10 Railways With the Steepest Gradients in the World

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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.

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.

1.) Cologne-Frankfurt High-speed Railway

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The Cologne-Frankfurt High-speed Railway in Germany is a 177-kilometer long railway line that connects the cities of Cologne and Frankfurt. The line’s grades of up to four percent require trains with a high power-to-weight ratio which is currently only met by third-generation Intercity Express trains. It was constructed between 1995 and 2002 and has one of the world’s steepest gradient.

2.) Kalka–Shimla Railway

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The Kalka–Shimla Railway is a 762 mm narrow gauge railway in North-West India travelling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for breathtaking views of the hills and surrounding villages.

3.) Lickey Incline

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The Lickey Incline is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain and is situated south of Birmingham, in England. The climb is a gradient of 1-in-37.7 (2.65%) for a continuous distance of 3.2 km.

4.) Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

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Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a State Park located in West Virginia, USA. It contains the Cass Scenic Railroad, an 18 km long heritage railroad that is owned by the state of West Virginia. The park also includes the former company town of Cass and a portion of the summit of Bald Knob, highest point on Back of Allegheny Mountain.

5.) Flam Line

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The Flam Line is a 20.2-kilometer long railway between Myrdal and Flam in Aurland, Norway. The line's elevation difference is 863 meters. The line has ten stations, twenty tunnels and one bridge. It has a maximum gradient of 5.5 percent (1:18), making it the steepest standard gauge railway in Europe. Because of its steep gradient and picturesque nature, the Flam Line is today exclusively a tourist service and the third-most visited tourist attraction in Norway.

6.) Ffestiniog Railway

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The Ffestiniog Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway located in Gwynedd, Wales. It is a major tourist attraction located mainly within the Snowdonia National Park. The railway is roughly 21.7 km long and travels through forested and mountainous scenery. The line is single track throughout with four intermediate passing places.

7.) Liverpool and Manchester Railway

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The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first inter-city passenger railway in the world in which all the trains were timetabled and were hauled for most of the distance solely by steam locomotives. The line opened in September 1830.

8.) Camden Railway Line

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The Camden Railway Line is a closed railway line between Campbelltown and Camden in the southwestern outskirts of Sydney, Australia. The passenger service was also known as the 'Camden Tram'.

9.) Thamshavn Line

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The Thamshavn Line was the first electric railway of Norway. It runs from 1908 to 1974. Today it is operated as a heritage railway and is the oldest railway running on its original alternating current electrification scheme in the world.

10.) Brecon and Merthyr Junction Railway

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The Brecon and Merthyr Junction Railway was one of several railways that served the industrial areas of South Wales and Monmouthshire. It ranked 5th amongst them in size.. It notably gained the unfortunate nickname of "Breakneck and Murder Railway" owing to a certain tendency towards having accidents - which, owing to the steep gradients, were generally rather severe.

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Ken Brace
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