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French Train Breaks Speed Record 612

Posted by Zonk
from the zooom dept.
Josh Fink writes "A French train on the TGV line has broken the wheeled train speed record - again. At a speed of 350 miles per hour, they came close to breaking the all time record of 361 miles per hour, held by a Japanese maglev train. It was last broken back in 1990. From the article: 'The TGV, short for "train a grande vitesse," as France's bullet trains are called, is made up of three double-decker cars between two engines. It has been equipped with larger wheels than the usual TGV to cover more ground with each rotation and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine, said Alain Cuccaroni, in charge of the technical aspects of testing.'"
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French Train Breaks Speed Record

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  • by Rhett's Dad (870139) * on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:56PM (#18590829) Homepage
    Yes, but can it answer riddles?
    • by JFMulder (59706)
      Great Dark Tower reference, I'd mod you up if I had points. I gotta start book 6 soon. :)
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:59PM (#18590903)
    a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine

    25000hp and most of it is used to push air in front of, and around the train. I wonder how much it would cost to build a vaccuum tunnel to run very high speed train in at a fraction of the power required by the TGV...
    • by Kranfer (620510) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:04PM (#18590993) Homepage Journal
      I saw something on ITunes... Maybe Extreme Engineering or Modern Marvels or something along those lines having to do with that for a tunnel going between NYC and London... Vacuum sealed and mag lev. They said the train could travel at close to 5000 mph IIRC... Its a very interesting idea. The episode is worth purchasing on ITunes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        We need these trains bad. Wouldn't it be nice to work in CA and go home to some farm out in the middle of nowhere. It's pretty obvious airlines are no longer reliable forms of transportation with poor service, delayed flights, lost luggages.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Volante3192 (953645)
          And driving's a joke.

          At least someone's working on a project that's beneficial to growing metropolises (metropolii?)

          France makes a train going 350mph. What does the US make as it's engineering masterpiece? The H3...
          • by endianx (1006895) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:20PM (#18591307)
            Uh, ever heard of "nation building"?
          • Totally Offtopic (Score:5, Informative)

            by Logic and Reason (952833) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:42PM (#18592777) Homepage
            The plural of the English word "metropolis" is, indeed, "metropolises." If you want to be pretentious, the Latin plural is "metropoles," and the ancient Greek plural is "metropoleis." "Metropoli" is only used by idiots who don't know Latin but like to pretend they do, and "metropolii" is right out.
          • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @05:36PM (#18595129) Homepage

            And driving's a joke.

            At least someone's working on a project that's beneficial to growing metropolises (metropolii?)

            France makes a train going 350mph. What does the US make as it's engineering masterpiece? The H3...
            This is useless for intra-city travel. The only stretches of track that are going to be capable of carrying trains like this are long ones between major cities with no intermediary stops, not to mention the amount of distance you need to get up to speed and slow down. This will be used for Paris-Marseille and nothing shorter. In most cases, these high-speed trains cannot even utilize the same track as the medium and short range trains; they have to build a completely separate infrastructure to support the TGV, ICE, or what have you. Basically, they are targeting the market space currently occupied by short distance airlines, with business travelers as their primary target audience.

            That is actually a major problem across western Europe right now. Train companies are slowly abandoning medium and short range stretches in favor of the more lucrative business traveler market, and investment in the medium and short range track and trains is languishing, resulting in deteriorating quality and frequency of service. As such, people are forced from the trains to private cars, which bring all the problems of pollution and urban sprawl that we Americans know so well. Furthermore, at these speeds trains do not run much more energy efficiently than planes either.

            That is what happens when you privatize things that should be public services.

        • It's pretty obvious airlines are no longer reliable forms of transportation with poor service, delayed flights, lost luggages.
          You have an interesting take on what constitues reliable when considering airtravel.
        • by Kranfer (620510) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:13PM (#18591163) Homepage Journal
          I hear you on airline woes... I tend to fly a lot... I have NEVER in the past 2 years left on time from my departure... or had accurate gate information, and even when I flew back to NY in December for Christmas, NWA told me I *HAD* to check my laptop bag... end result... smashed laptop screen, Wonderful huh? But these trains are the way of the future. I would love to be able to head on out to CA and be there in an hour and not have to worry about airline garbage.... Maglev and vacuum tunnels all the way man!
          • by thsths (31372)
            > I have NEVER in the past 2 years left on time from my departure...
            > NWA told me I *HAD* to check my laptop bag...

