were usually engulfed in brake shoe smoke by the time they reached Melrose.

The first photo is of the train passing the town of Saluda at the top of the hill. I was standing just below the crest of the grade. The second photo taken at Melrose shows the severity of the grade pretty clearly. Boy were the dynamics on those SD40-2's howling!
 

sulkair

New Member
Jon - great photos! A picture is worth a thousand words to be sure! Thank you so much for the first-hand account. Were there ever any significant accidents on that hill? You mentioned run-away spurs. Would a runaway train call ahead and someone would drive out and physically switch the track before it reached the spur, or could a dispatcher remotely do it?
 

Jon Bentz

New Member
I recall seeing an article on Saluda in Trains Magazine a number of years ago and there was a photo included of a wreck at Melrose. A train lost it brakes coming down from Saluda and shot up the run away piling up into a heck of a mess. The safety switch at Melrose remains lined to the run away track if a train is exceeding 8 mph as it nears the bottom of the hill. If ithe train is at or below 8 mph it automatically lines to the main. There was another run way half way down the hill but that was removed a long time ago. In the photo I'm standing just to the right of the run away. In retrospect probably not the smartest place to be standing. Oh well, I was young and reckless. These switches were manned round the clock back in steam days but automated in the late fifties or so.
 




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