Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Trains and Records..

TGV V150 of the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer), France's national railway system, has set a new record of 357.4 mph on track between Paris and Strasbourg. The engine was uprated to 25000 hp, and larger wheels were fitted for the attempt. It was hoped that the record set by a Japanese MagLev train of 361 mph could have been equalled or broken, but unfortunately fell just short of the target. Unfortunate it may have been, but when one considers that it was running on rails, and picking up off of an overhead Catenary wire, overcoming all of the friction induced by the rails, wire and air, it was a huge achievement. The French are not new to rail speed records, having first set the record back in the '60's for electric locomotives on specially prepared track between Paris and Lille. Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain and Japan all have their own high speed railway networks, proving that there is still life in the railroad.

There is a speed record which has never been broken, that of a steam hauled train. On July 3rd, 1938, the London North Eastern Railway LNER 4468 Mallard, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, set a record of 126 mph. Notice that the front end design has not changed too much!

One more record that deserves a mention is that of the 'Rocket', designed by George Stephenson. In the year 1829, there was a competition for all railway locomotive builders. It was called the Rainhill Trials, and was sponsored by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Rocket was the only locomotive to complete the trials successfully, weighing just less than 6 tons while pulling a 20 ton load at a speed of 10 mph. It became the railway locomotive to haul the very first passenger service.

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