            This might have something to do with your choice of airline. I have flown with a number of airlines, and most of them are friendly, reliable and on time. Not NWA, though.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Melkman (82959)
          The only problem with trains is that they take you from somewhere where you are not to somewhere you don't want to be. I want to get home from work. To use the train I first must get to the station and when I arrive I must get from the station to my home. In your example it will probably not be to difficult to get from work to a station in CA, but from a station to the middle of nowhere is gonna be a problem. A high speed train that stops every 10 miles isn't a high speed train anymore.

          • by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:03PM (#18592079)
            TGV is an intercity train, so in reality the concept of a train station is not really that different from an airport. The big advantage that train stations have is that they take up much less space and there are usually train lines that run into the center of most cities. I'd much rather take a train from city center to city center than make my way to a sprawling airport on the outskirts (probably on a commuter train... oh, the irony).
          • Not for commuting. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @04:05PM (#18593253) Homepage Journal
            The TGV isn't a commuter train. It's point-to-point transportation. We don't really have anything that's quite its equivalent here in the U.S. (anymore -- we did, once, back in the days of effective passenger rail and high-speed inter-urbans) because Amtrak is so fucked up. But you wouldn't be using this to get in and out of the city center to the 'burbs every day; you'd go into the city to get on one, to go to another city.

            The infrastructure you'd need around a major intercity train station in the U.S. would be basically the same stuff you need around an airport; lots and lots of parking for people to leave their cars, access to local transportation, etc. The advantage of trains over planes, however, is that you can put the stations right downtown, hopefully maximizing the number of people who can get there without driving, by using existing public transportation, and also minimizing travel time for people who want to get to the city center as a destination.

            About the only place in the U.S. where you can approximate this right now, is in the Northeast Corridor, going from say Washington, DC to New York. If you want to fly, you have to get from downtown DC out to one of the airports: if you're lucky, Reagan (practically downtown), if you're unlucky or flying on a discount airline, Dulles or BWI. Then you have to go through the usual security checkpoint rectal-probery, find the gate, board the plane, fly, get off the plane, find your luggage, and get to downtown NYC from JFK or LaGuardia. Total PITA. Amtrak, when it's not running late (granted, almost never), lets you walk into Union Station in downtown DC, walk onto the train, sit down for a few hours, and walk off at Penn Station. Platform to platform, the Acela is about three hours, and it's slower than molasses compared to the European trains.

            Now, really the only reason that the Acela is borderline competitive, is because the airlines and the FAA seem to be trying as hard as possible to make the flying experience like getting in a boxcar bound for Auschwicz (but without the efficiency, and probably more lost luggage). If you got rid of all the security checkpoints and just compare travel time, the Acela barely scrapes 100MPH on most days (which is actually slower than the big 8'-driver steam passenger locomotives of a generation ago were capable of), so a jet going 400-500 MPH is obviously going to be faster. But if you can push the train up to 300+MPH, and realize that the airplane is always going to have more "overhead time" because of the distance you have to put airports from cities (to keep them from running into the buildings, noise, etc.), they become a lot more competitive.

            Commuter trains are always going to be hobbled by low population density. However, high-speed inter-urban trains operate according to much the same business principles that airlines do. They just need to be much more careful in laying out their routes, because unlike airlines, it's tougher for them to just re-jigger flights when they're not making money. However, there are a number of routes that are probably almost guaranteed to be profitable in the U.S. if you can get the times down to within 100-150% of a plane flight: LA to San Francisco (and then SF to Seattle) is probably a good one on the West Coast, and maybe even LA to Las Vegas. The Boston-NYC-Philadelphia-DC corridor is already profitable with current technology, and would only get better. Extending it down to Atlanta would complete the "BAMA" corridor, and you could hit the high-tech areas in NC along the way, probably.
      • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:14PM (#18591179) Homepage
        I'd sure want to ride it. Having traveled around Japan by train for three weeks, I've grown quite fond of rail travel. It's a nice way to get around. Especially those Shinkansen. Picture your typical airplane trip: you drive a good distance to the airport, drive around in it for a bit, get to some overpriced pay parking, check your baggage, go through security, wait (and hope you didn't miss your flight, because you'd have to reschedule because they're so infrequent), board, wait, taxi, wait, takeoff... now you can finally relax and use electronics in your cramped seat with the loud engines roaring. You land, wait, taxi, wait.. and if you have to change planes, repeat. And so on.

