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First Maglev Installation Going Up 241

berniecase writes "After hearing about the 500kph Maglev in Japan on Slashdot, I caught wind of this installation which is going up in Norfolk, Virginia. It's the first Maglev installation in the US. Here's another photo, too."
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First Maglev Installation Going Up

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  • The photo made me do a double-take. I thought, no magnet in the world could lift a train that high! I figured slashdot was spoofed until I realized that it was the crane holding the train that far above the track.
    • The photo made me do a double take because it looks fake! Seriously, it looks like a photoshop job from the onion!
  • Only 40mph? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ahecht ( 567934 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:35PM (#3704465) Homepage
    Maglevs are more expensive, more complex, and require more power than a standard monorail or lightrail, and considering that even the Disneyland monorail can reach 75mph, what is the point of a 40mph maglev?
    • Re:Only 40mph? (Score:2, Informative)

      by i_am_pi ( 570652 )
      uh, 500 kph is NOT 40 mph.
      • If you read the article, it says that the track is short, so it reaches a max speed of about 40 mph on it. In other words, it's kinda a waste of the potential... It's possible, though, that the system is intended to be expanded throughout the city and beyond, later.
    • But Monorails are more of a Shelbyville idea...

    • Re:Only 40mph? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Matthaeus ( 156071 )
      No moving parts, no friction, and dammit, it's just cool!

      I would imagine that the 40 mph limit is more a function of the shape and length of the track than the technology itself. Kinda like having a prototype sports car ona go-kart track. It allows you to see if it'll handle decently at low speeds before you invest the money to see if it'll handle decently at 300 mph.
    • You should build a 40 mph maglev before you try building a 300 mph maglev. The first automobiles were not faster than horses.
    • by Fnord ( 1756 )
      You're from Seattle aren't you?
    • Re:Only 40mph? (Score:3, Informative)

      by yog ( 19073 )
      The answers are in the article ;-)

      First of all, it's a prototype. Secondly, it would hardly make sense to install a 200mph train as a university 2/3 mile shuttle.

      According to a linked article [] at the bottom, the backers of this project consider maglevs cheaper and simpler to build and operate than conventional trains.

      They believe that there is a market for what they called low-speed maglevs in universities, airports, and other places that require short distance people-moving. The Florida facility is working on increasing the speed.

      This seems like sensible engineering; start small and build on one's experience, improving the technology incrementally.

      For a more ambitious project, check out the California Maglev Project [].

    • Re:Only 40mph? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 )
      How is a maglev more "complex"? Perhaps because of the newness it may appear that way, but the fundamentals are so basic that it seems to me that it's the height of simplicity: The opposite of a normal train which is thousands of constantly wearing down parts, etc.

      Once a maglev is in operations I would expect that it is significantly cheaper to maintain maintenance wise.
  • I wish I could say that this was new, revolutionary technology. But I can't. I first heard about it close to 30 years ago in Scientific American.

    But it's cool as hell. Hope it's just the first of many.
    • I wish I could say that this was new, revolutionary technology. But I can't. I first heard about it close to 30 years ago in Scientific American.

      You're right but for me the thrill is not that it's finally being built but that the Americans managed to catch up. For those unfamiliar with the maglev story, here it is:

      Decades ago MIT came up with the idea for the maglev train and even went so far as building a scale-model prototype (there is actually a black-and-white film clip somewhere of it in action). However, funding dried up and America decided not to pursue the technology. Hey, everyone loves their car, right? So why bother building an expensive mass-transit system. Of course, the answer is because not every country in the world is as obsessed with cars as America. Germany and Japan both realized the potential market for this and began development. And in contrast to the Americans, researchers in those countries actually had the full support of the government. Japan and Germany have no qualms about using government money to help subsidize non-military commerical technology. By the time America started to realize that maglev could be a great new market, they were way behind.

      But somehow, and I don't honestly know how, they have been able to catch up to the frontrunners. Everyone loves an underdog, right? Even if USA isn't the first one to field a system, I'm still impressed they were able to realize their mistake and come from behind.


      • > But somehow, and I don't honestly know how, they have been able to catch up to the
        > frontrunners.

