Rail - Trains and Trams


High speed trains

High speed rail can move large amounts of people and freight fast, conveniently and economically. High speed rail systems have been operating successfully in Europe and Japan for many years. 

In the U.S., Amtrak lost $32 per passenger in 2008, according to a Pew analysis, but the Northeast Corridor, which carried over one third of passengers, made a profit of about $10 per passenger. The loss of almost $5 per passenger of Northeast Regional was more than made up by the corridor’s high-speed Acela Express, which made a profit of about $41 per passenger.

California has done the maths. Transportation accounts for 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Last November, California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond to fund a high-speed train line from San Diego to Sacramento (picture below). This was followed up last month by a bid for more than $4.7 billion in federal stimulus funding for a high-speed (over 200 mph) rail system to serve millions of residents in virtually every major city in California.


proposed High Speed Rail in California – image courtesy of cahighspeedrail.ca.gov


Solar Bullet proposes to create a series of tracks in the U.S. Southwest, serving a 220 mph train system that would require 110 megawatts of electricity, to be produced by solar panels mounted above the tracks, at a target price of $20 to $40 Million a mile. The cost for the first phase alone is estimated at $27 billion.

image courtesy of Solar Bullet


The above locomotive accommodates 1,080 rechargeable 12-volt lead-acid batteries, enabling it to run for 24 hours on a single charge, while pulling the same load as a conventional locomotive. Developed by Norfolk Southern, with the help of a partnership, including the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the Federal Railroad Administration, and The Pennsylvania State University, the 1,500 horsepower machine makes use of regenerative braking for extra power and can recharge in just two hours. Congressman Shuster secured $1.3 million in federal funding for the project. Norfolk Southern says it costs the same to make as a traditional locomotive.

Source: Feebates


Hydrogen powered tram

Qingdao Sifang Co in China makes high speed trains. This is something different, a hydrogen powered tram. Designed for city traffic travels at at 70 KM per hour.