        Here's how a shinkansen ride with a rail pass goes in Japan. You take a subway straight to the train station. You walk a very short distance. The trains arrive every few minutes. No security checkpoints -- you just wave your pass as you walk past the counter. You take any seat; they're all the equivalent of an airplane's business-class, or better. Use your electronics right away if you want. It pulls out of the station and accelerates quickly, quitely. You even get the pretty countryside scrolling right past you as you go. What's not to like?

        Oh, and to the people (further down) who suggested that the trains would cause "smoke" -- at least in Japan, the bullet trains (and almost all trains, except those in very remote places) are electric -- "densha" (electric-car). Electric trains are so prevalent that even the few non-electric trains are still called densha.
        • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:32PM (#18591519)
          I don't have the numbers on hand, but aircraft are hugely polluting and trains are a lot better. Worse still, planes dump their output at high altitudes where the blanketing effect is far greater.

          High speed trains are definitely a better way to go on that score.

        • by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:39PM (#18591651) Homepage Journal
          I'll put in another vote for the desirability of high speed rail. You do need a fairly densely populated rail corridor to really make it really worthwhile, but the east coast of the US would/should qualify. I'm now living in Canada and would kill for rail service through Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal that is even comparable to the "limited express" service in Japan (which still rattles along at a healthy 120-180kph). The passenger rail service here is terrible -- the tracks are owned by the freight rail company so you end up with the already far too slow passenger trains having to pull off for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to let freight trains past. You should be able to do Toronto to Montreal in about 2 hours with high speed trains, and even less time for Toronto to Ottawa. Instead the scheduled times take over 4 hours, and the trains are consistently anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour late. In all my travelling in Japan by rail I have once seen a train that was late, with the board announcing it would be arriving precisely 3 minutes behind schedule (which it duly did). The rest of the time you can (and in fact I did) set your watch by when the train pulls away from the station. I loved rail in Japan -- it was simple, efficient, comfortable, and took you city centre to city centre. I wish we had anything even vaguely comparable in North America.
          • by TinyManCan (580322) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:57PM (#18591973) Homepage
            Yeah, if all out population in the US was situated with very high density in an almost straight line, rail would be an option.

            Sadly, the American Dream includes owning a Home, with a yard and all that fun stuff. This means that we don't have the population densities outside of a few major metropolitan areas to support rail travel.

            The other downside is that our population centers are _far_ away from each other. People from Asian or European countries just don't understand how much space lies between American cities.

            The United States today does not have the economics going for rail transport that some other countries have. That is why we don't have the rail transport systems that other countries have. It doesn't make economical sense.

            • by wiggles (30088) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:08PM (#18592151)
              I'd mod you up if I had points.

              While vacationing in Italy, I found rail travel to be fantastic. It was so simple just to go from city to city to see the sights by rail -- a couple hours from Florence, and you're in Rome. Nice.

              While there, I got into a conversation with a couple from Crete who were planning to visit the US the following year. They asked if they could drive from New York to Chicago, to New Orleans. They were thinking they could do it in maybe a day! They had no idea just how much time it would take to do that.

