Bullet Trains

By Deane Barker on January 3, 2004

Japan’s maglev train sets record: CNN had a story on Headline News about maglev trains and it got the geek in me all excited. They mentioned this one.

The experimental three-car maglev was carrying passengers when it set the world’s top speed for a train, clocking at 581 kph (361 mph)…

Now, here’s the deal: 600 m.p.h. in a plane is not really a problem, because there’s nothing to run into in the air (I know, I know — other planes, buildings, the ground…don’t get smart). But 361 m.p.h. on train tracks? On the ground? Where there are things like cars, and cows, and school buses full of little children that could end up on the tracks? That 361 m.p.h. would seem so much faster if you ran into something.

It happened in 1998 in Germany. One hundred twenty people died when abullet train derailed and hit an overpass. And it was only travelling at 175 mp.h.

I don’t want to be alarmist or anything, but that kind of speed, that close to stuff that’s as unforgiving as an overpass just makes me a little nervous. And it’s only a matter of time before Jon Voight and Tom Cruise get into a fight on top of one of them, and then what happens?

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  1. A 360mph train and still late every morning.

    Will the excuse ” the train was late because of leaves on the line ” still work?

  2. I watched a great Modern Marvels this weekend on bullet trains (so named because of the nose shape of the first one, not because they go fast).

    Apparently they’re incredibly safe. Japan hasn’t had a single fatality in 40 years of operation.

  3. Went to the World Expo in Aichi Japan this year and saw the actual JR Maglev train as well as some demostrations. I am pretty impressed. They are comtemplating building a line between Tokyo and Osaka. One thing I noticed, the bullet trains run on separate tracks apart from regular commuter trains (until they get to each station)

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