Model Railway Track Inclines
There is not a modeller out there that doesn't love the idea
of putting an incline on there layout. Hills, bridges and viaducts are some
of the most interesting and challenging structures to model. It also
increase the challenge of operating your layout with your trains having to
powered up the incline and brought back down again in a controlled manner so
not to get a runaway train.
The challenge of building such features are immense. In the
simplest form you can buy for example Hornby track supports along with
Hornby's kit bridges but these don't give a realistic look and are mainly
produced for children. To produce a first class incline you need to have the
sides filled in and the bridges need to be realistic.
Inclines are not suitable for part time railways. They can't
be used if you layout is hinged to a wall (unless you give clearance) or if
you have to pack it away after use. No matter how strong you make the
incline it will always be the first thing that gets damaged not to mention
the increase in weight to the base board. Consider this before you start
Things to think about:
If you plan to run trains (or anything else for that matter)
under the bridges you create consider how high they need to be. The tallest
loco I have is a class 90 with working pantograph which is 8cm (3.2 inches)
tall. Your locomotive will may not be this high but if you are planning or
think you might run a Hornby locomotive with pantograph you will need to
take account of its high.
Add the height of you locomotive on to the height of your
track (in my case 6mm) and then you have your minimum clearance.
I forgot to do this once resulting in a loco shed
with doors not high enough for my locos.
If you are using foam underlay this will greatly increase the height of the
track and thus your locomotives.
Realistic scale inclines may not be possible on your layout
as you don't have the room. The steeper the incline the harder it is for you
locomotive to pull its carriages/wagons up to the top. Also the faster the
train will descend if you don't reduce its speed. The last thing you want is
a runaway train.
My advise is to get all your current locos together along
with the maximum number of carriages or wagons they will be pulling and test
them out on a test track that you build. Adjust the steepness of the track
until the incline fits in the space you require and still allows all your
trains to get to the top comfortably. do this on your layout possible with
the aid or Hornby's track supports. Position them at different spacing until
you get the desired effect. If your trains cant make it or struggle to make
it, you may be forced not to build an incline or to modify your layout or
If traction is a problem then double heading may be an option
if you have two identical locomotives. This will double the traction, but at
the same time half the overall speed. I don't think this is possible with
3. Construction / Decoration
From all the magazines I have read,
the method of construction I like the best is to build the track bed out of
thin plywood, supported by thicker plywood vertical supports. Once that is
completed you simply fill in the side gaps in with model rock stretching
from the incline down to your base board (or a flat stone wall depending on
what you have decided). This should produce a strong flexible and light
structure. you are then free to decorate it with grass scatter, trees and
bushes etc. For advice on the use of grass scatter
Another methods include the use of
polystyrene foam to build up the incline in layers. This is done in a
similar method as how to build a hill out of polystyrene except will a flat
top. This is a better method if you are no good with wood work or if
lightness is of a very high priority. Its main down side is you cant hide
siding tunnels inside the incline and it can be susceptible to damage.
Click here to see how
polystyrene is used to make hills.
4. The Easy Way - Is to
buy track rises such as the ones pictured below by Hornby (R909 left, R658
These items have a simple and effective clip system to hold
the track in place. Be warned!! The
amount of track you need to rise and then descend is too big for most
layouts. Below is a picture of these Hornby incline piers in use.
As you can see most of this large layout is used to get the
track up to the level and back down again. Hornby recommend the following
minimum and preferred spacing:
"The minimum track running length to a height of 80mm with
supports at 24
sleeper intervals is approximately 1344mm. However for a more gradual
incline with the supports at 30 sleeper intervals the overall running length
increases to approximately 1680mm."
The person who's layout this is had this to say about the
Hornby incline piers:
"They are very easy to use in that they clip on to the track
like pegs. My opinion is they do not look very effective, and if I were to
use them I would cover them up. Having said that, on reflection I was not
taking the overall picture into account. If the layout was completed
with accompanying scenery, maybe I would have a different perspective."
[back to the top]