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The Saluda Grade
Was the Steepest Standard Gauge Main Line Railroad Grade In The U.S.A.
Updated on 17 Mar



M. V. Kotowski - April 1985


Just Published 2018 ! 

Saluda: From Top to Bottom
by Matt Bumgarner

Rediscover the famous Saluda grade with this new book from Matt Bumgarner and Tarheel Press.

Matt has filled over 200 pages with more than 250 color and black and white photographs documenting the steepest mainline grade in the United States. Also included are floor-plans of many of the depots found along the route and the track charts for the full 66 mile route from Spartanburg SC to Asheville NC.

With a forward written by Jim Wrinn, you can expect this to be a thorough review of this amazing piece of Southern Railway history.

Available on Amazon.

From Trains Magazine September 2010
Preservation Department by Jim Wrinn
Reprint of this complete article.

Back Into The Fire
Norfolk Southern charts a new course
for a steam program with
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum



 March 16, 2019

We have now found that there are about 20 washouts to the road bed from Horse Shoe Curve to Saluda Down Town. In addition there are several minor mud slides over the tracks as well.  Some of this can been seen in the latest Google Earth Satellite photos. Several of these washouts are substantial - meaning they are deep cuts through the track road bed. The Trestle at Melrose Falls is now basically undercut so bad that it would not be recommend that you get on it for fear of falling and getting hurt.  There are two other washouts that have grown to be very large.

The Melrose safety track does not exist any more other that at the switch due to being buried and or having large trees growing up through the ties. Most all of the ties are now buried under ground or have completely rotted away.

Where ever there is Kudzu growing then the tracks are completely covered up and in the summer it is very dangerous due to snakes. These are Copperheads and Rattlers. Look before you step is highly recommended.

Keep in mind that a number of mud slides have occurred in this area due to the extremely high volume of rain that we have had over the last 5 months.  The estimated total is over 50 inches of rain most occurring in two different events.

The latest scuttlebutt is that the Charlotte to Asheville and west line is up for sale. The Asheville to Spartanburg line is all but closed down with a large train of container rail cars parked in storage and this is in the Hendersonville area. This line is still used to bring some freight down to the plants in the Hendersonville NC area but is handled by a new short line operation.

The line leaving Hendersonville and heading towards Rosman NC is now completely shut down. In Asheville the line that branches west towards the Smoky Mountain Railroad is still in use hauling freight on a as need basics.


October 11, 2018

After the major flooding from both of the hurricanes this month the ground in this area is very unstable at this time. There have been a number of mud slides in this area. I have not been able to walk the area to view everything. I have received the following reports from several rail fans that have walked the tracks from the Melrose area. These are their reports.

There are now major road bed areas that have washed out and making the track totally unserviceable.  There are several new areas that are eroding away in addition to the two locations that have completely wash out. All of the track can be walked from Tryon NC to the Lake Summit bridge. Be forewarned that the area of the Melrose Falls will require one to descend down to the river and cross over and climb back up to the track road bed. The other washed out areas are not so bad to cross over and if you are careful you can walk the tracks over some of the washouts.

In addition, I will advise you NOT to walk across the bridge at Lake Summit. This is a very dangerous bridge over very deep and cold water. In addition, there is a Hydro Electric intake very near this bridge and when the generators are in operation the current is very strong.


June 3, 2017

There is a second washout in the area of sand cut that has undermined the rails leaving the rails hanging in the air.  This can be accessed from the tunnel end or you can cross the trestle at Melrose and head up the grade to the wash out.  It is about midway between Melrose yard and the tunnel under the tracks.

There is still a third area that is starting to wash out just below Saluda. While this has not yet reached the tracks it is now very close.

Video of the bottom of the Saluda Grade at Melrose NC.  This was taped on June 3, 2017 using a GoPro Camera.  It was tripod mounted with a 360 motor mount under it.


September 7, 2016

This is the latest on the fate of the Saluda Grade. I have just found out that the entire line from Asheville NC to Spartanburg SC is up for sale. The spur out from Hendersonville NC towards Brevard NC has now been shut down and is no longer in use and thus is not being maintained. A private company has taken a lease on the tracks from Asheville NC to Hendersonville NC to run freight down as far as Hendersonville NC on a as needed very sporadic schedule. The tracks below the lower end of Hendersonville NC are now being used to store unused freight cars. These are mostly gondolas.  I suspect that they belong to NS. The tracks between Landrum and just north of Saluda are now covered in kudzu. Most to the ties are now rotting out. The safety track is now completely covered over and a large part is now buried under dirt and over growth. There are now trees growing up between the rails that are 6 to 12 inches across!


May 15, 2016

We learned that a section of track below the Melrose Falls trestle has wash out making the rails impassable. This is just south of the Melrose switch yard. To see the washout, go to the foot of the Melrose Grade and walk South. You must walk across the trestle over Melrose Falls so be careful and continue for about 100 yard down the tracks towards Tryon, NC.


April 2, 2003

The rails have been cut in just South of Landrum and North of Saluda. This is the first step in rail banking the tracks which most likely will then lead up to abandoning the rail line by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Pictures of the of cutting of the rails below Landrum SC

Pictures of the Melrose Switch Yard as of 2013 is sad to see.

Video of the bottom of the grade at Safety Track 2
This is what the track looks like today. These pictures were taken in 2017.
The safety track as noted above is totally overgrown.



