Hillclimbing (railway)

Last updated

Hillclimbing is a problem faced by railway systems when a load must be carried up an incline. While railways have a great ability to haul very heavy loads, this advantage is only significant when the tracks are fairly level. As soon as the gradients increase, the tonnage that can be hauled is greatly diminished.

Grade (slope) tangent of the angle of a surface to the horizontal

The grade of a physical feature, landform or constructed line refers to the tangent of the angle of that surface to the horizontal. It is a special case of the slope, where zero indicates horizontality. A larger number indicates higher or steeper degree of "tilt". Often slope is calculated as a ratio of "rise" to "run", or as a fraction in which run is the horizontal distance and rise is the vertical distance.



Early tramways and railways were laid out with very gentle grades because locomotive and horse haulage were so low in tractive effort. The only exception would be with a line that was downhill all the way for loaded traffic. Brakes were very primitive at this early stage.

Haulage is the business of transporting goods by road or rail. It includes the horizontal transport of ore, coal, supplies, and waste, also called cartage or drayage. The vertical transport of the same with cranes is called hoisting.

Where a railway has to cross a range of mountains, it is important to lower the summit as much as possible, as this reduces the steepness of the gradients on either side. This can be done 1990s with a summit tunnel or a deep summit cutting.

Summit A point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it, in topography

A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. The topographic terms acme, apex, peak, and zenith are synonymous.

Tunnel An underground passage made for traffic

A tunnel is an underground passageway, dug through the surrounding soil/earth/rock and enclosed except for entrance and exit, commonly at each end. A pipeline is not a tunnel, though some recent tunnels have used immersed tube construction techniques rather than traditional tunnel boring methods.

Cut (earthmoving) where soil or rock material from a hill or mountain is cut out to make way for a canal, road or railway line

In civil engineering, a cut or cutting is where soil or rock from a relative rise along a route is removed. The term is also used in river management to speed a waterway's flow by short-cutting a meander.

A summit tunnel can lower the summit even more, and steeper hills result in shorter tunnels. Also, tunnels cost the same no matter how much overburden there is, while cuttings tend to increase in cost with the square of the overburden.

Care had to be taken with summit tunnels in the early days of steam with designs that suffered from problems with smoke and slippery rail.

Ruling gradient

The ruling gradient of a section of railway line between two major stations is the gradient of the steepest stretch. The ruling gradient governs the tonnage of the load that the locomotive can haul reliably.

The term ruling grade is usually used as a synonym for "steepest climb" between two points on a railroad. More simply, the steepest grade to be climbed dictates how powerful the locomotive must be in order to complete the run without assistance. Even if 99% of the line could be run with a light locomotive, if at some point on the line there is a steeper gradient that a light engine would be unable to climb, this gradient "rules" that a more powerful locomotive must be used, in spite of it being far too powerful for the rest of the line. This is why special "helper engines" are often stationed near steep grades on otherwise mild tracks, because it is cheaper than running a too-powerful locomotive over the entire track mileage just in order to make the grade, especially when multiple trains run over the line each day.

Techniques to overcome steep hills

Some of the techniques that can be used to overcome steep hills include:

Cargo goods or produce transported

In economics, the words cargo and freight refer in particular to goods or produce being conveyed – generally for commercial gain – by water, air or land. Cargo was originally a shipload. Cargo now covers all types of freight, including that carried by rail, van, truck, or intermodal container. The term cargo is also used in case of goods in the cold-chain, because the perishable inventory is always in transit towards a final end-use, even when it is held in cold storage or other similar climate-controlled facility. The term freight is commonly used to describe the movements of flows of goods being transported by any mode of transportation.

Train A series of coupled vehicles for transporting cargo/passengers

A train is a form of transport consisting of a series of connected vehicles that generally runs along a railroad track to transport cargo or passengers. The word "train" comes from the Old French trahiner, derived from the Latin trahere meaning "to pull" or "to draw".

