China has new type of magnetic levitation train.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, May 29, 2023 10:20 AM

An initial question would go back to the Weems 150mph electric proposal in the 1890s, and some of the earlier pneumatic-tube systems built at package-express-carrying scale.  Note that these were intended to run uncrewed, and be built at smaller scale to limit guideway, real-estate and power costs.  What was eminently sensible about Weems was that he recognized the most lucrative of the 'reasons' that would come to be used for the C&NYAL a few years later, the underside of the sentiment 'the first railroad to electrify at 10-hour timing between Chicago and New York will get all the passenger business... not some of it, all of it'.  In those days, the rapid and secure transport of commercial paper was probably worth far more than passenger transport, and of course was much more tolerant of high-speed NVH and such factors, and those were key considerations in what Weems was proposing.  Much of the security associated with a 'telpher'-type system over long distances might have been addressed by co-locating the Weems right-of way with an existing railroad, and to an extent the same might be true today of a magnetic-levitation M&E system doing long-distance package express with combination of star and point-to-point dispatch.

However, the adaptation of maglev to larger freight systems is far less certain.  The history of high-speed as a selling point for containerload (or trailer-load intermodal) service has a very long, but not long-term successful, history, in part related to operating costs ballooning (some of which would probably be less for maglev than for keeping suitable HAL track aligned) but much more to the rise of JIT methods that value precise scheduling far more than shorter physical trip time.  One of the most distressing things to me about 'modern' railroading is the sea change from intermodal as glamorous Z-train-style premium-rate service a la Super C/BSM to cut-rate mineral-train-style commodity pricing in a race to the bottom.  It would, I think, be difficult for a new-build maglev to compete effectively for traffic between the Scylla of cheap and potentially autonomous hybrid trucking and the Charybdis of efficient railborne stack monstrains -- and that is before we factor in the costs of arranging the routes and building out the infrastructure to run them, either independently of any passenger traffic or with tight temporal separation.

Now, I will say that a potential exception to this might be the large-scale version of the Tehuantepec railway project, where there is utterly no need to compromise the vehicles to run on the general system, and the design envelope isn't restricted to traditional loading gage.  Extension of this to transfer lines running from intermodal port facilities to 'inland ports' with intermodal-transfer, storage, and crossdocking facilities might also be attractive, as you have the equivalent of 'shuttle trains' running in a pure lane with guaranteed rapid intermodal transfer.

A potential Steve Jobs 'oh, and one more thing...' is that a maglev system would be inherently electric, and hence the various costs of railroad electrification, including the political issues surrounding OHLE at a grand scale, might be in principle deducted from the overall system cost in calculating an actual system cost.

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Posted by Gramp on Sunday, May 28, 2023 7:03 PM

Overmod, switching to freight temporarily, do you see profitable use of any of these other forms that would be perhaps not so expensive to build?  Not to carry all types of freight but perhaps palletable? And better protected and safer to operate. 

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, May 28, 2023 3:22 PM

One other consideration with maintaining a precisely located fixed guideway is that in many areas the surface of the earth will be moving vertically and laterally. One of the advantages of track on ballast is that it is easy to accomodate movement in th earth below the track.

It's now pushing a half-century ago that I started looking at ways to solve this issue with slab track -- the tentative answer I came up with also reflecting my exposure to the German experiments with sprung track.

In the system I came up with, the rails were clamped in elastomer to the tops of two continuous precast beams, with members between them for gauge.  This assembly was then placed on springs or elastomer isolators, both vertical and horizontal, in a trough that could be inset with proper vaulted drainage or carried on viaduct or bridges without change in tuning.  I had read some of the early reports about magnetorheological effects and thought it might neatly allow selective proportional damping of direct or reflected shock comparable to good ballast.

This would allow selective realignment or mudjacking to bring the trough with its location points into reasonable alignment, and use relatively thin shims on the suspension to give final line and surface, or adjust superelevation and fine-tune spiraling.  Power equipment would allow adjustment of the track via a mechanism like fine-pitch locking screw threading at the seats.  As a younger, more idealistic, and frankly inexperienced college student I also considered active automatic adjustment of line and surface either continuously or periodically.

(I had a fun discussion about this in 1976 with one of the people involved with developing what developed into the LGV (curiously enough, in the architecture school and not through the transportation program!) which is where I learned about the eighth-order differential equations used in HSR track mechanics.)

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Sunday, May 28, 2023 12:21 PM

One other consideration with maintaining a precisely located fixed guideway is that in many areas the surface of the earth will be moving vertically and laterally. One of the advantages of track on ballast is that it is easy to accomodate movement in th earth below the track.

Going back to the 60's, a significant fraction of the high speed ground transportation proposals involved deep tunneling to allow for sufficiently straight guideways.

Last but not least, any system where the vehicles operate in ground level atmospheric pressure will be faced with the problem of air resistance. Jet engines allow airliners to quickly reach cruising altitude where the greatly reduced density results in less drag.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, May 28, 2023 9:31 AM

Thanks, Overmod, for a fine analysis.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, May 28, 2023 8:33 AM

Without dwelling on the politics:

The principal issue with maglev has been the relative inflexibility of the system relative to cost.  Up to at least HrSR speed (125mph in the United States) it makes much better sense to retain compatibility with the general system of transportation and continue using fixed geometry for suspension and guiding.  We've had over-400-mph designs (I remember one from Boeing, IIRC 490mph, that was published in Trains Magazine around the time of the Johnson Administration high-speed rail promotion) since the 1960s, before the age of high-strength magnets and practical use of superconductivity, and if there were cost-effectiveness in long-distance bespoke guideways we were and are well-equipped to take it up.

