What Would Marge Do?
Promoters in Las Vegas this week vied to offer the wildest ideas for a new super-fast mass transit link between the desert gambling mecca and Los Angeles. Plans were presented for a "railless" train which would fly through magnetic rings mounted atop pillars and a "sunlight bullet expressway" employing "large air-cushioned …
...150mph in a giant mag-lev wotist that can only go in a straight line? This is somehow better than a normal train? Err....yeah. Right.
Probably fool the Brits whose trains struggle to break 70mph without going off the rails (chuckle), never run on time, stink and are over priced (despite massive government subsidies). But it doesn't fool the rest of the world!
Why is it that whenever there is some new proposal like this it always carries the tag elevated. Whats the point of spending more to simply put it up in the air? Across the desert it would be just fine on the ground. If you are in a city stick it underground where it doesn't spoil the view or block out peoples sun light.
...or as you whizz though those superconducting rings, your wedding ring and various body-piercings are going to heat up to 6000K in seconds.
Not to mention your laptop. A pretty nifty disk bulk-eraser I'd think.
Then the train runs into the one ring that suffered a 'quench' that day (see LHC).
Not for me - I'll stick to my flying car.
The Exetor to saltash rail used to pulled along a vacume tube, with pumping stations along the way to provide the vacume. What if the train creates the vacume in an overhead monorail and the train is lifted inside the same tube on a cusion of air.
I like the idear solor panels over the railway to provide the power for the train. I hope the train is not out after dark!
"Apart from Tubular Rail, other bidders for the Vegas-LA link included America's Sunlight Bullet Expressway. This concept would apparently include solar panels mounted on a roof-like structure all along the route, with an unspecified transport system running underneath. There would also be power transmission lines to carry the solar power and feed the transporter tech."
Maybe I am not the only one who remembers Heinlein. Go back to June 1940, read "Astounding Stories". Unspecified transport system is a conveyer belt. Everything old is new again.
It avoids nasty collisions with big beasties wandering around the desert. We enclose al of our railways but that wouldn't go down so well if you were, basically, cutting the desert in half. Mind you, at just 150mph, the beasties would have plenty of time to see it coming, think for a bit, and wander slowly out of the way. The TGV and Bullet's do over 500kph! Hell, even the brits WERE managing those sorts of speeds about a hundred years ago.
Why not just invest in existing infrastructure and upgrade the lines we already have to cope with bigger faster trains? We don't need vacuum tunnels or expensive new-build underslung mag-lev beasties.
Air resistance isn't necessarily a bad thing; if you design your craft properly it actually aids stability and therefore means you're not totally reliant on magnets and other such gubbins.
Brunel's atmospheric railway was not fulled along a vacuum tube. That happened was that there was a travelling piston that was sucked along the tube and this was connected to the train by means of an arm that protruded through a longtitudinal slot. The linear slot was sealed by a flap. However, whilst it was very effective for a while, there were huge practical problems with maintaining the longtitudinal seal plus issues at points and so on (where it was necessary to decouple the train and attach it to a piston in a different tube. It was not a success.
Lewis, thank you for mentioning Tubular Rail in your article. I would like to clear up an inaccuracy in your report. We do not use magnectic levitation as your article reports and which you would have quickly realized had you read the information available at the web site www.tubularrail.com.
Instead the design is for steel rollers fixed inside the rings that are electrically powered to advance the "car" . Corresponding rails mounted the "car" then ride on these rollers. As I am sure you are aware, the efficiency of a steel wheel on steel rail is only exceeded by the efficiency of steel on ice. There simply is no way to justify the cost of maglev systems when the vast majority of energy used at 150mph is consumed by the aerodynamic drag of a vehicle.
You and some of your readers feel that 150 mph speed seems slow but are you aware that there are only four or five high speed rail systems, including the Shangai Maglev, where average point to point speed exceeds 150 mph. The Shangai Maglev actually has an average speed of about 120mph over the 18 mile route.