              Rail is best used for short passenger trips (ex. suburb to city daily commutes) and long haul, large capacity cargo trips in this country. Unless you're traveling in the northeast, forget rail for anything else. It's just not practical.
            • by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:44PM (#18592843) Homepage Journal

              Yeah, if all out population in the US was situated with very high density in an almost straight line, rail would be an option.
              Sadly, the American Dream includes owning a Home, with a yard and all that fun stuff. This means that we don't have the population densities outside of a few major metropolitan areas to support rail travel.
              While it is true that overall the US population is spread over a very large area, there are certainly regions of the US that are sufficiently densely populated that a rail system would be reasonable. In particular there is the east coast, particularly the Boston/New York/Philadelphia/Baltimore corridor. It is sufficiently dense that they already technically have a "high speed train" there -- its just that they never upgraded the tracks for it, so the train doesn't actually go very fast, and the service is poor and always late. If The US and Canada could cooperate there's also a good potential corridor along Chicago/Detroit/Toronto/Montreal/Quebec.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by fiannaFailMan (702447)

              The United States today does not have the economics going for rail transport that some other countries have. That is why we don't have the rail transport systems that other countries have. It doesn't make economical sense.

              I don't think anyone's suggesting a high-speed train from NY to San Francisco. There are parts of the US (like the Eastern seaboard, California, etc.) where there are large cities reasonably close to each other at distances where high-speed rail would be feasible. It would make perfect ec

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by demonbug (309515)

                It would make perfect economic sense in those areas.

                The real stumbling blocks include the lobbying power of the motor industry, and the fragmented local government structure on places like California where it would take a miracle to get a straight railway line through the backyards of all the NIMBY merchants.

                There is a plan in place, at least for California, to build a high-speed rail system [ca.gov]. While getting rights of way can be a bit of an issue, the main factor is cost. It would cost something like $33 billion to build the system (to connect LA, San Diego, Sacramento, and the bay Area it would require a system built from scratch that is approximately the size of the entire French high-speed system (~750 miles according to wikipedia), which has been built in stages over the last 30 years), and it is very unli

            • by init100 (915886) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @05:42PM (#18595219)

              The other downside is that our population centers are _far_ away from each other. People from Asian or European countries just don't understand how much space lies between American cities.

              I do (I'm Swedish). I once visited California, and going there was an interesting experience. We changed planes in New York. The travel time to New York from Sweden was about eight hours, which isn't so strange, as the Atlantic is a large ocean. The interesting part was flying to San Francisco, which took six hours. In other words, we had only got about half the way when we arrived in New York.

              From that experience, I'd say that the main problem in covering the entire US with a HS rail network are the vast expanses of (comparably unpopulated) land in the Rocky Mountains and surrounding area. After taking off from New York, We reached the Detroit area after less than one hour IIRC, and Chicago less than one hour after that. But then, there were a lot of nothingness, first an endless grid of farms, and then mountains and desert in the rockies before finally reaching California.

              California could probably have a HS rail network, and so could the east coast. But the land in between is probably too large to hope for a HS rail network anytime soon. Maybe if/when the costs of maglev go down it could be done, but before that I don't think so. Besides, I don't think people would be willing to spend 24 hours on a high-speed (250 km/h, about 150 mph) run from coast to coast. A speed of 500 km/h (300 mph), cutting the trip to 12 hours, would be more tolerable.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by DerekLyons (302214)

                The other downside is that our population centers are _far_ away from each other. People from Asian or European countries just don't understand how much space lies between American cities.

                I do (I'm Swedish).

                No offense - but no you don't, and your account makes that quite clear.

                After taking off from New York, We reached the Detroit area after less than one hour IIRC, and Chicago less than one hour after that. But then, there were a lot of nothingness,

                If you get south of that line, you pre

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:05PM (#18592109) Journal
            The east coast of the US does qualify. And we already have a high-speed train.

            Unfortunately, there are several factors that keep it from being a useful project. The first of which is that a round trip from Boston to New York costs the same as a flight from boston to NY. With almost as much hassle, and bit more time on in transit, it just doesn't make sense for passengers.

            The second is that it's not high speed. The train is nice. The ride is smooth. It can travel up to 165 mph, but averages less than 70 due to sharing a less than ideal track with conventional trains.

            I don't know what the problem is. The technology exists, the market is there, but there just doesn't seem to be the will to do anything other than half-assed measures. I suspect it's because AMTRAK, the organization which runs the trains in the NE corridor, has found a revenue source that doesn't actually depend on ridership.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by skoaldipper (752281)

              I don't know what the problem is.

