5.5% Grade, testing pulling power!

N-Scale 5.5% Grade testing pulling power.

Many people think the Tenessee Pass at 10,248 ft is the highest route the D&RGW had over the Rockies. In fact, Marshall Pass (part of the Royal Gorge Route) crossed over the Rockies at 10,846 feet. While Marshall Pass was mainline, it had a few drawbacks coming into the 50s that caused the D&RGW to abandon the line around Mile Marker 220. First, it was still Narrow Gauge, and second, it had a significant amount of 4% trackage on both sides of the mountain.

Breaking the rules

Rules are “guidelines” and are meant to be broken. But one is not allowed to break the rules unless one knows the rule and what the rule’s intent is.

As far back as I can remember (mid-90s), the NMRA has always recommended a 2% grade and cautioned not to exceed 3%. I found recommendations in two magazines from the 50s stating 2% is the max.  

With N-Scale, it’s difficult to get that “Big Mountain” look in a small room with a 2% grade, and I want more of a dramatic scene and the challenges that comes with a 4% grade. My back wall is 10 feet across, and by the “rule,” that’s only a 2-inch rise – blah! Unraveled, my mountain section is 475 inches long (39.5ft / 6,334 scale ft) and currently averages 3.2% with a 3.4% ruling grade. But I still want more! 

So this weekend, I set out to see how much I can realistically get out of my weakest locomotives. I have a pair of steam engines, so I started with one. Then my older Atlas GP30, which had to have the frame milled to get a decoder installed, as well as my smallest switcher. I set up a ramp with some Kato track, settled in on a 5.5% grade, and loaded them up with some rolling stock. Here are the results.

Side note: Being new to N-Scale, I have been using some old Kato track I bought used online. This makes testing various designs, curves, and grades very simple.