Maglev Trains
March 2, 2003 4:52 AM   Subscribe

The superconducting Magnetically-levitated Linear Motor Car is a most promising high speed transportation system in the 21st century. Mechanics and future benefits of Maglev trains.(video) [more]
posted by hama7 (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Technical trials on a maglev train track began in Japan in the 1970s, and a speed of 500 kph/310 mph has been reached, with a cruising altitude of 10 cm/4 in. The train is levitated by electromagnets and forward thrust is provided by linear motors aboard the cars, propelling the train along a reaction plate. Two new types of trains that people hope to see come on line soon are Free-gauge trains and linear motor cars.
posted by hama7 at 4:54 AM on March 2, 2003

I've been longing for maglev since I saw an article called "Planetran" in, like, 1980. But as I've gotten older, I've gotten more jaundiced about the idea - I mean, sitting inside a tera-Gauss field for a few hours?

My poor telomeres.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:24 AM on March 2, 2003

I mean, sitting inside a tera-Gauss field for a few hours

I'll take the terra-gauss field! I understand you concern about it though. However, I always wonder about the crap we live in that we really are not aware of. For example, I live in an area of Brooklyn, NY that is - by the NY EPA - called "Asthma Alley".

Granted, I do not want to spend 24/7 in a T/G field, then again, I would like a faster train ride!

[warning: this link crashed my browser, so I am just putting the link here. PDF file.]

[this is the "view as html" link that google provides. safer than the pdf link]
posted by lampshade at 5:59 AM on March 2, 2003

From the "Bitterly Cynical" department: it's not going to happen, most likely ever.
In the US, first you have struggles over right-of-ways that no one will cede unless they get ALL the profits. Then you have the existing contractors and unions that service and support inefficient public xport. Look at light rail--almost everywhere it is such a scam, so much so that they even made a "Simpsons" episode about it.
Right now, there already should be high speed rail throughout the entire western US for both cargo and passenger. There should be inter-urbans, regionals and interstates. There should be enormous rail/truck hubs at the northern and southern borders, with high speed trains going to Mexico City and the major Canadian cities.
There should also be anti-congestion ground routes to take the pressure off the air xport hubs.

And it's NOT going to happen. NO NOTHING NOT. And to tell you the truth, it was only because of WWII that we even have the Interstate highway system.

posted by kablam at 7:20 AM on March 2, 2003

I'd rather spend a few minutes in a Tera Gauss magnetic field than two hours on a congested, smog filled motorway.

Have there been any scientific research done on wether high-intensity magnetic fields are harmful or not?
posted by spazzm at 7:53 AM on March 2, 2003

The maglev trains do run at 500kph in Yamanashi, but unfortunately, according to a TV report, when two of them enter a tunnel from opposite sides (this is theoretical, I don't think they've done it), the pressure blows in the windows. If you've ever done this on a regular shinkansen and felt the sudden rise of pressure in your ears, you'd believe it.

I was born in Anaheim and grew up near Disneyland, so I thought the Monorail was all space age and cool, but there is a much better monorail in Osaka that goes to the airport and the Expoland amusement park, and it has cushy seats and air conditioning, unlike Disneyland's. True or false, you can get mono from a monorail?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:54 AM on March 2, 2003

Beats the pants off my cities' plan to spend $1/3 billion on a single streetcar track through the centre of town, destroying the only road that actually runs through the town in the city in the process.

Yeah, you read that right $1/3 billion, or, in the case of this area, a little more than $1,000 per person.

Instead we bought a park that pretty much requires anyone not living near by it to drive.

And even then we got ripped off. Royally.

Man, I feel depressed about this whole thing.

BTW, adamgreenfield, from everything I can see, the cars are shielded. If they weren't there'd be a lot of people angry when their credit cards quit working after every trip. ;-)
posted by shepd at 7:58 AM on March 2, 2003

Unfortunately there are some real problems with maglev. Practically speaking, worst of all are points (or rather, the sheer unpracticality of the current designs).
Ecologically, the tracks take up a lot of space, by necessity on concrete pillars high above the ground, breaking up the landscape much more drastically than surface rail or road would. This was very visible on an animation produced as promotion for the proposed Berlin-Hamburg line: the track rising high above a vast forest.
posted by esha at 8:06 AM on March 2, 2003

This thing will never exist in the United States. The government doesn't see it fit to give even a full scrap of transportation budget funding to Amtrak; I find it hard to believe we'd suddenly decide to invest countless amounts of money into high-tech airline and highway alternatives.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:58 AM on March 2, 2003