              Neither do I. But down here in Texas, railroads are making a strong comeback - many OTR drivers are leaving because of the high price of gasoline as well. Here in Dallas, DART rail is quite successful and spreading it's tentacles all over the metroplex.

              The whole argument of population density here in the States is a load of sheep. The United States has roughly the same land area as China, and likewise, has a majority of high population density tilted on the East coast.

              Whe

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        5000 mph is 8046 km/h. Escape velocity is 11.2 km/s. This train would travel at 2.2 km/s. So, it wouldn't quite be able to launch itself into space, but if you put some rocket boosters on it to continue with this speed, then you could probably find a really cheap way to launch stuff into space. Point this tunnel towards the sky, and you would get pretty high up. Also, it would take less speed to get into orbit, as opposed to actually escaping the earth's gravity.

        I'm just wondering about the accelerati
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by imuffin (196159)
        The episode is worth purchasing on ITunes.

        You mean Here? [thepiratebay.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:05PM (#18591011)

      25000hp and most of it is used to push air in front of, and around the train. I wonder how much it would cost to build a vaccuum tunnel to run very high speed train in at a fraction of the power required by the TGV...


      A perfect vacuum would be quite expensive, but we could lower the pressure significantly by running the train at a higher elevation. Now, 5 mile high tracks are going to be a problem, so we are going to have to find a way to get the train up there without having to build an elevated track.

      Perhaps if we put "wings" on the sides, when the train worked up enough speed, it might lift itself up to an elevation with lower pressure.

      That just might work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        > 5 mile high tracks are going to be a problem

        Just suspend them from a geostationary orbital platform with buckytubes.

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      My understanding is that you don't really need a vaccuum tunnell, as long as you don't start/stop. Once you start pushing the air, it keeps going.

      They could try merely an enclosed tunnell, it keeps the moving air in front of you, instead of having it shoot off in all directions.

      • Fluids don't work that way. If there's air in the tunnel, the tunnel walls will create friction due to the no-slip condition [wikipedia.org]

      • by TigerNut (718742)
        Ummm... your understanding is kinda flawed on a number of counts. Do a thought experiment: If you're traveling in an enclosed tunnel, even a virtual one, how much air is there in front of you that you have to push? Is it finite or does it just keep on increasing as you travel forward? How much inertia does all that air have? Now consider that behind you, there's a similar volume of air that you need to pull along. In front, where does the air that you're pushing go - and behind you, what happens to the air
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        in the words of the all-knowing Morbo...

        PHYSICS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY
    • by InterGuru (50986)
      This has been proposed often. See http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/5e610b4511b8 4 010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html [popsci.com].

      There is still a limitation on speed. As the train approaches earth orbital velocity (abut 7.75 km/sec ), the centripedal force approaches the force of gravity (excuse my sloppy language), the passengers become weightless, and some will get "space-sick" ans start barfing all over the place.
    • a href="http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/sup pes.htm">According to this paper about US$10MM/mi for his plan, US$17.9MM for regular-sized maglev trains with bi-directional guideway. That's at 0.2 atm, similar to jetliner flight pressure.
    • 25,000 hp sustained is a ton! I wonder how they keep it from melting. Top fuel drag cars are getting in the neighborhood of 8000 hp now, but the engines start to melt after just a few seconds. The transmission actually welds itself together and has to be "rebuilt" after every 1/4-mile run. However, this train probably doesn't do a 1/4 mile in 4.4 seconds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)
        The train motor is electric, which is very efficient. If it's 85% efficient, only about 3800 hp has to be dumped as heat from the train, and this is from a huge vehicle that has plenty of room for cooling equipment (of course, a 40% efficient central electric power plant would be dumping an additional 70,000 or so hp from its stacks or coolers somewhere else).

        A gasoline engine is only about 25% efficient, so the dragster has to dump at least 24,000 hp as heat from a much smaller volume. However, top fuel d

  • And yet (Score:3, Informative)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:01PM (#18590941)
    Even in France, 9 in 10 passenger miles are not by rail.

