Saluda is a little town down the mountain from us. It is at the top of the Saluda Grade. The Saluda Grade was the steepest main line standard-gauge railway line in the United States.
It is a beautiful drive from Hendersonville to Saluda and then down to Tryon.
Saluda today does not look much different from the scene in this old postcard. Main Street Saluda has little shops, restaurants and art galleries. There is a park bordering the train tracks. Nearby Nostalgia Court has more shops catering to visitors.
The drive along the old highway is really just beautiful.
The Saluda Grade was the steepest main line standard-gauge railway line in the United States until the train stopped running in 2001. The Saluda railroad grade drops 600 feet per mile. Main Street Saluda is 2,097 feet above sea level. The bottom end of the Saluda Grade, in Tryon, is 1,080 feet above sea level. In 1887, eight passenger trains passed through Saluda every day bringing 3,000 visitors through a year.
Back of Postcard
Southern Railway 2-8-2 4501 assaults Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline rail line, 4.7 percent, in the country at the Stop Board No. 2.
The line also passes through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains from Spartanburg, S.C. to Asheville, N.C.
July 8, 1972 Photo by A.M. Langley, Jr.
Saluda Grade is the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grade in the United States. It is still owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway. The route gains 606 feet in elevation in less than three miles. The average grade is 4.24 percent for 2.6 miles. The steepest is 4.9% for about 300 feet.
The Apple Valley Model Railroad Museum in the restored Historic Hendersonville Train Depot has a scale model of the Saluda Grade. There are sometimes displays about the trains at the Henderson County Heritage Museum at the Henderson County Historic Courthouse.
Freight traffic on this route was suspended at the end of 2001. They’ve talked about having some sort of passenger or tourist train, but nothing has come of it yet.