I know that you picked up the "ridgid" description of the car from the Sun article while in fact the vehicle is better descibed as "semi-ridgid" which allows navigation of a 5000 foot horizontal radius and a 50,000 foot verticle radius. When combined these parameters allow tranversing the topography encountered on this route.
Your picked one of my favourite images for the article but additional images are available at our web site that are more realistic and less stylized than the London one. I trust you realize you don't actually get the girl standing along side the new car in the advertisment when you buy a car.
Finally there is the matter of cost for Maglev and true high speed trains which we are trying to compete with. The Maglev proposed for the LA to LV route will easily cost 25 billion dollars while the Desert Express will cost at least 4 billion but not actually get you to Los Angeles. Although I believe the DE will get built anyways, in part due to political considerations, our costs for the route would be around 6 Billion.
I would be glad to speak with you on this matter and clear up any other uncertianties you may have as I am sure as a journalist you would want to do.
Tubular Rail Inc.
713 681 9501
As someone who follows the high speed train chase in America and who is familiar with numerous new, outlier train technologies, I'd like to suggest you correct your headline, as it does not accurately describe the technology behind Tubular Rail technology. First, there are NO magnets in Tubular Rail, just powerful electric motors, as the company's Web site clearly and repeatedly makes clear. The O-rings function as the locomotive in conventional railroad technology (propelling the passenger car forward) and the "rigid sky-train" that is the passenger carriage serves as the "rails," keeping it aligned to enter the next O-ring correctly and safely. The advanced train technology is really quite simple, but brilliant because by re-assembling conventional train functions, the new and improved technology reduces by multiples the greatest cost of building a train -- the tracks themselves.
For this Web site itself, running advertisements for Siemens, a company who routinely budgeted a billion dollars to bribe public officials with to buy Siemen products and services and that was found guilty by a court of law of doing just that last year, should rethink who you take advertising money from, if by doing so you don't want to become an accomplice to the company's unethical method of doing business. Say no more, say no more.
The Brunel style vacuum railway actually worked quite well. That is of course until as mentioned above the rats started eating the leather seals. The effect of frost on the seals was also a problem. But until these problems manifested themselves, the system looked very promising. It gave the sort of advantages an electric system has. Clean, smooth performance, none of the problems associated with trying to make an early steam power plant portable. OK, it didn't work out, but you can't blame them for wanting to try. Brunel himself had so many successes that we can forgive him the odd mistake. Some of his bridges are still in use.
OK, I like Henlein.
I also like (super-)fast trains.
Why all this magneto-leverage-hightech-scifi stuff? Just throw an eye on the various (heh, continental) high speed trains available - ICE, TGV, AVE). Such a beast should suffice, no?
The Swiss Metro Style Railway which one Commentard mentioned is waaaay to expensive; such a thing is, imho, not an option. Well, at least unless the US of A get the cash from Maddoff back :-)
(think about this one - how much money he and other bastards destroyed)
AFAIK, LA to Vegas is desert for the most part. A traditional high speed train would surely suffice. But then, it would not be an issue for Lewis (whose articles I like a lot, to be clear!).
Now, suffice to say with ZZ Top: Viva Las Vegas!
"I know that you picked up the "ridgid" description of the car from the Sun article while in fact the vehicle is better descibed as "semi-ridgid" which allows navigation of a 5000 foot horizontal radius and a 50,000 foot verticle radius. When combined these parameters allow tranversing the topography encountered on this route."
I hope your engineering is a lot more accurate than your spelling and grammar.
Do you base all your purchasing decisions on an old cartoon that was primarily a satire of local politics? The technology was incidental: monorails are a respected form of transportation.
The Asians seem particularly fond of them, using them on proper, 'grown-up' metropolitan services with similar passenger numbers to some parts of the London Underground. They work just fine.
(Hell, some of them even make a profit. There aren't many transport networks you can say *that* about.)
