4% Gradient, overkill?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by darkcurves, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    I was discussing with a friend recently about adding a 4% gradient on my layout. He said 4% is too much, infact even 2%. It takes atleast 4 locos to climb that gradient, but he didn't mention the load. My plan was for a passenger line only, with around 4-5 coaches using Kato's P42 or even F40PHI. Is that possible? I will be using Woodland Scenics 4& inclines.

    Thanks for looking! :mrgreen:
  2. AlBruAn

    AlBruAn New Member

    It all depends where/when you are modelling. Prior to Canadian Pacific Railroad opening the Spiral Tunnels between Field, British Columbia and Kicking Horse Pass in 1909, the grade west of the pass was 4.4 to 4.5%. Building the Spiral Tunnels added roughly 4.1 miles to the length travelled, but reduced the grade to only 2.2%.

    The steepest mainline grade in the United States, is located near Saluda, NC in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 4.7% grade near Saluda put Clinchfield 2-10-2's and SD45's on their knees. To handle this grade, two 4,000 HP GE's can only pull 20 cars at a time, so trains sometimes have to be broken into 4 cuts to get them across. Before Norfolk Southern got the GE's, it took five GP's to pull the same load.

    If you have to run four locos to make the grade (no pun intended), precedent has been set by the prototypes.
  3. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    4% to me is overkill for modern trains (ie: a P42).

    I have a 2% max grade on my layout and I think with 4 Amtrak cars with one Kato P42, it seems to handle it ok. But with 4%, you might need to add 1, maybe 2, helpers.
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    You won't need helpers.

    If the cheezy over-and-under trainsets of the '70s could do it with single-power-truck-with-traction-tire drives and half a dozen cars, the new equipment should have no problem.

    Any modern diesel with a cast chassis and 8-wheel drive should be able to handle a 4% grade with a dozen free-rolling cars no problem. The P-42 should also be able to take 4 coaches up 4% no problem - UNLESS! Unless you're trying to do it around an 9" radius curve. Tight curves + long cars + grade makes for tough slugging for model locos. But if you have curves sized to the equipment (12" or larger for full-length passenger cars) you won't have a problem.

    In fact, on my N-scale layout with a 3.5% grade, my old Atlas RS-11 can pull 10 cars no problem.
  5. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    My Kato engines will tell you otherwise when pulling 12 hopper cars solo up a 2% grade. <shrug>
  6. jesso

    jesso Member

    On my new desktop layout, it has a 4% 9 3/4 curve. I have a video of a Life-Like gp38-2 pulling a train on it and it could pull it fine. I also have a Life-like e8 with 6 passenger cars and it pulls them fine. Now double stacks are another thing. I have three 5-car units and I can't physically pull them up the loop as the seem to lock on the curve. My two Kato SD70's that I have used to pull 100 cars on another layout cannot pull two of them. So, in other words, test what you want to go on the layout :)
  7. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    Thanks the tips. I guess i will get the inclines from WS first and do some testing. Since my intention is to use 19 inch curves and max of 5 coaches pulled by one loco. The incline will be straight till it reaches the end where it will take a 19 inch curve.
  8. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    On a grade, if the motor stalls, you need more hp's...If it starts to spin its wheels, you need more weight....
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    You can test your train on the grade without spending lots of money.
    Lay some track straight along an 8-foot board -- a straight one with no sag. Now raise one end by 1". This gives you close enough to a 1% grade. Try your train on it. Then raise the end 2", 3" and 4" for the (guess what) 2, 3 and 4% grades.
    The 8-foot board is close enough to 100" for the math to work.
  10. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    Thanks, that's much more cost effective. Thanks again!
  11. scubadude

    scubadude Member

    I have 3% grades on 13" curves and my FA1/B1 units pull up to 27 cars with no problems.....
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I can pull 6+ passenger cars with an old mantua locomotive up a 7% grade...so considering Kato's rep...I'd be shocked if 4% was too steep for what you want.
  13. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    NKP...Are you talking HO...?? Old HO Mantuas weigh a ton and have a mega motor in them....If that's the case, I'm not sure the comparison holds....
  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I'm talking mantua 2-6-6-2ts and F units. The 2-6-6-2ts had just standard sagamis and weighed less than an athearn PA-1.
  15. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have been railroading for many years. first "train set" was American flier in 1957. It was more for Dad than me as I was only 2years old. But toy trains/model railroading never went away. In all those years I have never stalled a locomotive. many slip(spin wheels) but never stall.I have had older diesels climb off the rail but never stall. How do you do it?
  16. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The final gradient to Climax, Colorado at 11,333 feet was 8%. A fully loaded "train" of no more than three to four cars required two locos to make the climb. The climb to the Alpine Pass, also over 11,000 feet, although a lesser gradient, also required a helper engine.

    As for highway grades, some of the old two-laners going up and over These 11,000 foot-plus passes register up to sixteen per cent. :car1: Fortunately, they are mostly closed during winter.
  17. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    A well weighted diesel engine could pull 5 or 6 cars up a 4% grade. But I'm in HO scale and its a lot easier for us to add a little extra weight to our engines.

    Squidbait is right though, if those old department store sets could handle it with their rubber band drives and 2-wheel electrical pickups, a new Kato model should be able to no problem. :)
  18. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    Yeah true, i remember even my cheapo Life0Like GP38 was able to pull around 10 cars up 2% gradient. What is 5 coaches with a Kato some more.
  19. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Just press on the locomotive until the wheels stop turning...just don't do it for long.
  20. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    well yea I know that. I mean due to a steep grade or to much weight.

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