        Caught up?! I don't think so. They're at the beginning of a very long incline leading up to a marketable product.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems to me that maglev trains seem to high tech (read expensive) for practical use in the near term (next 20 years). Of course maybe we'll finaly have fusion power by then to run them so, maybe it will work out after all.
  • by Ribo99 ( 71160 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:37PM (#3704480) Homepage Journal
    [Lyle Lanley] Well sir, there's nothin' on earth like a genuine, bonafide, electrified, six-car monorail!
    What'd I say?
    [Ned Flanders] Monorail!
    [Lyle] What's it called?
    [Patty & Selma] Monorail
    [Lyle] That's right, monorail!
    [All chant] Monorail, monorail, monorail...
    [Ms Hoover] I hear those things are awfully loud
    [Lyle] It glides as softly as a cloud
    [Apu] Is there a chance the track could bend?
    [Lyle] Not on your life, my Hindu friend
    [Barney] What about us braindead slobs?
    [Lyle] You'll be given cushy jobs
    [Grampa] Were you sent here by the devil?
    [Lyle] No, good sir, I'm on the level
    [Chief Wiggum] The ring came off my pudding can
    [Lyle] Take my pen knife, my good man
    I swear it's Springfield's only choice
    Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
    What's it called?
    Once again!
    [Marge] But Main Street's still all cracked and broken
    [Bart] Sorry, mom, the mob has spoken
    [All] Monorail! Monorail!
    [Homer] Mono- d'oh!
  • `I told those 3-year-olds they're watching a very historic moment,' she said, adding that they may not have grasped the significance.

    The significance being that the U.S. is farther ahead of any other nation in developing useful, efficient, profit generating public transportation.

    Oh wait....or maybe that this is the only time anyone sees this train and doesn't think: "how long until a bailout?"
  • about time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigBir3d ( 454486 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:39PM (#3704493) Journal
    this has been seriously talked about, planned for, for over a decade, and the US is just getting around to starting to build the infrastructure for this?

    what with the problems of air travel right now (expense, overcrowding, & safety, to name a few), something like a mag-lev system would be awesome for continental travel; say, LA to Phoenix, DC to Boston etc.

    it just makes so much sense that it will probably never be utilized in the proper manner.

    • Building and maintaining track, especially expensive hi-tech maglev track, isn't going to be able to compete with airlines economically, especially not for long-haul routes.

      • Maybe not the long-haul airplane routes, but high speed rail hits a sweet spot on those 250-400mi trips, where your choices are drive 5-8 hrs or fly an hour and wait a few more hours getting in and out of the airport. LA to Vegas in 2 hrs or less? Lots of people would pay for that.

        Of course anytime you have a 200-300mph vehicle hurtling along the ground, sabotage and accidents are always a concern. But then conventional passenger trains are vulnerable to the same things to a lesser degree, and maglev track would be more durable than a conventional high speed rail because of no wheel contact.
  • When I was a young kid, about sixteen years ago, I was introduced to magnets/magnetism, and like any budding engineer, I asked my parents why couldn't you have a big metal tube that was magnetised 'north', and a train covered in metal that was mangetised 'south'.. no friction!

    They couldn't figure out any reason why that wouldn't work, although I couldn't figure out a very good way of propelling the train at that time. My best solution was to stick a giant fan on the back of the train and have it push itself along!!

    It's quite funny, therefore, to see maglev come along in the last few years. I feel like 'I invented it!' Of course, that's not true, but I'm sure lots of people have great ideas without ever learning about the idea before, and then are bitterly disappointed when they find it already exists ;-)

    Unfortunately, my creative skills have dropped off somewhat in the past sixteen years, and now I'm doing drone work.. hmm.. perhaps these technology companies should be employing some smart 5 year olds..
    • When I was an assistant in a High School Physics Lab, I tried tinkering with a model train track and one train axle. First I soldered the axle so it would conduct electricity. Then I put some square magnets under the track (same polarity facing up) and connected the tracks to a DC power supply (one track positive, one track negative). It looks neat.. like a single axle moving by itself!
    • uh... doesn't north attract south? so there would be a LOT of friction in your "invention"
      • Oh well, my recollection skills have also fallen in use. Yeah, whatever ones repel each other. (You can tell I'm no engineer now)

    • This Slashdot article is quite USA-centric. If this is truly the "First Maglev Installation Going Up", then how can there exist maglev trains in Japan? Not every Slashdot reader is a USAian.
    • Parallel invention or reinvention is very common, often occurring around the same time in different parts of the world. One reason for it is that ideas usually build on existing knowledge, so people working at the same time with access to similar knowledge are likely to come up with the similar ideas.