Didn't I see some wild blue-skying on a system very much like this one in an old issue of Popular Mechanics in, maybe the 1930s? And again, circa 1950s? And _again_, in the late '60s?
Never mind the fact that, according to the above concept art, by the time I finally get to visit Britain -- as I've always wanted to do -- the London skyline will be blighted by this nasty-looking maglev railway next to your famous Bridge? Oh, and Virgin Railway, that sure fills me with confidence. I assume that's the train to the spaceport, carrying a load of rich folks taking a vacation in orbit? (and am I the only one who, on seeing the Virgin logo on anything, can't help thinking of the Sex Pistols?)
PS: Wow, almost forgot "Starman Jones". Awesome book.
"Sucked": The piston was of course _pushed_ along the pipe, by atmospheric pressure behind it.
The system was not the first of its kind, an Irish one was examined first and appeared to be working. The motive power designed into it was insufficient for the route and timetable (I'm told).
Naval aircraft are and have been launched by the same engineering - albeit using high pressure steam rather than atmospheric pressure behind the piston, using IIRC a pair of pistons rather than one, and using a sealing strip that was all steel rather than having a soft strip along it.
The modern version of this approach on railways is electrification, an easier way of transferring power from a large stationery generator to a light travelling device than doing it by air pumping.
.. by the next building contractor (or future railway worker) leaving a scaffolding plank lying across a hoop.
At least on thing stays the same: passengers are already forced to jump through hoops to have any kind of usable train service..
Mine's the motorbike jacket..
Other than fixing the 11 spelling mistakes in the comments made by TubeRail “Car Salesman” Pulliam, here is a free tip on trying to bring new ideas to the public: try using real facts. Once you lose your credibility, it is very difficult to ever get it back, especially from those of us that do our homework and actually work in the transportation industry.
1. Maglev in CA/NV will reach a speed of 310mph (ave of 200mph). The Shanghai Maglev system reaches a speed of 270mph (ave of 155mph). It covers 19 miles in 7min and 20 secs. Anyone who has first level mathematic skills can figure this one out.
On the other hand, TubeRail really does not know how fast it can go because they have NO DEMONSTRATION SYSTEM anywhere (unlike Maglev which has had one for 30 years and has already advanced the vehicle to its 9th version). TubeRail’s wish list is stated on their own website:
“In order to obtain a significant market share by inducing modal shift from automobiles and short haul air routes, the Tubular Rail system must be capable of traveling at speeds in the vicinity of 150 mph”
In other words, Maglev WILL reach 310 mph. TubeRail WOULD LIKE to reach 150mph.
2. The cost of the Maglev (between CA and NV) will be $45M/mile or $12 Billion total. I investigated this claim myself and found that this estimate has been accepted and approved by the Federal Railroad Admin and is published in the Government Accountability Office report.
Tube Rail Pulliam erroneously draws the conclusion that the Maglev system would cost $100M/mile just because this is the price given for a highly dense East Coast maglev project. That’s like saying that building a house on a flat, cleared parcel of land would cost the same as building one on a steep graded, forested mountain.
I welcome new ideas and innovation into our industry, but do so with facts. Unfortunately the engineering and facts of TubeRail Pulliam is about as accurate as his poor spelling and grammar.
Help me out a bit and send the link to the FRA study. If it is based on a new Maglev beam design then where has the new beam been used. You can call the Shanghia system a commercialized system but you can't say that the new beam has been tested or used in an installed system. Therefore you can't base your cost estimate on it until it is tested. Perhaps you are referring to the beam examined by the University of Texas in Austin, why don't you published those results so everybody can take a look.
A significant portion of the proposed LA to LV route will go through Urbanized areas and a similar distance route, the Orange Line Maglev through the LA area was put at 13.6 billion for 108 miles. URS study, 2003 and available at the Orangeline Maglev Website. 45 million a mile for maglev, at that price you should have had it built by now.
