Deciding Grades For Model Railroads | Slopes | Gradients 🎯
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Here’s my model railroading tip of the day –
Don’t make your track gradients (slopes) too steep. Even though locomotives look magnificent struggling to haul fully laden cars up a grade, and perhaps crossing over a bridge above another train on a lower level… grades require lots of space. So if you don’t have enough benchwork space for trains to comfortably navigate a grade, you are better off with a flat track.
Grades for mainlines should be kept to 2% or less. Grades on branch lines are sometimes in the 3% to 5% range, but this can pose problems. For example; the pulling power of a loco climbing a 2% gradient can be reduced by up to 50% or more. Extra effort is required if the grades are on curves, as they often are if the train is to climb to a summit without requiring space for long straight lengths of track.
The descent can be equally demanding. If the grade is too steep, the engine might battle to hold back the cars as they try to race down behind. The weight of the cars could cause the loco to buck or jump the rails because the downhill force is stronger than the gravity holding the cars on the track.
There are several ways to manage these problems, including not making grades too steep, taking care when mixing curves and grades, making trains shorter, and adding an extra engine(s) at the front/back/middle of the train to help with the ascent and descent.
To help calculate grades you can use the free grade calculator (and several other free model railroading calculators) on the ModelBuildings.org website. Just go to the site and you’ll find a link to the free calculators in the top toolbar.
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