List of steepest gradients on adhesion railways
||This article is incomplete. (January 2010)|
The inclusion of steep gradients on railways avoids the expensive engineering works required to produce more gentle gradients. However the maximum feasible gradient is limited by how much of a load the locomotive(s) can haul upwards. Braking when travelling downhill is also a limiting factor. There have been various solutions to hauling rail mounted vehicles up or down inclines. These include simple rail adhesion, rack railways and cable inclines (including rail mounted water tanks to carry barges). To help with braking on the descent, a non load bearing 'brake rail' located between the running rails can be used, similar to the rail used in the Fell system, e.g. by the Snaefell Mountain Railway on the Isle of Man.
Tramways/Light rail often have higher gradients than heavier railways. This is because all wheels are usually connected to engine power in order to give better acceleration. 5% is not uncommon on them. Metros and pure commuter railways often also allow higher gradients, over 4%, for the same reason. High speed railways commonly allow 2.5% to 4% because the trains must be strong and have many wheels with the power to reach very high speeds. For freight trains, gradients should be as gentle as possible, preferably below 1.5%.
Steep gradients can be overcome by the use of rack equipment, however it is not practical to equip all locomotives with such equipment. The list below is of some of the steepest gradients on adhesion railways.
(In reverse order of steepness).
(C = Compensated for curvature)
- 1 in 6.9 (14.5%) - Calçada de São Francisco, Lisbon, Portugal
- 1 in 8.6 (11.6%) - Pöstlingbergbahn, Austria
- 1 in 9 (11.1%) - Cass Scenic Railway (former logging railway) West Virginia, USA
- 1 in 11 (9.1%) - Allentown light rail line Pittsburgh, USA; Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine railway, France
- 1 in 12.6 (7.9%) - Uetliberg railway line, Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn, Switzerland
- 1 in 13.7 (7.3%) - Montreux–Oberland Bernois railway, Switzerland
- 1 in 14 (7.1%) - Hopton Incline, Cromford and High Peak Railway, United Kingdom
- 1 in 14.1 (7.1%) - Erzberg Railway, Austria
- 1 in 14.2 (7.0%) - Bernina Pass, Switzerland; Sacramento Light Rail, Sacramento, California, USA
- 1 in 15.9 (6.3%) - Alishan Forest Railway Taiwan.
- 1 in 16.4 (6.1%) - Hunsrückbahn between Boppard and Buchholz, Germany. Built as rack railway
- 1 in 16.6 (6.0%) - Ligne de Cerdagne, France; Arica, Chile to Bolivia, with 100m radius curves.
- 1 in 18 (5.5%) - Near Alausi, Ecuador on line to Quito; Flåmsbanen, Norway; Höllentalbahn (Black Forest), Germany
- 1 in 19 (5.3%) - Camden Tram, New South Wales, Australia; Foxfield Railway, Staffordshire, England; Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh, India
- 1 in 20 (5.0%)/1 in 25 (4.0%) - Matheran Hill Railway/Matheran Light Railway (Nr. Mumbai), India
- 1 in 22 (4.5%) - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, India
- 1 in 22.5 (4.4%) - Thamshavn Line, Norway
- 1 in 25 (4.0%) - Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line, Germany; Chosica - Galera, Central Railway of Peru; Selketalbahn, Germany; Cumbres Pass, Colorado
- 1 in c25 (4.0%) - Batlow, Oberon and Dorrigo branches, all New South Wales
- 1 in 26 (3.85%) - Iquique Railway, Mexico
- 1 in 27 (3.7%) - Werneth bank, United Kingdom.; Mauritius Railways 
- 1 in 28 (3.6%) - LGV Sud-Est high-speed line, France