Abstract This paper presents calculations and experimental results obtained for a model pumping duct with a thermal gradient from room temperature to 80 or 15 K; the margin between numerical and experimental data is less than 10% at any flow regime. These results show that the pressure drop can be reduced drastically when the pumping duct is cooled, even taking into account the thermomolecular effect. Such a lowered pressure drop allows the use of smaller pumping systems. Moreover, since gas density varies inversely with temperature, the mass flow rate is several times higher for a pump operating at low temperature than for a conventional room-temperature pump. This modelization of the pumping duct will be integrated in the cryomechanical pump project.