      The first patent in the US for a maglev train design was filed in 1969. The interesting question would be whether 5 year olds before that time might have come up with the same idea, or whether something that you were exposed to might have seeded the idea, whether toy trains or watching the Jetsons on TV.

    • I asked my parents why couldn't you have a big metal tube that was magnetised 'north', and a train covered in metal that was mangetised 'south'.. no friction!

      I suggest you try and physically separate the "north" and "south" on a magnet. Ever wonder why the don't sell separate "north" and "south" magnets?

    • Great, now all you have to do is invent monopole magnets and you're all set.

    • I didn't realize Al Gore read /.
  • by Subcarrier ( 262294 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:41PM (#3704511)
    Don't get on board if you have piercings. Very painful.
  • After hearing about the 500kph Maglev in Japan on Slashdot, I caught wind of this installation which is going up in Norfolk, Virginia

    Yeah and at 40 MPH, America is _almost_ there!
  • I hope someday we get maglev cars like that new movie:
  • ....that's SOME LEVITIATION []

    I thought it would be a few centimeters, at best.

  • short run track (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:43PM (#3704527) Journal
    the ODU prototype is expected to max out at about 40 mph along a track that stretches about two-thirds of a mile. [...] When it makes its maiden run, scheduled for September, the train will carry up to 100 people for 30 to 40 seconds between each of the three stations, running entirely on autopilot.

    with a short run track, I expect that it would not be practical to accelerate to 400 mph.

    It would probably take as long to merely get strapped in for a high speed run.

    • It is only going to run on ODU's campus to test out the system. If it fairs well, it will be extended to downtown norfolk to the MacArther shopping mall. There are rumors that it will also go to Virginia Beach and other locations, but I am not exactly sure. If it does extend to MacArther, I hope it can go above 60mph and skip the Hampton Blvd traffic :)

      Since I go to and work for ODU, my sig is a shameless advertisement []
  • Ugh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bahtama ( 252146 )
    $14 million dollars to transport people 2/3 of a mile. Get a bike, rollerblades, skateboard, Segway or use those two fleshy things that go into your shoes. Why don't they test this somewhere more useful or at least a longer test track.
    • And I might add, if people are really that lazy, 14 million can buy a helluva lot of rickshaws. :)
    • Re:Ugh. (Score:3, Funny)

      by wackybrit ( 321117 )
      Good afternoon, I'm a movie geek and COBOL programmer based in Dorksville, TX. I am interested in learning about these 'two fleshy things that go into your shoes' that are you talking about.

      My car is my current form of mobility. I use it to get to my mailbox, pick up soda from WAL*Mart, and also to walk my dog.

      Kindly send me some information on the 'two fleshy things that go into your shoes'.

      Afatpro Grammar
    • by pos ( 59949 )
      Seriously... I visited this campus this summer and saw the track. I thought it was a plain ol' monorail. I walked from one end of the campus to the other in 5 minutes.

      I don't really understand why they would spend 14 mil on this. There are probably some much better Universities for a project like this. My College had 4 or 5 different campuses spread out by 20 minute bus rides. As a student it is common to have classes on three of the campuses each day.

      Does anyone know how ODU managed to raise that much money for a seemingly overpowered project?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a BIG difference between this MagLev train and the Japanese one - this one uses conventional copper wound magnets, NOT superconductors like the Japanese version. While there is great expense in keeping superconducting magnets cold, they are certainly more efficient conductors of electricity and can create much stronger magnets. The Japanese train is about 60MPH faster than this one.
  • Last year Washington's governor, Gary Locke, was pictured "pushing" a small maglev device along a track and talking about how this would help solve the atrocious traffic problems in Seattle... nothing came about it and now there is a proposal to make a monorail that runs along the I-5 corridor, but the voters in this state are stupid and won't ever approve anything that makes them pay more taxes, nomatter how beneficial.

    There are some great technologies that can increase transportation and decrease traffic and polution, but without support of taxpayers a lot of states will never see these solutions in use.

    • what are you talking about? The Seattle voters passed the monorail initiatives TWICE, but the fascist city council killed the monorail with numerous "feasibility studies", sending millions of dollars to their "consultant" cronies.
  • ``I told those 3-year-olds they're watching a very historic moment,'' she said, adding that they may not have grasped the significance.
  • Sometimes I look at things like this and wonder, "Wouldn't it be great if I could board a maglev in Seattle and be in Chicago in eight hours? Wouldn't it be great if this only cost me a hundred bucks? Wouldn't it be great if I could walk around, sit in a seat that's large enough to be comfortable, maybe get into a serious game of cards? Or maybe even park my car on the train and take it with me for another hundred bucks? I wonder when that will happen?"

