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Train meets Roller Coaster

Picture from Roller Coaster Train Simulator, found on Google Play

Meeting Details:

Monday, Nov 21st, ZOOM, 8pm (Central)


Faster Headlines

Wheels on Steel:


International Railway Journal
The Nevada Independent
Streetsblog Chicago

In the Tube:


Up in the Air:

AIN Online



  • Thoughts on Green Bay Trip

  • Student Org Fair, January 31st

  • End of Semester Dinner


Future Train Design - LSM?

When Amtrak was created in 1971, roller coasters were still pretty much wooden with just a seat belt to keep you in. The metal roller coaster was just catching on, but then in 1975 a new invention in roller coaster design appeared…the corkscrew. Since then, roller coaster tech has seen a revolution in design (and popularity) throughout the world. Today roller coasters can reach speeds of 120+ mph (Kingda Ka in Six Flags Great Adventure) and come in types where you sit, stand, hang, or lay down. More importantly they have developed all types of propulsion.

So what does roller coasters have to do with advance high speed train design?

Well, today trains in the US still primarily rely on diesel-electric propulsion. How this works is there is a generator powered by diesel fuel which produces electricity that then powers the electric motors on the train. That technology is nearly 100 years old (1925 was the first time a diesel-electric engine pulled a train). Since then, there really have been really no new breakthrough propulsion technology (even hydrogen trains just produce electricity electric motors).

But when you look at the roller coaster, you have seen a revolution in propulsion, especially from Intamin. The original chain pulled hill is still widely used, but today the linear synchronous motor (LSM) technology is really the predominant propulsion (Hagrid's Magical Adventure, Disney's Tron, Maverick at Cedar Point, and various others).

How this LSM technology works is the train has a permanent magnet that extends below the trains as a fin. On the track are two rows of electromagnetic fins. The polarity of those electromagnetic fins can be changed and even reversed as the train's permanent magnet passes through. This begs the question of can we apply this technology to trains?

Of course, trains are much, much heavier than a roller coaster train. However, most of the weight of the train is in the engines and most of the energy used for a train is when accelerating out the station. What if moved most of the weight and propulsion outside the train? Could a lightweight train, like the Japanese N700I could be modified whereby it used LSM technology to accelerate out of the station then use battery power for the rest of the journey potentially eliminating the need for expensive cantenary system?

How this would work is the Shinkansen leaves the station on its own power, but just after leaving the station the LSM system activates accelerating the train. Then at full speed the train motors (or batteries) would sustain the velocity of the train. Then as the train nears the station, the LSM decelerates the train and captures that energy back.

Of course, a train is heavier and longer than a roller coaster. Plus, a dedicated high-speed track would be needed. But this is the concept behind the propulsion for the super conducting maglev trains being built in Japan and China already. So, can we just use this technology on existing high-speed trains?

For more details on how a linear synchronous motor system works, check out this video:


The High-Speed Rail Mascot

Milwaukee’s Trainfest was a fascinating experience. It was a mix of a senior citizen crowd and a large number of kids from 6-10 yrs. old. It is very rare to see two distinctly different generations together, but they both love trains. The is why these train shows are really a celebration of America’s love of trains. In this show you will find large dioramas with such famed trains as the California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight, the 20th Century limited, and plenty of Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Then besides the model railroads you have everything from classic railroad tableware, to schedules, to books, and of course hats and clothing. It really is a celebration of the golden era of rail in the US….and Americans love it.

But these shows are really a look back in time. The challenge is getting Americans to look forward instead of backward. I did find a German ICE train, the Acela, a Hello Kitty Shinkansen, and a tradition 500 series Shinkansen, but they were hard to find.

At the show I asked a few “engineers” who run the trains if they would make a train set for a high-speed train or SC maglev. The younger ones under 40 were interested, but the vast majority over 60 said no. They love the steam trains and streamliners. That was fine. What interested me were the children. After all, today's 6-year-old will be 22 years old in 2040 and they will be riding high speed trains across the US.

The question is how to get the younger generation to:

1) believe that high speed rail will be coming to the US

2) Fall in love with the Shinkansen.

The irony is this is already being done in Asia. The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is a perfect example, but then even Dr. Yellow is a kid friendly personality. To get these young kids focused on future transport we need a mascot that kids can relate to and love. After all, TNEM means nothing to a 10-year girl. If that 10-year-old falls in love with a Mascot today, such as a “Freddie the Falcon” she is going to have very good (and supportive thoughts) about using and promoting TNEM. Of course, these mascots would also make the Shinkansen feel very American and very familiar.

Of course, which brings back the question of, what would a mascot look like for TNEM, or Texas Central, or even the N700I look like. Of course, there is the “Bullet Train” name, but that is not very kid friendly. The ideas we have had so far are cheetah, falcon, dolphin; but there is more work to do on this. We will keep you advised.


Ride the Bullet Train to Pan Em

Opened in 2016, Motiongate is a theme park in Dubai based upon the movies. With the success of the Hunger Games movie franchise, the park built a whole section dedicated to that franchise.

Then of course, one of the iconic scenes in the franchise was when Katniss and Peta were collected from District 12 and being brought to the Capitol to compete in the games on a luxurious magnetically levitating train.

So, needing a roller coaster, Motiongate Park created the "Bullet Train to the Capitol". Of course, this uses LSM it ahead of its time. But take a ride:


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wiscosin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high speed rail and high speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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