Bank engine Locomotive used to assist trains up steep inclines

A bank engine, banking engine, helper engine or pusher engine is a railway locomotive that temporarily assists a train that requires additional power or traction to climb a gradient. Helpers/bankers are most commonly found in mountain divisions, where the ruling grade may demand the use of substantially greater motive power than that required for other grades within the division.


Liverpool and Manchester Railway

The pioneering Liverpool and Manchester Railway was built at a time when choice between locomotive and cable haulable was not clear cut. Therefore, all hill climbing (1 in 100) sections was concentrated in one place where cable haulage by stationary engines could be used if necessary, while the rest of the line was engineered to be so gently graded (say 1 in 2000) that even primitive locomotives would have a chance of succeeding. As it turned out at the Rainhill Trials of 1829, locomotives proved capable of handling the short 1.6-km length of 1 in 100 gradients on either side of the Rainhill level.

Liverpool and Manchester Railway Railway in England

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was the first inter-city railway in the world. It opened on 15 September 1830 between the Lancashire towns of Liverpool and Manchester in England. It was also the first railway to rely exclusively on locomotives driven by steam power, with no horse-drawn traffic permitted at any time; the first to be entirely double track throughout its length; the first to have a signalling system; the first to be fully timetabled; and the first to carry mail.

Rainhill Trials

The Rainhill Trials were an important competition run in October 1829, to test George Stephenson's argument that locomotives would provide the best motive power for the then nearly-completed Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR). Five locomotives were entered, running along a 1 mile (1.6 km) length of level track at Rainhill, in Lancashire.

Since the early trains had primitive brakes, it was also necessary to have very gentle gradients to reduce the need for strong brakes. Sudden changes in gradients would have also overstressed the primitive couplings between the carriages.

The gentle 1 in 2000 gradients were made possible by very substantial earthworks and bridges.

Cromford and High Peak Peak Railway

The Cromford and High Peak Railway, which mainly hauled coal, also opened in 1830 but had gradients so steep - 1 in 8 - that cable haulage was essential. [1]

Redruth and Chasewater Railway

The Redruth and Chasewater Railway, a narrow gauge route across the Cornish peninsula (planned in 1818, opened in 1825) used a significant incline to access the harbour at Portreath, which like many in Cornwall sits in a steep valley.

Lancaster and Carlisle Railway

On the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway (L&CR) of 1847 a deep cutting was cut at the Shap Summit. This cutting was cut through rock, about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in length, and is between 50–60 feet (15.24–18.29 m) deep.

Docklands Light Railway

On the Docklands Light Railway the entrance to the tunnel from the original London and Blackwall Railway viaduct to the tunnel to Bank has the steepest gradient on any British railway at 1 in 17 (5.88%). A zig zag stripe has been welded to the rail surface to allow trains to gain a satisfactory grip, and prevent slipping.

See also

Related Research Articles

Funicular an inclined railway in which a cable moves a pair of permanently attached cars couterbalancing each other along a steep slope

A funicular is a transportation system designed for steep inclines — specifically using two counterbalanced and track-guided passenger cars permanently attached to the ends of a single cable — which is looped over a pulley at the upper end and is powered by a cable traction system. A number of tracking alternatives enable side by side passage of the funicular's two cars.

Rack railway railway on which trains are propelled by engaging a toothed rack wheel with a matching rail, in order to climb steep gradients

A rack railway is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails. The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on steep grades above around 7 to 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail. Most rack railways are mountain railways, although a few are transit railways or tramways built to overcome a steep gradient in an urban environment.

Rimutaka Incline former railway line

The Rimutaka Incline was a 3-mile-long (4.8 km), 3 ft 6 in gauge railway line on an average grade of 1-in-15 using the Fell system between Summit and Cross Creek stations on the original Wairarapa Line in the Wairarapa district of New Zealand. The term "Rimutaka Incline" is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to other parts or all of the closed and deviated section of the Wairarapa Line between Upper Hutt and Speedy's Crossing, near Featherston. The incline formation is now part of the Remutaka Rail Trail.

