Why is the Saluda Grade Such an Important Piece of History?

Did you know that Orchard Inn was once the home of railroad workers for the Saluda Grade? If our inn’s walls could talk, we can only imagine what they’d say. Built by the Brotherhood of Clerks for Southern Railway in 1926, the simple farmhouse-style lodging was created as a summer getaway for railroad employees and their families. The history of the Saluda Grade has become part of our story!

What is the Saluda Grade?

The Saluda Grade is a portion of the railway owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway. Its claim to faim is that it is the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grade in all of the U.S. It gains a miraculous 606 feet of elevation in less than just 3 miles in the area between Melrose and Saluda, North Carolina. To put that in perspective, the average maximum gain is just 300 feet.  

History of the Saluda Grade

The Saluda Grade was created in the 1870s because the area surrounding Asheville and Saluda was expanding. Residential areas were being created as well as merchants expanding their selling areas. In those times, trains and railways were the main means of transportation. However, the route to get to these areas was incredibly steep. When the railway realized they had no other choice, they decided to make one of the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grades in the country. The railway line was owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway as part of its W Line and connected Spartanburg, South Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina. It was because of the Saluda Grade that our area has been able to expand.

Saluda Grade Today

After the mass production of cars, the shift began away from railways as the main means of transportation. Over time, the Saluda Grade got used less and less. Parts began to be sold to other companies but even then went out of use. However, locals still celebrate the Saluda Grade! As one of the main reasons our small town was so successful, we still remember the Saluda Grade fondly.

Saluda Historic Depot

If you’re interested in learning more about the Saluda Grade, a small museum has recently opened up in the Saluda Historic Depot. Locals decided that this was an important piece of the town’s history that needs to be preserved, so they worked tirelessly to secure loans and donations to turn it into a museum. Now, you can visit the museum to learn about the area and the railroad’s past. Admission is free, but donations are always appreciated!

Stay at the Historical Orchard Inn

Orchard Inn is a huge piece of Saluda history. When it was first built, the inn was not open to the public. It was created only as a summer getaway for railroad employees and their families. Originally called the Mountain Home, it closed before opening and closing multiple times as it bounced around owners. Now, Orchard Inn has gone through extensive renovations and repairs to create the bed and breakfast you know and love today!

Choose to stay in our rooms or cottages. The elegant intimacy and warm hospitality of the Orchard Inn create the perfect atmosphere for an unforgettable stay. Come experience the calm of western North Carolina mountains! Book your stay today!