    Then I realize that people have been asking that for decades, and that nobody's done anything about it. Because we don't give a damn about building new infrastructure, or even repairing the old stuff.

    The national highways, power dams, the moon...all that behind us, all that in our past. America's lost her ambition. What a shame.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The national highways, power dams, the moon...all that behind us, all that in our past. America's lost her ambition. What a shame.

      If we tried to carry out massive projects like those today, we'd never be able to get beyond the environmental impact statements, safety requirements, public hearings, and the other wonderful regulations that have been put into place.

      • Someone sounds bitter. :)

        Anyhow, as somebody else pointed out, maintaining those rails would be more expensive than air flight. It's not economical .. ironically, its that capitalism part that prevents its use on long routes. Unless you'd prefer to subsidize it by way of taxes, hrmmm, but I'm guessing thats the other thing you deplore?
    • Well, you are a voter, yes? Write to your Congresspeeps and let'em know your feelings.

      Building a national high speed rail system would cost not tens or even hundreds of billions, but probably **trillions** of dollars. Are you prepared to shell out an extra couple thousand a year to the IRS for the next 10 years or so?

      It's not a lack of ambition; it's a lack of money.

    • Sometimes I look at things like this and wonder, "Wouldn't it be great if I could board a maglev in Seattle and be in Chicago in eight hours? Wouldn't it be great if this only cost me a hundred bucks? [...]

      Someimes I look at things like this and wonder "Wouldn't it be great if I could flap my arms and fly to the moon?" That's about as likely as a maglev from Seattle to Chicago showing a profit on a $100 fare.

    • Southwest [] has democratized the airlines!

  • Wouldn't it be pretty easy for some malcontent to kill hundreds of people by parking a car or hoisting some other heavy object onto the tracks of a 500kph train? You wouldn't even need explosives. The bodily trauma of violent deceleration in a train car careening about at 500kph is surely enough to kill anyone.

    This seems like it should be a huge issue. Airplanes moving at 500kph are largely safe because (a) it does so when there's nothing to run into but air, and (b) it's extraordinarily hard (though obviously not impossible) to intervene maliciously with their normal operation.

    How is this problem being addressed in Japan? Or is it? Or am I just paranoid?
    • You are just paranoid.
    • parking a car or hoisting some other heavy object onto the tracks

      Even with SUVs it would be quite a feat to drive the car to a park on those maglev tracks high above... (rails could perhaps in theory be made to run on ground-level, digging magnets in, but there are no good reasons for doing that?).

      Even without malicious intents accidents on crossovers would be a problem with fast trains, so it's very unlikely there would be any level intersections with other traffic. So, while getting obstacles on the track would be easier than with airplanes, it probably wouldn't be trivial. It's also likely trains are will be equipped with some radar equipment, to try to prevent crashes with obstacles (and once again even without terrorism threats this is a somewhat real problem).

      • Yeah, it would be definitely non-trivial to put something on the tracks 12feet above ground which is heavy enough not to be blown away by the enormous air-pressure in front of a 300mph train.

        Thank God thats the case - otherwise, who would board one of these things voluntarily

    • And if you park a car on a runway - the plane will be going much slower than 500 kmph, but there will be a nice explosion. If the car is to much for you, just send some birds into the jet engines.
    • I don't think this will be a problem.
      1. It's a TRAIN. With huge amounts of INERTIA.
      If you could get a large object on it, the train would hit it so hard it would go flying off without much impact on the velocity of the train. (before you scoff @ the obvious bits read on)

      2. Those magnets weigh TONS (when combined) They're very powerful. It's not an 'on/off' guidance system like conventional rails. Those fields must go waay out.

      3. My guess is it would be pretty hard to get it to 'derail'. The train is 'locked' to the track. (can't come off without massive structural failure). If there were structural problems with the train/track I'm sure it would shut down almost immediatly. There is a proposed maglev that does just this in the event of a problem. In the event of a problem the train would stop levitating and just slide to a stop along the track. A pretty full proof emergency braking system.

  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @06:56PM (#3704592) Homepage Journal
    I'm not impressed, really. I can see the strings [].
  • by cutecub ( 136606 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @07:01PM (#3704611)
    The mag-strip on everyone's BART ticket would be instantly erased them moment they stepped on board...
  • Virginia! It sure will be great to have a bunch of hillbillies running this thing.