Fell mountain railway system third-rail system for railways that are too steeply-graded to be worked by adhesion

The Fell system was the first third-rail system for railways that were too steep to be worked by adhesion on the two running rails alone. It uses a raised centre rail between the two running rails to provide extra traction and braking, or braking alone. Trains are propelled by wheels or braked by shoes pressed horizontally onto the centre rail, as well as by the normal running wheels. Extra brake shoes are fitted to specially designed or adapted Fell locomotives and brake vans, and for traction the locomotive has an auxiliary engine powering horizontal wheels which clamp onto the third rail. The Fell system was developed in the 1860s and was soon superseded by various types of rack railway for new lines, but some Fell systems remained in use into the 1960s. The Snaefell Mountain Railway still uses the Fell system for (emergency) braking, but not for traction.

The Cromford and High Peak Railway (C&HPR) in Derbyshire, England, was completed in 1831, to carry minerals and goods between the Cromford Canal wharf at High Peak Junction (53.1002°N 1.5335°W) and the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge (53.3303°N 1.9848°W).

Leicester and Swannington Railway early British railway company (1832–1846)

The Leicester and Swannington Railway (L&S) was one of England's first railways, being opened on 17 July 1832 to bring coal from collieries in west Leicestershire to Leicester.

The São Paulo Railway Company was a privately owned British railway company in Brazil, which operated the 1,600 mm gauge railway from the seaport at Santos via São Paulo to Jundiaí. The company was nationalised in 1946 and became the Estrada de Ferro Santos-Jundiaí.

A gravity railroad or gravity railway is a railroad on a slope that allows cars carrying minerals or passengers to coast down the slope by the force of gravity alone. The speed of the cars is controlled by a braking mechanism on one or more cars on the train. The cars are then hauled back up the slope using animal power or a stationary engine and a cable, a chain or one or more wide, flat iron bands. A much later example in California used 4 ft 8 12 instandard gauge steam engines to pull gravity cars back to the summit of Mt. Tamalpais.

Lickey Incline stretch of 2 miles of 1 in 37.7 (2.65%) on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway between Barnt Green and Bromsgrove

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km). It is located on the Cross Country Route between Barnt Green and Bromsgrove stations in Worcestershire.

Cable railway railway that uses a cable, rope or chain to haul trains

A cable railway is a railway that uses a cable, rope or chain to haul trains. It is a specific type of cable transportation.

Hopton Incline

Until it closed in 1967 the Hopton Incline was the steepest stretch of conventional, adhesion-worked standard gauge railway running line in the UK. The incline was situated in sparsely populated, exposed limestone uplands in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England.

Düsseldorf–Elberfeld railway railway line

The Düsseldorf–Elberfeld railway is a 27 km long main line railway in Germany, originally built by the Düsseldorf-Elberfeld Railway Company, connecting Düsseldorf and Elberfeld via Erkrath, Hochdahl and Vohwinkel. It is served by Regional Express, Regionalbahn and S-Bahn trains.

Erkrath station railway station in Erkrath, Germany

Erkrath station is a through station in the town of Erkrath in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has two platform tracks and it is classified by Deutsche Bahn as a category 5 station.

Hochdahl station railway station in Erkrath, Germany

Hochdahl station is a through station in the district of Hochdahl of the town of Erkrath in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has two platform tracks and it is classified by Deutsche Bahn as a category 5 station.

A steep grade railway is a railway that ascends and descends a slope that has a steep grade. Such railways can use a number of different technologies to overcome the steepness of the grade.

Piha Tramway

The Piha Tramway was from 1906 to 1921 a 3-foot (910 mm) narrow gauge forest railway in New Zealand, the steepest sections of which were operated on inclines by steam-powered cable winches.