HOW STEEP IS THAT MOUNTAIN?
A SURVEY SURE TO SETTLE THE 112-YEAR OLD QUESTION.
By Bob Loehne
MELVIN WARREN, NS General Roadforeman of Engines, Piedmont Division - He says perhaps as steep as 5.3% and 5.4% near timing zone; Sand Cut is most shallow at 3%. Hill probably averages 4.5 to4.7%.
JOHN GILBERT, Crossties Over Saluda -- 5.03% at steepest point (reference an ICC 1940 investigative report), but in an 1982 update he quotes Association of American Railroads at 4.7% for maximum grade.
ASHEVILLE CITIZEN, April 20, 1928 - article by W. B. Heriot, "SALUDA GRADE IS REAL FEAT OF ENGINEERING." Heriot: Ascent is 885 feet in 3 miles. [That's 5.59%! Gees Louise, that hill really is steep!]
SPARTANBURG HERALD, July 30, 1933 - Harry Thomson, a prominent Spartanburg citizen in his day, showed a newspaper clipping supposedly from an older Spartanburg paper stating facts exactly the same as listed in the Asheville paper above. Neither paper had a fact source.
WASHINGTON POST, Don Phillips feature - 4.7% without reference
RAILROAD magazine, circa 1948, Taming Saluda, by Herbert G. Monroe, former trainman Southern Railway - 4.7% without reference.
1970 edition, Richard E. Prince. The grade varies between and 4.70% climbing 605 feet in 2.7 miles [4.24%]. He says the Melrose elevation is 1,494 feet and Saluda is at 2,099 feet,
TRAINS, November 1984, by Frank Clodfelter. Referencing I. R. Mauney, Frank says the grade is 4.7% with a short run at 5.1% just up the hill from Melrose (ie, near timing zone).
ASHEVILLE CITIZEN HERALD, in article by Sadie S. Patton, December 11, 1949 - " ..220 feet per mile.. " equals 4.2%; also refers to climb of 600 feet in 3 miles.
RAILFAN & RAILROAD, July 1985, photo story by R.A.Oom about January train forced onto #2 safety track - 4.7% twice without reference.
The NORFOLK SOUTHERN, in its video about taking a unit coal train down Saluda (Mountain of Challenge), says over 5% in certain sections and steepest at 5.4%. Sketchy company profile charts show just 4.4%.
BOB LOEHNE, circa 1990, Railmodeler's Guide to Saluda Mountain: By timetable the distance from Melrose to the crest is 2.7 miles, but Bob says actual grade covers only 2.5 miles. While the initial fall off from the crest is rapid, it is more than 1/10 mile before the grade reaches 4%. Likewise, the westbound tracks leave Melrose, cross the Pacolet River Bridge at about 1.5%, and don't reach 4% until more than l/10 mile west of Melrose. For Loehne's money, the real meat and potatoes of the grade is 2.5 miles and Prince's altitudes are correct.
Based on given figures (* below), if the grade is 2.5 miles, then:
Source -- Vertical Feet -- Grade %
1928 and 1933 news clippings above: - 885 feet* - 6.70%
Clodfelter, Mauney, Phillips, R&R, Monroe: - 620 feet - 4.70%*
Richard Prince, book above: - 605 feet* - 4.58%
Sadie Patton, article above: - 600 feet* - 4.55%
Southern Railway/Norfolk Southern Profile: - 580 feet - 4.40%*
You be the Judge! How steep is the famous Saluda Grade