Great speed aside, long distance fast speed trains like Maglev & TGV are known to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly (the noise emission is much less than planes. Based on current records, they are also safer than traveling on airplanes. Perhaps given the kind of security risk pertaining to air travel, the time is right for countries that rely heavily on airflight for long distance commute to improve their ground mass rapid transportation system as technology is already available in this area. The concern should also be to find a sustainable transportation for a world beyond oil. Unfortunately, great technology comes at huge costs and funding problems may not be easy to resolve.
posted by taratan at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2003

shepd....I think my city wins with our almost 20 billion dollar tunnel highway system going through the center of the city. It'll be nice when they finish it, but I hope I live to see that day, heh.

As far as MagLev is concerned, it's not an if. There already is one in Shanghai (from the airport 30m out to the city). I believe the Chinese govt. is planning to run maglev connecting cities in the Shanghai/Beijing/Tainjin area. At 300mph, though, they're only really practical to 900 miles or so. Past that, mine as well just take the plane.
posted by Kevs at 9:43 AM on March 2, 2003

That's true to a point Kevs, but then you consider all the seurity involved in air travel and that train stations have a tendency to be more convenient than airports (Tokyo is probably the most extreme example) and things begin to look good for the train. And in Japan you can take the shinkansen from one end of the main island to the other, though in some cases it is more expensive than flying.

But I long for the day when my native southern California has an efficient and effective public transportation system, with none of the airport authority refusing to allow Metrorail (for all the good that Metrorail does) to connect to the airport or the cab driver's union stopping a proposed maglev from Anaheim to Vegas.

High quality public transport is an addiction. High quality, high tech public transport is a dream.
posted by chiheisen at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2003

taratos: the site you cite is not quite objective (it's from the consortium that builds the things). Noise emission of a maglev is comparable to a jet flying past, due to the 10cm air gap which acts as a whistle (*). Much noisier than a conventional HST. You wouldn't want to live near the track. Noise emission may be less than a plane, but a plane is only at audible distance near airports.

(*from a recent discussion on the dutch OVL mailinglist, sorry no other links)
posted by esha at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2003

due to the 10cm air gap which acts as a whistle

Surely they haven't yet exhausted the design possiblitities to mitigate or cancel the whistling? Tires whistle too if you don't design them with irregular tread intervals. It's hard to imagine that there'd be literally nothing you can do here with any amount of R & D.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2003

Tires whistle too if you don't design them with irregular tread intervals.

But the very essence of the maglev is this contactless gap between vehicle and track. So there's literally nothing to create irregularities in.

BTW, at high speed, aerodynamic noise dominates the output of both conventional and maglev trains; the absence of wheel/rail contact is negligable. Current development apparently focusses on pantograph technology, since they stick out from the aerodynamic shape; there's stuff researched like panto's in wingform, more or less floating by themselves.
posted by esha at 1:51 PM on March 2, 2003

Edsa : You’re right in pointing out that the claim was made by Transrapid rather than an independent source. I'm sorry if I have given the impression of downplaying the importance of noise effects of such trains. Noise pollution is an important aspect for consideration in any serious proposal to build a high speed train network. Indeed, impact of noise levels (near major roads/highways, airports, train routes) on human health and the environment is monitored and regulated in most developed countries. I am not in a position to agree or disagree with Transrapid claim, but I notice there isn't any anti-maglev or anti-TGV groups of affected individuals, unlike airports. I may be wrong and would like to know more this area of noise pollution. Thanks.
posted by taratan at 9:55 PM on March 2, 2003

Esha : oops, sorry for the naming error... must be the noise from the music I have on.
posted by taratan at 9:59 PM on March 2, 2003

What magnets can do. Scroll down to the picture.
posted by pekar wood at 4:30 AM on March 3, 2003

Yeah, I was sleeping with my head against the window of the shinkansen yesterday when we passed the one going the other direction. I can tell you I sat up in a hurry, because it felt about like someone hitting the other side of the glass (plastic) with a hammer. Not much to be done about it I suppose, and I don't feel as if it detracts from the ass-kicking nature of the Shinkansen.
posted by donkeymon at 5:09 AM on March 3, 2003

Interesting tidbit:
Several European doctors advocated banning the railroad, as it was thougth that the high speed of the steam locomotives (some in excess of 30 km/h!) would scare cattle to death and make it impossible for the passengers to breathe.
posted by spazzm at 6:51 AM on March 3, 2003

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