Steep Grade Problem

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Stan Bolsenga, Jan 15, 2007.

  1. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    I have a situation on my new layout where there is a steep grade to a old time mining area. The engines serving the area will be Shays and a Climax. The grade rises about 4 inches in about 3 feet. My problem is with the "hump" at the top and the "dip" at the bottom. How can I make this transition better? I have thought about the stuff that levels floors, cement type of material, etc. but nothing seems to work. Other than trashing the steep grade, does anyone have a suggestion. Thanks.
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    that's an 11 percent grade - way steeper than any friction-adhesion railroads ever ran. I wouldn't even try a shay or climax up something that steep - you are saking for trouble.

    If it were me, I would resdesign, if possible. If you can't relocate the tracks to make a shallower grade, think about using a switchback. That will cut the grade in half, and at 6 percent, it is still steep, but doable.

    In real life, they would have had a loading tipple and spur track at the bottom of the hill, and the ore from the mine would have been brought to the tipple via cableway system or an incline railway.

  3. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    What is your roadbed made of? If your roadbed is plywood and you want to try to transision it a bit better try cutting partially through the roadbed so it will 'flex a bit more when you bend it up.
    I would agree with Kevin though, 11 percent is fay too much to ask and engine to do. Using a switchback, my layout climbs the same height but does it in 6 feet and makes operation more interesting as well.
  4. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    Nachoman is right, that is a steep grade. But to answer your question, you might try using a strip of thin wood, cardboard, or even metal to transition the dip at the bottom avoid the sharp break. I used strips of cereal box cardboard on my 4% grade. I spread glue on the flat approach and the grade, but left glue off approxinmately 3" either way of the actual start of the incline. Press the cardboard flat against both the flat section and the slope, but allow it to float over the section without glue. Push both ends toward the midpoint to get adjust the cardboard to the transition you want. The more you push together, the more it will assume the kink at the bottom. I pinned the cardboard down untuil the glue dried. I then injected latex caulk under the cardboard to fillup the void. For the top of the incline, just shave or sand the top to smooth out the hump.
  5. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    Thanks for the replies and the good ideas. The roadbed in this area is 1/2" ODB with 1/2" homosote over the OSB. I'lll give the redesign some serious thought although I've already tried with no luck. Cutting the OSB will definitely help, not enough room for a switchback, but the cable transport might also work. Any of these solutions might eliminate the mine area though and that would cut the interest down drastically.
  6. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    Great idea Doc. You da man for sure!! I'll give this a try along with lowering the grade and cutting the OSB.

    This is my first post here and I am very impressed and thankful for the help.
  7. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    I would very much add my voice to reducing the grade. I've seen and operated on layouts with a grade in excess of 9% and I can tell you that sliding is a major problem, even with just a car or two. In one instance a run for the hill was absolutely necessary!
  8. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Re-design is the word. By the way, would you believe 12 percent grades on some prototype logging and mining grades. It wasn't desireable but it was done by a few operations.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I would try to see what you can do just letting the Homasote bend a bit -- over something between a foot and 18". Or cut a curve in a piece of wood and glue it like a keel under the Homasote. I'm not sure how big a radius -- at least 36", possibly 48".
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    At the "Logger" tourist railroad outside of Yosemite National Park in Oakhurst they actually have a short section of 14% that the shay traverses pulling cars loaded with tourists. I doubt if a model shay would handle that steep of a grade however. I think I would cut out part of your subroadbed in the flat and fit in some 3/8 inch plywood. Fasten down about the first 6 inches or so really good and then bend the rest up into your grade. It will make a natural transition. About 1/2 way up the mountain, bend the board level, and make sure that any switches you mount are on level track. Make the tail of the switch back long enough to allow the train to completely clear the switch. Install a switch and then out of the switch, with the switch on a dead level section of sub roadbed, bend the plywood upp as it climbs to the top of the mountain. At the top of the mouontain, level it off again and put in another switch, that will lead to your mining area. The other thing you can do is to lower the height of the mountain where the mine is to decrease the grade.
  11. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    Remeasured and more accurately it is a 3.5" rise in 4'. A possible redesign is to run up a grade of 1.75" in 3' ending in a switch and then a straight section of about 2' where one mine would be located. At the switch would be another short section rising about 1.5" in 2' or so to another mine So we now have a switchback but it will be limited by the 2' section. However, I'm not worried about a train of just 1 or 2 short ore cars and the engine.

    Any other comments would be much appreciated- these certainly have helped
  12. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    As you can see Jim, we both thought of the same thing independantly!!! Thanks.
  13. Couldn't you just make the approach longer so that the train isn't trying to jump to that steep a grade quite as fast and do the same at the top so it comes over the top less quickly?

    Yeah, first post ever, but I know a few things about trains.
  14. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member


  15. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    I dunno about the grade, but hows Munising? I used to live and Hancock, and Marquette.
  16. No need to yell, was just an idea.
  17. Stan Bolsenga

    Stan Bolsenga New Member

    Munising is just fine. Tons of snow, but that's normal. Just moved here from downstate, but had a summer place before. I used to live in Chassel and worked in Calumet. Really loving Munising now.
  18. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Glenn, I too tinkered with the idea of having switchback tracks on my layoutb ut gave it up in favor of a conventional grade. I may still incorporate it into another, as yet unbuilt part, of the layout. How long are your "spurs"? I would think about 40" - 48" would work OK, bu the you're looking at 8' + of horizontal distance... Gets to be kinda big, no? Let me know how yours is set up. Thanks.

    Stan, so how did you decide to "fix" your problem...???
  19. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    The new grade is 7% which is doable for most of the smaller engines in HO - especially geared steam. Train length may be only one to three cars, though.

    I recommend you build a test track with 2 straight pieces of flex on a board. Prop one end of the board up to be at your anticipated grade. See if your engines will pull the desired train on the grade before committing to final form on the layout.

    With more than 2% grades you WILL need a vertical transition curve at both the bottom and the top to prevent accidental uncouplings (resulting in exciting uncontrolled runaways - don't ask me how I know about these). Also, lack of a vertical transition curve can cause coupler trip pins to hang up on ties and loco pilots to short out on the rails. Finally, if grade change is abrubt enough, locos can lose traction as they straddle the angle change. It is better to have an even steeper grade than not enough transition.

    The easiest way to get decent vertical transitions is to use plywood for a subroadbed. Cut the plywood to little more than roadbed width and bend the plywood to the grade, as mentioned earlier. 1/2" plywood subroadbed always gave me reasonable transitions. If creating your own transitions, the rule of thumb I have seen work is a longest car (or loco)length transition for each 2% of grade change.

    just my thoughts, your choices
  20. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    it's probably best if I show you:

    This is my original layout 3 years ago before I properly set it up and added on. It measured 2"X 8". The switch back grade started as the track swings under the bridge and runs up to the mid switch. Then it continues up across the bridge to where my Mine is located today. my 'spurs' are only 19" long but that's enough for a two truck climax or shay (or small switcher diesel) and a couple short ore cars and my shorty caboose.

Share This Page