Welcome to the famous Saluda Grade!
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The management at Norfolk Southern have closed the grade to rail traffic. This decision was based on the economics of coal transportation and the complexities involved with operating trains on this length of track. To the best of my knowledge, the grade will not be reopened in the foreseeable future.
What is the Saluda Grade? Saluda Grade is the length of Norfolk & Southern mainline rail between Saluda, North Carolina and Melrose, N.C. The total length of the track between these two points is 3 miles. The vertical distance however, is 600+ feet. The steepest portion of the grade is 5.03% That makes Saluda the steepest grade on a mainline track in the United States.
When the grade was in operation, there were between twenty to thirty coal trains using it each month. Each train averaged one hundred cars. Each coal car weighed around 135 tons. So, each train carried about 1,300 tons of coal. That means the grade carried close to 32,500 TONS of coal a month. That is 390,000 tons of coal a year.