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  • G'day, as you can probably see, I am new to this site.  After reading the magazine at my local library, (at the end of a long waiting list) i have finally lashed out and subscribed.  I have really enjoyed reading Trains over the last couple of years, finding the wealth of knowledge incredible.  Not only does this magazine look at current and historic railways, it has an international perspective.

    Anyhow, although originally from Broken Hill, (ah, the Silverton Tramway) I am now in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.  Up until the 50s, as with many comparable cities around the world, Adelaide had an extensive tram (I think you call them street-cars) system, however that was eventualy reduced to one specific line, from Adelaide to the beach-side suburb of Glenelg.   Most of this was on a separate reserve. 

    A couple of years ago, the State Government decided to extend this line though the CBD, and there is talk of taking it down to Pt Adelaide.  Now, unlike Glenelg, the 'Port is serviced by a heavy rail suburban system, each train-set being able to carry many more passengers than the tram and faster.  However trams, or rather Light Rail has become "fashionable.

    Years ago I visited Europe, and saw the excellent rail systems there, and a couple of months ago, went to New Orleans and San Francisco.  Great trams, awesome cable cars!!!  In San Francisco though, as in Europe, trams / street cars are part of an integrated rail system which also includes underground services, and heavy rail passengers services that seem to go further out, to outer suburbs or near by towns.

    Sorry for the long preamble. 

    Anyhow, to me it seems that trams / street cars are best providing intra-urban, rather than inter-urban passenger services.  Is this a fair and accurate observation, if so is there any rule of thumb as to distances most appropriate for each type of railway passenger services?


    Adrian (the Aussie from Adelaide, Australia)

    ps, sorry about any typos, have been celebrating my subscription with a couple of reds

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  • Welcome aboard!  Welcome

    Light Rail (Trams) are electric.  They are expensive per mile to build but they are much more efficient when many stops relatively close together are involved.  Street cars and some light rail run in the street or in the center divider between the lanes of automobile traffic.  Subways are usually heavy rail, but are electric because engine exhaust would fowl the air.  Commuter rail are usually an engine hauling passenger cars.  They can share right of way and tracks with freight railroads.  They are more apt to be used for travel out to the suburbs.  Elevated railways are usually heavy rail and are often integrated with subway systems.

    There are, of course, always exceptions.  We also have busways, sometimes called Bus Rapid Transit.  It uses rubber tired buses on dedicated roads with stations and is operated like a light rail system.


    Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Dave, thanks for your reply.  I realise that I should have provided more info.  Our heavy, commuter trains are I think, called DMUs, and used to share lines with freight trains as well.  However, given the discombobulated rail systems within Australia (narrow, standard and broad gauge), freight is now on standard gauge, while suburban trains in Adelaide are still broad (also known here as Irish) gauge.

    The plan is to convert the broad gauge lines to standard, and electrify at the same time.  Re-sleepering of most lines is under way. 

    We also have a bus way, called an O-Bahn, the only other one in the world that I know of is in Germany.  Basically a concrete roadway for specific buses only.  Now difficult, and expensive getting replacement buses as they are so unique, another case of a government believing a smart sales man????

    cheers Adrian

  • Integrating light and heavy rail does make sense. That's what we're trying to do here in Minnesota. Our three largest cities, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Bloomington, are all part of the same metropolitan area. Right now light rail connects Bloomington and Minneapolis, and construction of the line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul is nearing completion. A heavy commuter line, the North Star Line, currently runs from downtown Minneapolis to the northern suburbs, and will eventually reach Saint Cloud.

    In the future, more heavy rail lines will be built to the southwest and southeast, using existing rail lines as much as possible. Saint Paul Union Depot (SPUD) which hasn't seen train service since 1971, is being restored and will be a stop for light rail, commuter rail, and Amtrak.