History Of Trains In General And Bullet Trains Specifically

by TessaSchlesinger

by Tessa SchlesingerA brief history of trains with focus on bullet trains, the fastest trains on earth. About trains as the most environmentally friendly transport system on earth.

The history of the locomotive engine started on July 25th, 1814 when George Stephenson tested the locomotive steam engine which he had designed and built. “Blucher”, the name of his locomotive, struggled uphill with eight wagons filled to the brim with coal at about four miles per hour. That was the beginning of train history. More than 150 years later, bullet trains would be invented. They are transforming the landscape of China and Europe and provide cheap, fast travel for everybody.

Japan is the First to Invent the Bullet Train

Japanese Bullet Trains

It is commonly known that Japan went from a 19th century national economy to a 20th century global economy in a time span of 30 years between 1945 and 1975. What is less known is that Japan, understanding that fast, efficient transport was the key to a global economy, was the first country in the world to introduce the Bullet train. Kawasaki Heavy Industries was duly appointed the manufacturer and the first high speed train went ‘on line’ in 1964.Japan is renowned for its high speed Bullet trains without which its economy could not function so effectively.

132 miles per hour in Japan

The Shinkansen

The Shinkansen, as it is known in Japan, made its first journey between Tokyo and Osaka, a distance of 301 miles, at a speed of 132 mph. Such was its success that Japan introduced a second high speed train, this time to run between Osaka and Okayama in 1972. Several more high speed trains were to follow.


France was second country to introduce the bullet train

The SNGF Bullet Train in France

The next country to introduce high speed trains was France. SNGF, the public rail system in France, was losing passengers to other forms of transport and introduced the TGV (Train and Grande Vitesse) to counteract the trend in 1981. As a result of Opec manipulating the oil market in 1974, the train was designed to be powered by gas turbines. It ran on a specially built track between Lyon and Paris. Eight years later, another TGV was introduced, this time between the coast and Paris. Soon, France became the most rail efficient country int heworld, with high speed train connection to Belgium, London, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands.

Most European Countries Adopt High Speed Rail

High Speed Rail is fast and inexpensive

Concurrently, the European Economic Union became stronger as neighboring countries began to interconnect more easily other and trade increased. The Euro currency was introduced to speed up trade even more. In the following twenty years, most European countries adopted high speed rail technology.


Different Types of Bullet Trains

Magnetic Levitation, ICE, Taigo,

The European countries that rushed to follow France’s example employed many different design technologies for these trains. Germany used the ICE and Magnetic Levitation technologies. Spain used the Talgo train system while Italy, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, England, Switzerland and Norway all opted for the Tilting trains methodology. Magnetic Levitation.

Levitation, in which the train does not touch the rail but travels between two electro-magnetic fields, appears to be the high speed train of the future. (This technology is used in South Africa by the Sun City Casino resort.)


Faster than a speeding bullet.... well, not quite!

Speed of Bullet Trains!

Bullet trains generally travel between 150 and 180 mph. A French TGV reached a speed of 320 in 1990. Japan is currently experimenting with a high speed train using magnetic levitation that is reaching speeds of 361 mph.

Internationally, the Bric Countries, i.e. Russia, India, China and Canada all either have high speed trains, or are in the process of setting up these rail systems. It is no surprise that all these countries are global players.

In December, 2009, China launched the fastest and most efficient Bullet train ever invented. The speed is about 220 mph. The train was built to link Wuhan, a city in central china to, Guangzhou, a city in the south. Where previously, the travel time had been close on seven hours, the time is now in the region of two and three quarters of an hour.

The Eurostar connects England to France via the undersea tunnel. It goes from London to Paris in two hours. The cost of the ticket is about $90.00. Although the distance is only 213 miles, the train stops in Lille, Calais and Ashford.


Modern Economies Need Bullet Trains

Cheap, Fast, Environmentally Freindly Travel

In a global economy, there are many needs to be met. Fast communication between traders and fast transportation of goods are at the top of the list. For most of the global palyers, the 80s and 90s brought the realization that automobiles were not the optimal method of traveling. Roads had to be constantly widened in order to provide for the increasing number of trucks carrying goods and for passenger carrying vehicles transporting executives between cities. Growing congestion slowed the speed of vehicles, increasing the time taken to transport products to the market place and traders to business meetings. While air travel was a faster method of transport, it, too, had its limitations. In Europe, checking in and going through customs slowed down the process substantially and train travel proved a quicker option for those making journeys of less than 400 miles.