     
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thsths (31372)
      > Even in France, 9 in 10 passenger miles are not by rail.

      Yep, and especially in France, 50% of the time of a journey is spent getting to the station, waiting for the train, waiting for a connection, waiting for the industrial action to be over etc...

      The speed of the train (just like the speed of a car) is just one piece of the puzzle. What people want is fast and easy door to door travel.
  • One little engine that could, and a whole lot of others that think they can *sigh*

    Life is choochoo - all aboard!
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:04PM (#18590985) Homepage
    It has been equipped with larger wheels than the usual TGV to cover more ground with each rotation and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine

    And they would have beat the overall record, except that at the last second they decided to add an aftermarket spoiler, a 40,000 watt subwoofer and ground effects.
    • The TGV already has ground effects*, you insensitive clod!

      (*Unlike a ricer's, however, the TGV's ground effects actually work.)

    • by XSforMe (446716)
      "they decided to add an aftermarket spoiler, a 40,000 watt subwoofer and ground effects."

      Yea, but they also added a "VTec" and "Type-R" stickers, so that should compensate for the exra load. =)

  • Watch the Video (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StaticEngine (135635) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#18591057) Homepage
    I watched it this morning, and right around 1:35, there's a shot of the train passing under a bridge. It was really difficult for me to comprehend just how fast 350MPH is until I saw this particular shot. Man, that thing is fast!
  • by hildi (868839) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:11PM (#18591137)
    in the united states, we do not need to waste taxpayers hard earned money on useless, socialist, centralized, bureaucratic monstrosities like supersonic trains.

    in america, each person is an individual, with their own car. or preferably, SUV, since cars tend to get smashed. also SUVs can go 'offroading', an enjoyable diversion that reddens the blood coursing through the veins of every freedom loving american, alone on the frontier, conquering nature for the benefit of human civilizaton.

    enough of these cheese eating wine sipping communards and their piffle trains. let them all get tuberculosis in the over crowded rat cans called 'passenger cars' and wallow in their dying economy as it goes down a black hole to overspent big-government ruin and waste.

    au revoir, les suckers!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A French train on the TGV line has broken the wheeled train speed record - again.
    It wont be log before the surrender the record - again.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:14PM (#18591173) Homepage Journal
    So apparently maglev has little or no speed advantage over old-fashioned wheeled trains. I assume there's still an energy savings, but currently that doesn't seem to outweigh the extra cost of maglev infrastructure. Perhaps when energy costs rise a tad more...

    One little detail has me curious: TGVs, though electric, still use locomotives to push and/or pull the train, a design feature that's been around since the first steam trains in 1833. I seem to recall "futurists" like Arthur Clarke claiming that the train of the future would use lots of small motors connected to each wheel instead of one big one in a locomotive. Not practical?
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Well, high speed trains USE underfloor engines already. (i.e. all new ICE trains)
      Even the next TGV will abandon the locomotive principle.
    • speed of sound at sea level = 761.207051 miles per hour
      the top of the wheels go twice the speed of the train, and even faster if there is any slippage. Since the train wheels actually dip below the level to f the track the top of the train wheel is actually going even faster than twice the train velocity.
      so at 350MPH the tops are going faster than 700 mph.

      They are damn close to the speed of sound, and presumably the peak speed was higher than the average speed.

      Moreover as they go up in altitude th
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by will66 (1083681)
      The Shinkansen in Japan use lots of small motors distributed among the cars. This gives them excellent acceleration (important when stations are close together), but results in higher maintenance costs. Another problem is that it requires high voltage electricity (25KV) at every car; the Shinkansen solved this by putting a pantograph ( the spring-loaded contact bar that touches the overhead wire ) on every two cars -- and this increased the wear rates on the wire. French engineers considered these extra
    • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:34PM (#18591567)
      I've been on the ICE in Germany at 350km/h and the Maglev in Shanghai (German engineering!) at 430km/h. A third faster, but the ride was surprisingly not very smooth. The Maglev shakes and jolts. I could only tell the ICE was so fast because 1) it has a display that says that; 2) I've never seen telegraph poles zip by so quickly; 3) the cars we were passing on the autobahn looked they were parked, and you know how fast they can go in Germany! It doesn't seem to me that Maglevs are good value for money, especially considering how much the Chinese government has admitted to spending on that 30km link.
  • by lagfest (959022) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:15PM (#18591189)
    that's 574.8 km/h
  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:17PM (#18591229) Homepage
    Rail done correctly is by far a better solution for high density traffic than automobiles. No parking problems, accidents, traffic conjestion, or road rage to worry about. No endless stream of internal combustion engines with associated CO2 emissions and other nastyness.