The only thing Maglev is good at floating in thin air is the taxpayers money.
I like the idea... BUT...
There is something inherently "gratifying" about being very close to the ground - when traveling at high speed..... with a flat wide expanse to do it over...
I get the feeling that doing a great rate of knots through rather solid hoops, with big chunky and SOLID electrical coils or motors, in a thin metal tube, Hmmmmmmm
It's a bit like passing a truck on a motorbike, while another truck is coming the other way - with not very much room from the handle bar to either truck.....
Still it will make an excellent ornament - spanning across the desert - after WW3 - and the they talk about it in magic terms, like Stone Henge - but much more Interesting...
Sort of like the space ship in the desert, in the last remake of Planet of the Apes...
Wow, thanks Pulliam, I do a little research and all of a sudden you think I'm the publisher, engineer and constructor behind the Maglev. Hehe, I appreciate the new job promotions but I'm just a transportation guy that follows the projects when I can. I attended all three presentations at UNLV and Maglev was the most professional and convincing to me.
I travel to CA frequently and so I have a personal interest in what gets built, which is why real facts are important to me. And I am MORE than happy to help you guys out with references to the information.
I can see you are not going to argue that you were making incorrect statements on the speed of maglev, so let's move on to other points.
The Maglev guys have already completed studies of each segment along the corridor as well as a project description covering the entire corridor. The Federal Railroad Administration was the lead agency approving their studies and cost estimates of $45M/mile and it was published in the 2009 Government Accountability Office report. FRA does not have these studies online but go ahead and contact them yourself if you don't believe me.
In your presentation at UNLV, you tried to convince people that the costs of the LA to Las Vegas route would be the same as the Washington-Baltimore Maglev route. C'mon man, it's not even close. That is a highly dense metropolitan area that has more than 7 million people within their 40 mile segment! Plus their stations will have to be underground which means tunneling and is a huge cost increase!
You say a significant portion of the proposed LA/LV route will go through urbanized areas? Are you kidding?? The LA/LV route is 269 miles long and anyone who has made the drive knows that once you get south of St. Rose Parkway in Las Vegas, most of the drive is flat, uneventful desert and only enters dense areas again near Ontario.
The majority of the maglev cost comes from the guideway (almost 60%) and when you have to use elevated guideway or tunneling due to dense metropolitan areas, the costs increase significantly.
I agree that Maglev may cost too much in some corridors and that HSR may be the better option on these, but in the Las Vegas to LA corridor, Maglev is the ONLY option for high-speed travel.
Still the Maglev team faces some challenges in that certain politicians have $25 million and their powerful careers already invested in DesertXpress and therefore are trying to kill the project right when it finally has the chance to become a reality after all these years. THAT's why it hasn't been built yet.
"Tubular rail would operate as a single rigid train unit that runs through elevated support rings like thread through a series of needles. "
So how does it go around corners?
Also, moving the power source from the rolling stock to the infrastructure is nuts. If 2 hoops in a row go then the whole line has to be closed down. At least you can take a self propelling train off the rails.
Robert Pulliam said:
"A significant portion of the proposed LA to LV route will go through Urbanized areas"
I would have a little more faith in his proposal if I thought his company was familiar with the route. His "significant [Urbanized] portion" would be the thirty miles or so getting out of Los Angeles. The next 240 miles would be through the Mojave Desert, some of the most rugged and least developed country in the US, with only two small towns (Barstow and Baker) in the whole stretch. Anyone who has ever driven it would know the route crosses seven or eight north-south trending mountain ranges, with very few opportunities for straight and level. The country is open, with free ranging cattle and numerous other critters including wild horses, and a human population that has little liking for outsiders. Fences will be cut before the fencing crews are out of sight. Nothing is going to travel safely through this wilderness at 150mph, let alone 300mph, unless perhaps it runs down the middle of the freeway and relies on the traffic lanes to keep it clear of obstructions.
