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Old 11-08-2019, 11:00 AM   #1
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Curved Grades

Laid hundreds of feet of HO track on the flat and am about to take it to the next level. Limited experience with straight grades and grade changes. Curved Grades is "fresh snow" and I would humbly accept any advice from those who have experience in such matters as to what to look out for and what problems I may encounter.

I know enough to know its a lot more tricky than what Ive been doing. I noticed the SPACE needed for an 18" radius 90 degree turn on the flat is NOT the same as required for an 18" 90 degree GRADE turn! Even 1% makes a BIG difference!

Thanks for any tips. Im going to try to keep the grade turns 22"-24" and 1-2%
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:21 AM   #2
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Woodland Scenics makes styrofoam ramps for building grades and they bend so you can make curved grades.

They have various grades and heights of ramps and straight runs. Here is an example...

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Old 11-08-2019, 01:37 PM   #3
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Chip, you mentioned grade changes. The transition from flat to incline, both ends, has to be even more gentle than the grade itself. If you go from flat to transition too quickly, cars might tend to uncouple due to the height change. Make sure you ease onto and off of the incline. Have fun!
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:01 PM   #4
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Yup learned the hard way about grade changes and try to keep then 1-2%, 3 % max and at 3 coupler issues CAN arise 4% changes you WILL have couplerthe woodland ramps are THE way to go! I made my straight grades variable with 4% in the middle and 1-2% 0n the ends.

I hesitate to put any more than 3% on a curving grade, I want to run long lashups and 4% is pushing the envelope on straight grades I don't want to build what I cant run on.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:43 PM   #5
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Just bouncing the plans off the forum if im RONG I'm counting on someone who has done it to steer me right. Really don't wanna mess it up it will be a sweet bit of layout if it comes out right.

Very excited to be back at it after a bout with the shingles and a loss of motivation. Had a blast on this table with all just flat track and some elevation is gonna make it a "real" layout...I might even try scenery this time!
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:41 PM   #6
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If you have an overpass, you can split the difference (height needed for clearance over the lower tracks). You make the lower ones dip about one inch over seven or eight feet, and the overpass tracks rise about the same, maybe a bit more, to get clearances under the overpass. Through girders are good bets, as are through trusses.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:00 PM   #7
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On mine I have a minimum radius of eighteen inches, and a maximum grade of 2.5% ... so far it's worked well with mostly geared steam ... flex track will make it's own easement going to and from the grades and curves .. sectional not so much, lol's HO as well ..mountain logging and mining, 1890's, no 'extra' added 'lectricity ...

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Old 11-08-2019, 06:48 PM   #8
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Don't forget that both the grade and the curve reduce the pulling ability of your loco, so a curved grade may actually cause your trains to stall. Test your locos before you make anything permanent.

For the Woodland Scenics products, they are awesome, and I've used them on 3 different layouts now. I actually prefer what they call incline starters, which are 4 pieces, each of which goes from 0 to a fixed height (1/2" for 1%, 1" for 2%, etc) instead of one long continuous incline. You use their risers or any foam board to make steps over which the incline starters run if you need a longer incline.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:49 PM   #9
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Here is an effective grade calculator for use on curves:

I used this to calculate the grades for both my mainlines which rise and fall on 22" and 24" radius curves, but particularly for my ÖBB mountain branch line that turns and rises on 18", 20", and 22" curves. This line is much steeper than the two mainlines and the steepest effective grade is 5.5%.

ÖBB 2143 has no trouble pulling a six coach train up these grades without breaking a sweat.

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Old 11-08-2019, 10:03 PM   #10
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I have curves on grades of 2% to 3% on my O gauge layout. The curve on the 3% grade is sharper than the ones on the 2% grade. The curves on grades aren’t a problem for most engines, but I do have a few that have trouble starting a load up the steeper grade with the sharper curves. I usually run the locos downhill on that section.

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