    The major problem is being crammed in with a lot of other people, some of whom may not be at all polite or tolerable. Security on such trains needs to be well maintained, and probably different cars with a people density/cost tradeoff. The Dallas light rail system (DART) which opened up a few years ago started on a good note - the major problem was too many people wanting to ride it from too far out. In theory, this might be handled with running more lines in parallel as the rail system gets closer to the center of the city - it's an interesting problem. (Of course, the expense of putting a rail system through a city not designed to accomidate it is non-trivial...)

    Regardless, I think the more efficient resource utilization of trains makes them a no-brainer for long term development. The US is lamentably far behind - Amtrack is stuck playing second fiddle to freight trains and has abysmal performance (I'm probably biased as I was once 17 hours late on a train...). Freight rail and passenger rail need different tracks and independent scheduling - freight can move more slowly over rougher tracks, but passenger rail needs to be rapid.

    I have always wondered if a properly designed and implemented rail system across the US would be cheaper than air travel (and not all THAT much slower, for bullet trains, particularly given delays airports can introduce...) I guess it's the old bootstrap problem - no money to lay down tracks because there is no guarantee of return on investment, while air travel already has massive inertia behind it and a lot of financial clout to use on the political system.

    I hope someday we can muster the political will to build a rail infrastructure the way we have built a highway infrastructure, because there may well come a time when raw materials are too expensive to make building massive car fleets and replacing them every few years economically viable. It would be nice to have a fast, inexpensive way to travel that is actually able to provide reliability.
  • AmTrak (Score:3, Informative)

    by Usquebaugh (230216) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:18PM (#18591233)
    I keep thinking that Amtrak could do a 150mph goods service. Link 10 cities or so in each state to each other by rail corridors e.g. San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, Bakersfield. Transport containerized goods only. Drive down costs through streamlining the process.

    Throw out everything that is not needed to move the containers, computerize everything e.g. no driver. Automatic marshaling yards. etc. etc. Could we get a 40ton container coast to coast for less than $100 in less than 24hrs?

    But I guess we'll have to let China do that as we have to much political inertia to try something that radical.

  • First paragraph of TFA says that it was 357.2 mph, not 350. So it's less than 4 mph slower than the maglev record.
  • ...green and red and goes 350 miles per hour?
  • A passenger jet, supposedly, harms the environment as much per passenger, as five passenger cars would over the same distance — if you ignore the impact of building and maintaining the roads.

    What's the impact of these trains — including the building and maintaining of the suitable tracks?

    One must also note, that the overall (door-to-door) speed advantage, these machines seem to have over airplanes at short and medium distances, is due to the much simpler security/registration procedures, the passengers have to go through to board them. It is not the technology, that requires us to come to the airport 2 hours prior to departure...

    What upsets me, is that American "Acela" train can also run pretty fast (even if not as fast as these bullet-trains) — but is not, because the tracks aren't suitable for higher speeds. The moron-run Amtrak has purchased these wonder-trains without improving the tracks, so most of the speed you buy on Acela is due to it simply making less stops between, say, New York and Boston, rather than due to it running appreciably faster.

    • by Renaud (6194) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:56PM (#18591955) Homepage
      The TGV has an equivalent impact to 1.2 gas liter/100km/passenger , which translates to 196 MPG.
      It's by far the cleanest widespread transportation means around. (yes, widespread around here, I live in France and my hometown is now 1 hour away from Paris, down from 2, which is pretty cool )
    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:02PM (#18592077)

      The moron-run Amtrak has purchased these wonder-trains without improving the tracks...

