High Speed Ground Transportation: Some Historical Perspectives

by J. Paul Hartman, Univ of Central Florida, Orlando, United States,

Abstract: The definition of `high speed' ground transportation is relative to the transportation technology of a period. Thus it might be argued that high speed ground transportation began early in the 19th century when British engineers developed the first effective steam railroad locomotives, a technology which spread rapidly. The railroads pursued varying technologies in seeking higher ground transportation speeds through the end of World War II and immediately thereafter. During these 120 years there was much experimentation to improve both high speed capabilities as well as operating and fuel efficiencies. Such experimentation included atmospheric, diesel-electric, electric, and even jet propulsion. Maximum speeds in excess of 100 mph (161 km/h) were attained early in the 20th century with steam propulsion. Speeds in excess of 130 mph (209 km/h) would be attained by diesel-electric and electric propulsion in the 1930s. The result of these changing technologies was to provide incremental improvements in speed and scheduling over previously developed (and entrenched) steam propulsion technology, but average speeds would remain less than 90 mph (145 km/h). It was not until the 1960s and thereafter that serious efforts began to make high speed passenger systems to double and triple previously attained ground transportation speeds. In 1965 the Japanese inaugurated the first regularly scheduled train service with an average speed over 100 mph (161 km/h). Since then much international effort has been expended to improve and expand high speed ground transportation systems, now defined as those systems with speeds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h). This paper highlights some of these historical developments in high speed ground transportation.

Subject Headings: Rail transportation | Energy efficiency | Petroleum | Scheduling | Steam power | Terminology and definition | Passengers

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