Gravity railroad

A Gravity railroad (US) or Gravity railway (UK) is a railroad on a slope that allow cars carrying minerals or passengers to coast down the slope by the force of gravity alone. The cars are then hauled back up the slope using animal power or a stationary engine and a cable, chain or one or more wide, flat iron bands. The speed of the cars is controlled by braking mechanism on one or more cars on the train. The typical amusement park roller coaster is designed from gravity railroad technology.

Types of gravity railroad

Some gravity railroads were designed to allow the weight of the descending loaded cars to lift the empty cars back up to the top, using a cable looped around a pulley at the top for a portion of the line. A later revision designed by John B. Jervis, used two separate tracks known as the loaded or heavy track going down hill, and the light track, used to haul the empty cars back to the top. This method allowed cars to travel in one direction without the need for passing sidings. A stationary steam engine and a looping cable, chain or iron bands were used to raise the empty cars up the lift planes. The cars then coasted down a slight grade to the next lift plane. When cars reversed direction at the ends of the line on a switch or turnout, the railroad was known as a switchback gravity railroad.

witchback gravity railroad

The term "switchback gravity railroad" was also sometimes applied to gravity railroads that used special self-acting (momentum-driven) Y-shaped switches known as switchbacks to automatically reverse a car's direction at certain points during normal travel along the line, rather than at the line's end. For example, if two such switches were used, an overhead view of that section of the line could resemble the letter Z. Several implementations of this system existed at various times on the Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad, and were very popular with the passengers. This railroad hauled coal and passengers from 1827 until 1933, and might possibly be restored.

elf-acting incline

In the UK, a self-acting incline is one in which the loaded wagons going down pull, via a cable and drum, the empty wagons going up. There might be two separate tracks, or a single track with a passing loop. This system was widely used on slate railways in Wales.

A variation on this system is the cliff railway for passengers. Both passenger cars are equipped with water tanks and, at the start, both tanks are full. Water is then let out of the tank on the lower car until the difference in weight between the two cars causes them to move.


United Kingdom

The Ffestiniog Railway in Gwynedd, northwest Wales, was built in 1832 to carry slate from quarries high in the hills to the sea at Porthmadog. The line was laid out for the wagons to descend by gravity, while horses were originally used to haul the empty wagons up the hill. On the downward journey the horses travelled in a Dandy waggon at the rear of the train. Later on, steam haulage was adopted. This narrow gauge railway is still operational but all passenger trains are now locomotive-hauled.

Demonstration gravity trains are still occasionally run using original wagons - up to 50 at a time. See: [ Ffestiniog Railway Heritage Group Wiki]

United States

In the United States, The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company operated an extensive gravity railroad system from 1828 until 1898. With 22 separate lift planes, the 55-mile (88 km) Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad was the longest, and operated until 1885. A portion of the railroad was purchased in 1886 by the recently constructed Shohola Glen Summer Resort (1882) and used until 1907.

Other inclined railroads

A funicular is not a true gravity railroad, as cars never coast freely and are always connected to a cable. A rack-and-pinion railway or rack railway is also not a true gravity railroad for similar reasons.

ee also

* Cable railway
* Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

External links

* [ The Shohola Glen Switchback Gravity Railroad]
* [ The Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • gravity railroad — noun or gravity railway : a railroad on which the cars run by gravity down slopes after being hauled up shorter but steeper inclines by stationary engines * * * a railroad depending partly on the force of gravity for motive power. * * * gravity… …   Useful english dictionary

  • gravity railroad — a railroad depending partly on the force of gravity for motive power. * * * …   Universalium

  • Delaware and Hudson Gravity Railroad — Delaware and Hudson Canal Co. Gravity Railroad Locale Pennsylvania Dates of operation 1829–1899 Track gauge …   Wikipedia

  • gravity railway — noun see gravity railroad …   Useful english dictionary

  • Gravity railway — Railroad Rail road (r[=a]l r[=o]d ), Railway Rail way (r[=a]l w[=a] ), n. 1. A road or way consisting of one or more parallel series of iron or steel rails, patterned and adjusted to be tracks for the wheels of vehicles, and suitably supported on …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Railroad — Rail road (r[=a]l r[=o]d ), Railway Rail way (r[=a]l w[=a] ), n. 1. A road or way consisting of one or more parallel series of iron or steel rails, patterned and adjusted to be tracks for the wheels of vehicles, and suitably supported on a bed or …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • railroad — /rayl rohd /, n. 1. a permanent road laid with rails, commonly in one or more pairs of continuous lines forming a track or tracks, on which locomotives and cars are run for the transportation of passengers, freight, and mail. 2. an entire system… …   Universalium

  • railroad — Synonyms and related words: L, accelerate, branch, browbeat, bulldoze, bully, bullyrag, bundle, bustle, cable railway, coerce, cog railway, compel, constitute, crowd, decree, dispatch, dragoon, drive on, el, electric railway, elevated, elevated… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • gravity switch — A switching of railroad cars from one track to another by allowing them to run detached from a locomotive down grade over the switch. 44 Am J1st RR § 454 …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Mauch Chunk and Summit Hill Switchback Railroad — Infobox nrhp name = Mauch Chunk and Summit Hill Switchback Railroad nrhp type = caption = Looking down at the Lehigh Canal landing, circa 1870. locator x = locator y = lat degrees = 40 lat minutes = 51 lat seconds = 3 lat direction = N long… …   Wikipedia

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