      The moron-run Federal government won't give Amtrak enough money to improve the tracks, because it's spending it all subsidizing highways (while somehow expecting Amtrak to make a profit) instead.

      Don't blame Amtrak for its inability to compete against a subsidy!

    • A passenger jet, supposedly, harms the environment as much per passenger, as five passenger cars would over the same distance -- if you ignore the impact of building and maintaining the roads.

      Well, it depends on what you mean by "harms the environment." Let's look at something easy to quantify, fuel economy. According to Wikipedia, the Boeing 777-300ER [wikipedia.org] (to pick an example) carries 365 passengers a maximum of 7880 nautical miles (9068 miles) and carries 47,890 US gallons of fuel. That works out to 69 seat-miles per gallon, or equivalent to a single car with three passengers getting 23 mpg (or maybe you have a more efficient car - maybe it's two passengers in a car with 34.5 mpg). So in this cont

    • Probably less than roads - railway tracks need far less materials than a high speed road - a high speed line can be made up of one track each way. A high speed road tends to be six lanes wide plus a shoulder. These trains are also effectively nuclear trains - 80% of France's electricity is from nuclear power, so very little noxious gas per passenger mile. (Or kilometer, given that it's France).
  • In the USA?

    Of course not!
  • by Maradine (194191) * on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:33PM (#18591531) Homepage
    French Train Breaks Speed Record

    Yes, but in forward or reverse? Ba-zing!
  • NY Times article [nytimes.com]

    Alstom's own press release [alstom.com], with some additional details on the train configuration and tests

    Wikipedia's entry on land speed rail records [wikipedia.org]
  • by CranberryKing (776846) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:01PM (#18592057)
    What an amazing train. When I see things like this, or ride the EuroRail or any trains in Japan, and I think of the train system in the US, I become so deeply saddened.

    For anyone that hasn't rode trains in the US, I'll sum it up for you. They are a joke. Amtrak is a joke. They cannot get it together to create a train infrastructure that works efficiently and affordably. Most of them barely go faster than 55 MILES per hour. That's right, miles. There is little in the way of luxury or services with some exception and for a high price. There are some new trains coming on line in some areas, but in general they are worse than they were 100 years ago.

    You might ask, "What about all those old movies I've seen with people traveling in elegant dining cars and trips on sleeping cars"? We did have more train routes in the past. There were also lots of light rail cars, electric and horse drawn before those. 'El' lines along with subways. We had elegant train stations (old Pennsylvania Station, NYC, demolished in the 60's for the new Madison Square Garden, &c.). The truth is most of these train lines were purchased by subsidiary companies of GM (General Motors) and the oil industry. They systematically dismantled them. Local routes were replaced by buses. Basically they encouraged the movement of every american to purchase their own automobile. At least one. Peoples experience with the public transportation would become frustrating enough that they would simply not want to deal with it. Those lines that were not completely converted to buses (Amtrak), have been intentionally mismanaged to the point that they are completely incompetent.

    I would love to see the USA join the rest of the modern world with an intelligent approach to transportation, instead of building more highways, but it doesn't appear to be coming down the 'pike.

    Believe it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SuperBanana (662181)

      They cannot get it together to create a train infrastructure that works efficiently and affordably. Most of them barely go faster than 55 MILES per hour.

      Bullshit. The Metroliner from Boston to DC (all the way down to VA) and back runs at 120MPH where possible (only 30MPH short of the Acela.) The Acela only runs at top speed for a stretch or two from Boston to Providence and Providence to CT, I think. That and the reduced number of stops reduce travel time from Boston to DC by an hour.

      It is the parts

  • Impressive, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MtViewGuy (197597) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @08:51PM (#18597801)
    ...It's not likely we'll see steel-wheel trains go faster than 350 km/h (217 mph) in the near future in commercial service.

    The reason is simple: physical contact. At these very high speeds, the physical contact force between between the overhead wiring and pantographs on the train and the the steel wheels and the steel rail is ENORMOUS, requiring strong, expensive metals to keep physical wear as low as possible. Remember, the record was done on a very short train under extremely tight tolerance conditions not encountered in regular service.

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