The Carolina Heritage Line had tried to put in a passenger
service train between Spartanburg and Asheville which
would travel both ways - up and down the grade.
This has now failed as Norfolk Southern said flatly NO.

Norfolk Southern Pulls Plug on the Saluda Grade
No More Trains up and down the grade for a while!
Maybe forever!  Now it is NOT going to reopen unless
there is enough freight going to Charleston SC!

Then maybe they will consider it.

Read all about it here.

Greer Newspaper Published this article
about the grade.  Very interesting reading.

Read all about it here.





Concerning all pictures featured in this web page. 

ALL pictures either belong to Robin Michael in Tryon, NC
and web site or the original publishers. 

As such this is to inform you that all pictures have copyrights involved.

Camera Information:
All personal pictures are either taken on a slide film using a Olympus OM-2A with
a number of lenses of various focal lengths, on a Kodak Digital Zoom, Model 210
camera with a 40 meg memory card holding up to 175 photos in HiRes.

Later on all personal pictures were taken with a Canon 5d MK 2 with
several different lenses.  For the Video pans a GoPro-5 was use on a
custom mount panning device.

I will be adding a lot more pictures and text
as it becomes available to me.  Please check
back often for the updates or new arrow.

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Most all of the pictures shown are in Thumb Format, then
when you click on these thumb prints,
you will open a new window and have a
full size print with text about this photo.

I have now included several video shows as well.

Please use your browsers back arrow for navigation
and click your browsers refresh button for the updated screen.


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Looking down Safety Track No. 2 at the foot of the steepest part of the Saluda Grade.
The above picture was taken in July of 1992.

This safety track is now totally overgrown with fairly large trees and most of the
ties are totally rotten.  In a number of areas the spikes holding the rail are on their side.
Today the ties are all but gone having rotten out.  In places the rails have no ties left.
Trees now have taken over the entire run out from where you see the dirt road crossing
tracks. Most of the rails are now buried under mounds of dirt and fallen trees etc.


Tidbits and History of the Saluda Grade

Model Railroading and building a layout of the grade.

As Published by Bob Loehne of American AltaVista


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Last run of the 611 on the Saluda Grade

The Last run of the 611 Steam Excursion up Saluda Grade.  Please click on the pictures
for a larger version.  These are personal photos that I took at both locations.  By the way
when train chasing, one of the best ways to do it is from a motorcycle.  Traffic does not
slow you down when it is stopped!  Just worm your way through and you are on the way
to the next photo opt!


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Track Map for the Saluda Grade

The track map of the Saluda Grade starting just south of Tryon, North Carolina and going
just north of Saluda, North Carolina (Polk / Henderson County Line) are included in this
section.  This set of maps were reduced for down load size but the original scans are over
16 gigs each, being done at 300 dpi. These files are quite large and will take some time to
download to your computer.  Use the plans to do a model layout of the Saluda Grade.



Since the Saluda Grade is here in Polk County, North Carolina, and this is the Polk County Web Page, we have take the time to make this fantastic story of the Saluda Grade available to all who may or may not be train buffs.  This history lesson is really quite good!  This was the main passenger line with up to 4 passenger trains each way each day.  As time went by this rail line became nothing but a freight line.  Until the end of the passenger service, add the freight trains to the total train count and you had a lot of traffic on this line.   Please feel free to read all about it.

Trains Magazine did this fine major article in November 1984 Issue on the famous Saluda Grade.  Since this is no longer available in print - we have scanned it in hires PDF format.


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Trains Magazine Nov. 1984 - The Saluda Grade
 (PDF File Size 4.16 Meg)



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Town of Tryon Railroad Pictures

This is the beginning of the climb to Saluda.  Tryon, NC was considered the bottom
of the grade with Melrose in the middle and the steepest part of the grade and Saluda at the
top of the mountain.  Each town had many siding for trains to pass on or park
and unload their cargo.  While Tryon never was a marshaling yard it still had to hold trains
 pending track conditions and congestion at Melrose.


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Melrose Switch Yard Pictures

Pictures detailing some of the interesting areas as they now appear on the
Saluda Grade.  Most of the action happened in Melrose near the Safety Track
No. 2.   As such we have a collection of pictures on the link below that will
allow you to see the area.  All thumb prints will call a larger picture and text.
We will be adding pictures from 2012 to this collection taken in 1992.

Melrose is at the bottom of the grade and as such the trains were split up
to make it up to the top.  During the early days they kept additional
steam engines on hand to act as pushers at the end of the train so that
the trains could make it up the grade to Saluda NC. 


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Town of Saluda Railroad Pictures

Saluda Switch and the top of the grade. Saluda is where all trains were split up
or reassembled to go up or down the mountain. Pictures are of the trains that
have a mandatory stop here prior to going down the grade. Keep in mind that
the unit coal trains were NOT split up to go down the grade. Also these trains
had radio controlled engines attached to the rear of the train to act as either
pushers or used for dynamic braking of the the train as it descended the grade.



History of Saluda NC

The Saluda Railroad Station


Railroad Head Quarters of NS and CSX / Clinchfield

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Visit Norfolk Southern Headquarters


Also found in this area is CSX line
CSX bought the Clinchfield Line

Some links to Southern Railway Sites on the net.

Train Tours


Site constructed by
Robin Michael