Passenger train service to Las Vegas was terminated in 2001, for the very good reason that nobody used it. This scheme, like the Maglev, is nothing more than a plan to sucker money out of Eastern investors.
Interesting name, apparentently meaning "one item Japanese carry out" but at any rate, if you had been at UNLV last Monday you would have clearly heard us say that even if we had a purchase order in hand, we could not bid on a route like this. That we are in a development process and wanted to use the two proposals for the LA to LV and the issues with both to make the case that alternative transportation models need to be developed.
It is not surprising that you found the Maglev proposal the most "professional" , it was after all professionally produced and they have been practising for 30 years. Thank you German taxpayers.
Now as for the speed of the Shangai Maglev. You put it at 7 minutes and 20 seconds for an average speed of 155mph. I on the other hand allowed some time for people to actually get on and off. That extra minute and forty seconds you save allows more time to find a taxi to get to where you are actually going.
The FRA did publish the 12 billion dollar figure in 2009 as you said. Of course they were quoting the 2005 estimate of 12 billion. If you use a 5 per cent factor for inflation the estimate should be corrected to over 14 billion in 2009 dollars. This is what the CHSRA has been honest enough to do with their number which has gone from 25 billion in 2000 to the current estimate of about 45 billion.
You say we should disregard the Washington Baltimore numbers as that is for an Unbanized area on the East Coast. LA is just as densly populated as that corridor (40 miles). That puts the Urbanized number at well over 100 million per mile supporting the URS, Orangeline estimate in the SoCal area. Percentage wise, how much of the 269 miles do you think can be built for 45 million a mile? How much is virgin land with no existing infrastructure? TheFRA estimate is now above 5 billion for DC. Of course, DC does not have to worry about seismic events and building for that. Guess the extra money goes to figuring out how to melt the ice and snow on the guideway in that part of the country.
Maglev is truly amazing technology and the people who developed it have a lot to be proud of but it is simply too expensive for the benefits. It is time to move on.
Looking again at this particular corridor (LA/LV) and what can be done now:
I believe DesertXpress technology could be the best option if they could actually be a sustainable project and have real benefit to the economy of all cities from LV to LA, if they could actually address the real problem with congestion from Victorville to LA, if they could fully connect the true destinations and airports. But they just can't.
And yes, you were very clear that you are not bidding on the LA to LV route. I'm just not sure why you felt the need to defend yourself on this point, since I never argued that in the first place.
The Las Vegas Sun article sums up your TubeRail proposal as, "...their plans are largely conceptual and far from the point of carrying passengers."
Which really then leaves Maglev.
And actually ALL presentations at UNLV were professionally produced- unless you are telling me that you and your team are not professionals? The reason I felt the Maglev team was more professional was because they seemed to stay on topic and focused on the details of their own project. This should not take 30 years to learn.
Because of the acceleration and speed capabilities of Maglev, it will compete with the airline industry on corridors such as this one. As far as your method for calculating travel time by including “time for people to actually get on and off… time to find a taxi to get to where you are actually going.”?? Nice! Why don’t we just include the time it takes for them to shower in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast and pack their bags, too? By the time you are done with it, Maglev will be competing with the bicycle industry instead! No need to comment further on this, people can see through the B.S.
Yes the estimate for $12 billion comes from their 2005 study, which the Maglev guys have been up front about, and I agree that adjustments need to be made to make the numbers current. A portion of their funding will help pay for these updates in their EIS and preliminary engineering that is underway.
However you also need to factor in a significant reduction in construction costs due to research and development. After the opening of the Shanghai Maglev, the German government completed a value engineering program where over $120 million was spent solely on reducing the costs of constructing maglev systems saying it is now cost-competitive with HSR.
I never said we should disregard the Wash/Balt Maglev numbers, just that you need to be more careful how you apply them since you assumed that their very high cost per mile should be applied to the entire LA/LV corridor, which is absurd.
