Saluda Grade: North America’s Steepest Railroad

Published 11:16 pm Monday, September 2, 2019

Video Premiere



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SALUDA, NC–Drayton Blackgrove is a  Michigan-born filmmaker with a passion for railroad history. Raised hearing stories of his Great Grandfather, a Southern Railway engineer from Alabama, Blackgrove was inspired to start a YouTube Channel about railroads when he was only 13. His channel, called “Delay In Block,” is named after the railroad term and is a play on his initials. Delay In Block has grown to 60,000 YouTube Subscribers who tune in monthly to watch Blackgrove’s documentaries and railfan videos.


Saluda Grade: North America’s Steepest Railroad is the first in a new series Blackgrove is calling Abandoned Railways. The film covers the history of Saluda Grade from the first train in 1878 to the modern-day state of decay as Mother Nature reclaims the abandoned railroad grade as her own.


On September 6th, 2019, in conjunction with the Saluda Historic Depot, Blackgrove will be premiering the film at the museum’s Saluda Train Tales event (doors open at 6:30 PM, the program begins at 7 PM Eastern). Run time for the film is about one hour and will cover the history of operations on the grade between 1878 and 2001.


Interviews include Jim Wrinn of Trains Magazine, Dave O’Brien, Mark Ray, Cathy Jackson, and many more. The film is the first in-depth overview of the Saluda Grade’s history since the early 1990s and also covers the present-day condition of the grade which consists of washouts, kudzu vines, and fallen trees. Known as the steepest mainline railroad grade in North America, Saluda peaks at 5.1% with an average gradient of 4.25% over a distance of 2.6 miles.


Because of the operational challenges that both the Southern and later Norfolk Southern Railway faced here, rail traffic was rerouted over more forgiving lines in late 2001. The line has essentially been abandoned with the infrastructure still in place in case the line is ever needed again for operations.

Though the future of the Saluda Grade is uncertain, the rusty rails of this once mighty mainline are a solemn reminder of North Carolina’s influence on the economic and industrial growth of the United States throughout the 20th Century.


After the Train Saluda Tales event (hosted at the Saluda Historic Depot & Museum: 32 W Main St, Saluda, NC 28773), the film will premiere on Delay In Block Production’s YouTube Channel at 9 PM Eastern. There, online viewers may participate in a “live” broadcast that will feature a live chat room where participants may interact with the filmmaker, ask questions, or make comments related to the documentary. Once the live digital premier is finished airing, the film will be available publicly on YouTube in Delay In Block’s new “Abandoned Railways” series which covers other once-prominent US rail lines that are no longer in active service.


Both events are free to the public but donations to the Saluda Historic Depot Museum are welcomed and encouraged.


Teaser Link:


For questions please contact Cathy Jackson, 828-817-2876, or Dave O’Brien

Cathy Jackson