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Just for an example, the STEEPEST mainline grade for the eastern US states is the Saluda grade on the former Southern Railway. It is 4% over most of its incline. There was actually a switch to direct trains into a "runaway" track (which was markedly steeper) should a train loose its brakes descending the grade. The switch was normally lined for the diverging route, and engineers had to give a special whistle signal before they got to that switch, to let the switch tender know that their train was under control. Then the switch would be set for the main route.

I suppose such an arrangement would be interesting to do on a model railroad, but it would consume an awful lot of real estate.

Regards,
David Meashey
 
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