Remember the third installment of Back to the Future, that Michael J. Fox movie that featured time travel. Aside from the Delorean, Marty Mcfly and Emmett Brown also made use of a train to allow them to break through the space and time continuum. How cool would it be if we have trains that can go that fast?
Well, actually, Emmett Brown was able to devise a way to break through the space and time continuum at 88 miles per hour. The train he used was powered by steam, as they were trapped in the year 1885. Of course, he could also have used other power sources available then, like horses and wires and ropes, but they would have been hard pressed to reach the required speed. Eventually, man learned how to power trains using more modern power sources, like diesel, pneumatics, gas turbines, batteries, electricity through overhead wires or additional rails, or even through simple, plain gravity.
Brown would have had no problem attaining the required 88 miles per hour had they traveled to the present time instead. With high-speed trains going at about 124 miles per hour, time travel would have been a breeze. High-speed trains run on dedicated tracks that is surveyed, built and prepared to accommodate fast speeds. The first high-speed train to run was the Shinkansen in Japan, or more popularly known as the bullet train. Shinkansen started way back in 1964.
To address issues in stability, some of these trains make use of tilting technology. This is akin to super elevation, and it helps create a better and smoother riding experience for the passengers.
The beauty of high-speed trains is that they provide a decent alternative to air travel so long as the distance does not exceed 373 miles in total. It is cheaper, and while the actual travel may take longer, the fact that plane rides require a waiting period for check-ins and boarding equalize things. For the transport operator, fuel consumption would also balance out when the large amount of fuel required for take off and climb outs is taken into consideration. It is only for travels beyond 373 miles that airplane rides become cost-competitive.
In the United States, the fastest train in operation is the Acela Express from New York to Washington D.C. that is run by Amtrak. It has a top speed of 150 miles per hour, though the actual average speed is only around 80 miles per hour. The old curving tracks and the frequent stops limit the supposedly high-speed trains capability.
Brown and Mcfly would probably get more luck and options if they venture outside the United States. Both Europe and Asia offer several high-speed trains. Here is a list of the top ten fastest trains in the world.
10 CRH 380A, China – 302 miles per hour
The CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company Limited made the CRH 380A. The Chinese used to depend a lot on foreign technology for its high-speed rails, even in the CRH 30A’s predecessor, the CRH 2-350. The CRH 380A was made with Chinese engineers and inventors, and it markedly improved the top speed. The fastest speed it ever recorded was at 302 miles per hour. In normal operations, the cruising speed of the CRH 380A is 217 miles per hour, and the train maxes out at 258.9 miles per hour.
9 Transrapid TR-09, Germany – 279 miles per hour
The Transrapid TR-09 was built by the Transrapid International GmbH & Co., KG, a partnership between German giants Siemens and Thyssen Krupp. The train works on the Longstator linear motor principle. It is used to transport both passengers and cargo goods. Technically, the Transrapid TR-09 is a monorail that uses magnetically levitating technology.
8 Shinkansen, Japan – 275 miles per hour
This is the bullet train that started it all. Four companies under the Japan Railways Group operate the Shinkansen. The first one, the Tokaido Shinkansen, began in 1964. It covers up to 1,483.6 miles worth of lines. The iconic train features a unique nose, thus earning for it the nickname of the Duck-Billed Platypus.
7 SNCF TGV Reseau, France – 236 miles per hour
The SNCF TGV Reseau, or TGV-R, was introduced in 1993 by Alstom, with the design based on the TGV Atlantique series. The train is pressure sealed to address the complaints of passengers who felt a noticeable and uncomfortable change in pressure when the old trains would enter tunnels. Cruising speed is 199 miles per hour, though it has recorded a top speed of 236 miles per hour.
6 KTX Sancheon, South Korea – 219 miles per hour
The Sancheon was previously known as the KTX II. It is part of the high-rail system of South Korea and is operated by Korail. The technology was based on the TGV/LGV train systems of France, though the South Koreans were able to improve it on its own. The KTX Sancheon actually runs on the HSR-350x, a technology that was developed locally.
5 THSR 700T, Taiwan – 208 miles per hour
The Taiwan High Speed Rail, or THSR, operates the 700T. it is a high-speed train that was developed based on the Shinkansen bullet trains of Japan. The Japanese companies Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi Ltd built the train, the first time such trains were exported.
4 AVE S-102, Spain – 205 miles per hour
Also called the Talgo 350, the train is operated by RENFE. It is actually the first train to break the 200 mile per hour barrier, attaining that speed in a trip from Madrid to Barcelona.
3 Eurostar, UK, Belgium and France – 199 miles per hour
This service connects London with Paris and Brussels. The train runs through the Channel Tunnel. Eurostar International Limited owns this train service.
2 ETR 500, Italy – 190 miles per hour
It stands for Elettro Treno Rapido, this train has been in service since 1993. It was built by Ferrovie dello Stato, and is run by TrenItalia. It services passengers traveling from Milan to Bologna.
1 HSL-1, Belgium – 186 miles per hour
The HSL-1 connects the Belgian capital of Brussels with the LGV Nord at the country’s border with France. Operations started in 1997, with the trains running on 55 miles of combined dedicated and modernized tracks.