Keep in mind that Wash/Balt has not yet included the cost-reduction in their estimates due to the German research and development. Also keep in mind that they will have UNDERGROUND stations which mean a huge increase in costs (11% of their costs). The stations for the LV/LA proposal (only 1% of their costs) will be above-ground, will most likely get funding from Casino owners and they do not need to build their terminus station because they are connecting to the logical destination, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.
The 45M/mile cost for the LV/LA route is an average and will cost more in some areas (urban developed) and less in others (rural, undeveloped). But even when you apply the cost of Wash/Balt to the small portion of LV/LA that is urbanized, it would definitely be less.
Steel-wheel technology is a much more proven technology as it has been developing for 140 years, but it has already reached its peak. Maglev on the other hand, although already a proven technology, is relatively young and has so much room for further development and cost reduction.
This is why China has plans to expand their maglev system, Japan is planning to use maglev with all their future systems, currently maglev is a proposal to be built in Brazil before they host the next World-Cup, transportation experts in Denver have just recently stated their preference for maglev and significant funding has just gone to Pennsylvania and Atlanta for their maglev development.
Whether it happens in this corridor or not and whether you like it or not, Maglev IS going to happen.
So you may feel it's time to move on, but many intelligent, well-educated people in this world see otherwise. Some say the first personal home computer cost around $10,000 and took up an entire room. Maybe you think we should have skipped over that idea, too.
After Dr. Harding says that the Germans now claim Maglev is cost competive with HSR he goes on to say,
" While the true cost for maglev is unknown (at least in U.S. market economy terms), we eagerly await a major deployment of the technology."
His email is as below. I know Dr. Harding and I know what he thinks the LA to LV route will cost. I suggest you write him and ask for his estimate of the cost.
John T. Harding was chief scientist for maglev development at the Federal Railroad Administration until his retirement and now serves as a professional on the International Maglev Board. He lives in Palm Springs and can be reached at 760 328 7692 or email@example.com.
I would also suggest you visit the International Maglev Board Forums and read some of his comments on Maglev energy consumption. He likes Maglev but is not biased. He has issues with us as well.
That's what makes it fun.
One other point, you say the intelligent, well educated people see otherwise. At one time, the intelligent, well educated people thought the World was flat and at the center of the Universe.
Thank God for Heretics
Thanks for the information on Dr. Harding. I know about him as well and respect his opinions and will probably contact him for his thoughts. I agree that the true cost of Maglev in the U.S. still needs further develoment. However, when it comes down to the LV to LA corridor, nobody knows the costs better than the companies that developed the $12B estimate.
These studies and costs estimates were not prepared by some fly-by-night companies. They were prepared by highly reputable firms and are leading engineering companies in the world who all were present during their forum (General Atomics, Parsons, Hirschfeld Industries and Transrapid - the German maglev technology providers).
General Atomics is the company that designed and patented the Predator, unmanned aerial vehicles that save thousands of U.S. military lives.
They are also currently under contract with the U.S. Navy to replace the existing steam catapult system with patented maglev technology for launching jet fighters on aircraft carriers.
Parsons is a worldwide engineering and construction firm more than 60 years old. They consistently rank among the Top 10 firms by the Engineering News-Record every year and have completed major multi-million dollar projects in 49 states and 25 countries.
So yeah, I believe these firms have a lot more credibility than any opposing projects, politicians or opinions who are either distant from the data specific to this corridor or who try to discredit maglev because they want to promote their own agenda.
Oh, and I like your point on how at one point some well educated people thought the world was flat, just like some well educated people nowadays are still stuck on old train technologies. Fortunately there were explorers in that day that thought there had to be more and discovered the New World. Just like the visionaries today that know that new technologies such as Maglev will be our "New World" in transportation.
As I said peviously, traditional HSR has its place but Maglev will continue to develop, surpass HSR and costs will continue to be reduced with each new project.
The only question now is: will the U.S. be a leader in this, or will we continue to fall behind by investing in outdated technologies?
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