The immediate question is how, in a democracy (or other representative political system involving potentially disaffected numbers of voters) you address the issue of all the people who are discommoded by the eminent-domain construction and then the noise and blast of operation of the vehicle trains in use.  The secondary question -- which CAHSR is going to have to face or weasel out of at some point -- is that the enormous construction expense, if it is to be recovered 'at the farebox', means price per trip only for the rich even in lanes with suitable traffic density overall.  Or mass subsidy by government for the sole benefit of those who travel.

Meanwhile, consider the cost and implications of practical acceleration and deceleration and maintaining a decent percentage of achievable peak speed between key destination pairs, or end-to-end with stops.  In both the NEC and the first prospectively-open parts of CAHSR, political considerations make for extra stops that assassinate most of any real trip-time reduction that true HSR speed is supposed to facilitate.  Meanwhile, the prospective competition even from medium-range airliners of comparable capacity, for equivalent implementation and operating cost, is a powerful disincentive... absent a national-pride technological potlatch (as so many HSR projects in other countries appear to have become).  When you add in the capability of aircraft to serve multiple routes and operate effectively in multiple lanes with east deadheading, the idea of extensive geometry-critical fixed guideways between compromise station locations looks even worse for 700mph trunks than for nominal ~220mph trains.

Even if you waved a magic wand and had the guideways and necessary power infrastructure instantly available separate from other trends (increased BEVs and electric premise HVAC, etc.) you still have issues of maintenance... and vandalism or terrorism over all those thousands of miles of guideway that cannot cost-effectively be kept monitored.  We now live in a world where wholesale breaking into containers is tolerated, throwing debris or fire under moving trains is clever demonstration, and tinkering to disable signals and train control a means of political expression.  The need for a 'TSA' even for 220mph trains in these conditions will, unfortunately, not be long in coming, and I'd expect the security issues alone, even in the absence of built-to-a-price security theatre and tolerated bullying of the 'marks', to become detrimental to the perceived attractiveness of high-speed ground transportation.


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Posted by York1 on Sunday, May 28, 2023 6:46 AM

We should be the one doing these futuristic maglev projects.

As has been stated many times.  We are not China.  We are not Europe.

China is a dictatorship, without worries about private property rights and pollution.

Their government takes what it wants, does what it wants, builds what it wants, and the people better not complain or they will be sent to 're-education' camps.

Ask the people in Hong Kong how they like their new government that can build high speed trains.

York1 John       

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Posted by Jim200 on Sunday, May 28, 2023 4:49 AM

Although China is famous for stealing everybody’s technology, it would appear that their engineers are finally able to design the most advanced  maglev ever. Aerodynamically, it’s the cat’s meow and capable of 373 mph. They plan to construct this from Beijing to Shanghai, and two other routes.

 We should be the one doing these futuristic maglev projects. Japan tried to help us build their maglev design from Washington to Baltimore and eventually New York, but various objections have resulted in a larger underground component and more expense. Elon Musk has tried to speed up the slow boring process with tunneling competitions, but so far with little success. 

How you design a route plays an important part in its future relevance. If the Chinese would design for 700 mph horizontally and vertically, then in the future, they could add an enclosure and partial vacuum, and probably achieve that speed. In the south of China, and probably elsewhere, they are working on plans for a Hyperloop. Last year, engineers in South Korea achieved 600 mph in their about one foot diameter model of the Hyperloop. Unfortunately, our most active Hyperloop company was taken over by a company on the Arabian peninsula who only wants to transport goods.

In about 15 years China has constructed 26,000 miles of high speed rail, (HSR), and we will watch and see if they continue constructing to 40,000 miles. In 2010 it looked like we would be constructing HSR everywhere, but we only got improvements on the NEC, 110 mph in Michigan and Illinois, and the start of a true 220 mph HSR in California. California HSR has been beset with lots of problems and cost overruns, but Brian Kelly, the CEO, is going to try and give us our first taste of 220 mph. Unfortunately there are a lot of long high speed curves with about 4 inches of super elevation, which will limit any future improvements in speed. If in the future we decide to build a 373 mph maglev in California, we are going to have to build a new route, hopefully with 700 mph specifications.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, May 22, 2023 11:00 AM

Never too old to have a happy childhood!


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Posted by Overmod on Monday, May 1, 2023 10:29 AM

What is with this German predilection for compound words of absurd length?

Memory.  Remember that this is a language which can go to similarly absurd sentence length before someone gets to a verb, and not only do you have to juggle the clauses but you have to remember any particles that are going to affect that verb and perhaps change its meaning dramatically.  With that skill it's almost second-nature to remember all the little pieces of a compound noun.  Mark Twain, I believe in the Innocents Abroad, has a discussion of the German language, and used the nounmaking facility to good, or at least telling, use in Connecticut Yankee.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, May 1, 2023 9:58 AM

What is with this German predilection for compound words of absurd length?Confused

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 30, 2023 1:27 PM

Actually it's worse than that.  It's a Magnetschwebendeschwebebahn...  

Otherwise... 'stimmt.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, April 30, 2023 12:55 PM

Die Magnetschwebebahn. 

No need for two words when one will do!!!

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, April 29, 2023 11:57 AM

Ach, eine magnetische Schwebebahn!

Of course, Chinese students famously reinvented (and I think tried to patent) the Pullman open-section sleeper design circa 2011, so there's not much new under the sun that can't be pirated when nobody's looking.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, April 29, 2023 11:23 AM

H-h-h-h-m-m-m, strangely similar to the design in Dortmund, Germany but with magnetic levitation vs steel wheel on steel rail.

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China has new type of magnetic levitation train.
Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, April 29, 2023 10:05 AM

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