World's fastest bullet train in China

Without a sustainable means of fast travel for everybody, the United States will increasingly fail economically.

The USA is far behind in terms of Bullet Trains and train travel in general

In the United States, after World War II, federal and local government focused on building an infrastructure of roads, and thus rail usage lagged. More than four decades later, when it became apparent that as fast as highways were being built, so fast traffic increased, other options were sought. Various states began to look at the possibility of high speed trains.

During the past twenty years, both Florida and California have intermittently undertaken feasibility studies. In both states, there has been a history of stop and start, as various commissions decided for and against high speed trains. Funding has also been controversial.

In 2003, in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush vetoed funds that were approved by the Florida Legislature for the High Speed Rail project. However, the Florida High Speed Rail Authority has been able to continue with its high speed rail project with funds accumulated earlier. Currently, the Authority is negotiating with Fluor Bombardier for the manufacture of a high speed train, as well as researching the various high speed technologies.

In California, Governor Schwarzenegger approved a study investigating a high speed train system that would connect San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, as well as some of the smaller inner cities. It would cut the journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles to about two hours. However, environmentalists have continued to bring strong pressure against the introduction of a fast rail system to California as it would pass through some environmentally sensitive areas.

One tradition that has been lost over time is overnight travel by train. It used to be standard fare to be able to reserve a compartment and sleep on board. During the day, there would be a silver service meal for breakfast, lunch and supper. Nor was it only for the very rich. The middle classes could happily afford it. At this point in time, only those that have quite a bit of discretionary income can afford the cost of sleeping onboard a train. It’s a pity because there’s nothing nicer than listening to the chuck-chuck-chuck of the wheels moving over the rails. It is a good experience.

Other states, too, have investigated the high speed train and although none has yet introduced the Bullet Train, the continued feasibility studies indicate that this will eventually happen. Indeed, the high speed trains have shown themselves to be essential not only to a vibrant internal economy but with that of a global economy.

Luxury train journeys are a better option than cruise ships...

China Unveils the Worlds Fastest High Speed Train | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World
China is speeding towards the future of public transportation with the launch of the fastest high-speed train on the planet! Averaging 217 mph (350 km/h),

How much it costs train companies to carry their passengers (and the results may surprise you!) | Ma
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Still Waiting: Will America's Next-Gen Bullet Trains Ever Leave the Station? | Popular Science
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The dying days of America's steam engines: Incredible photographs from the 1950s | Mail Online
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Bullet Trains expensive to build but cheaper than any other transport system to maintain and run.

Advantages of Bullet Trains

Traveling by train has many advantages. Firstly, one doesn’t sit in the traffic jams getting frustrated. Secondly, one can read or do some work while on the train. Thirdly, there are no parking issues when one arrives at one’s destination. Lastly, overall, it’s a lot less expensive traveling by train than by car or plane.

There was another positive element that resulted from the introduction of high speed trains. Between 1964 and 1991, Japan’s Shinkansen had transported in excess of three billion passengers without there been a single fatal accident and eleven years after France introduced the TGV, it still had a 100% safety record. This statistic has never been equaled by the traditional slow moving trains in any country.

In cities, other trains are used. In London, the tube has sections which are very modern and there are other lines which need some rehabilitation. Despite that, millions of Londoners use the tube throughout the day and night, and despite London being a very vast city, anyone can go anywhere by tube as every single area is covered. The metro is Paris is much the same, as are train services throughout Europe.


Bullet Trains Essential to Modern Life and the Future

Bullet trains use the least fuel of all transport methods per capita. While not as fast as a plane, they are certainly faster than travel by car, truck, or bus. They use up less land than other modes of transport and pollute less than ships, planes, or motor vehicles. While there they are initially expensive to build, they are cheap to run. 

Cargo can be transported efficiently across the country in far larger bulk than that contained in a truck. If one compares the total cost of salaries for truck drivers with the total cost of salaries for bullet train staff, the bullet train operation wins hands down. 

More than anything, without an effective, convenient, relatively inexpensive tranport system, no country can hope to compete internationally in the coming years.

Updated: 03/21/2013, TessaSchlesinger
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