    "Hay paw! Joe Bob done gots the fly on his britches stuck to the magnet again!"
  • not the first in North America; I remember riding on one at the World's Fair in Vancouver (Expo86). It was part of the Japanese exhibit. It was the smoothest form of transport I've ever tried, unsurprisingly. pictures []
  • The problem I see for high speed, long distance trains in this country is the monkey wrench factor. How hard is it to put something on the "tracks" and cause a catastrophic crash? And how hard is it to design systems to prevent this that is cost effective over a great distance. The elevated train concept seems to work well for city transit, but would increase the costs dramatically for a coast to coast version.

    The japanese, as a society, seem to be ordered enough that sabotage is a fairly low risk. But in this country one would expect it to happen just for the "I wonder what would happen if" factor.

    A country that has periodic roadside snipers might not be ready for this kind of technology unless it can be made fool proof (or at least highly tamper resistant).

    • "The japanese, as a society, seem to be ordered enough that sabotage is a fairly low risk. But in this country one would expect it to happen just for the "I wonder what would happen if" factor. "

      not so... there have been several cases of citizens of japan throwing themselves in front of trains to commit suicide. They (Japan) legislated laws fining their families for the damage done, not to mention the dishonor said families would acquire. This seemed to be enough to stop such stupidity.

  • The first? (Score:4, Informative)

    by D'Arque Bishop ( 84624 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @07:05PM (#3704634) Homepage
    After hearing about the 500kph Maglev in Japan on Slashdot, I caught wind of this installation which is going up in Norfolk, Virginia. It's the first Maglev installation in the US.

    Well... that's nice... but when you call it the first, do you mean that's the first maglev of that particular type or size, or the first ever? I ask because George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston has a maglev train that runs between the airport terminals that's been in use for at least fifteen years or so.

    Don't get me wrong; this looks like it'll be a fine system... but I think calling it the first is a bit inaccurate.

    Just my $.02...

    • Okumura Fuminao writes ( -- "The research and development of Maglev adopting superconducting technology has been under way at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) in Kunitachi from 1962. After fundamental laboratory tests to verify the feasibility of high-speed running, the test runs of the experimental vehicle ML-100 with on-board superconductive magnets was opened to the public at the RTRI Kunitachi Institute in October 1972, which was also the railway centennial in Japan. After this demonstration, the construction of a 7-km test track began in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1975. Test runs of the ML-500 on the inverted-T-shaped guideway started in 1977. The unmanned ML-500 attained a speed record of 517km/h in 1979. The guideway was then modified to the U-shaped guideway. Experiments using MLU001 started in 1980. Government subsidies for Maglev development were introduced from the time these experiments started. The manned two-car vehicle MLU001 registered a speed of 400.8km/h in 1987. Following the privatization and division of the JNR, the test vehicle MLU002N debuted in 1993. MLU002N achieved a speed record of 431km/h on the Miyazaki Maglev Test Track in 1994, and a manned-test-run record of 411km/h in January of 1995."
    • Re:The first? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Qubertio ( 585638 )
      There are presently two fixed-guideway systems operating in IAH:

      1. A steel-wheels-and-rails train running the length of the airport connecting all terminals that has been in operation is some form since 1969.
      2. "TerminaLink" a rubber-tired almost-monorail connecting terminals B and C, completed in 1999.

      Neither is Maglev, neither is 15 years old. You can keep your $0.02

  • There've been 2 comments pointing out the flaws in this system. 1) People could easily sabotage it. 2) its only cost effective at short distances. solution? PUT IT UNDERGROUND! or at least house it in some sort of lucite tube with metal regularly spaced metal bands.
  • I have to much does the electricity to run this thing cost?

    (Glad they're not building it in California instead...)

  • by Ethelred Unraed ( 32954 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @07:39PM (#3704806) Journal

    Here in Germany, where high-speed trains are fairly common (the ICE2 goes up to something like 280 km/h, or about 170 mph, though only on top-quality track), there has been some debate for some years about building a maglev passenger train -- but the usual NIMBY problems keep coming up.

    To add to the irony, the Greens -- who you would think would want to support mass transit, especially one like maglev -- have often blocked its implementation in Germany on environmental grounds (disturbing habitats, etc.).

    There there is the situation in the USA.

    On the other hand, maglev could in theory revive passenger train service in the USA. I believe that one of the main reasons it has failed in the States is simply economics -- because of the greater distances involved, the net cost per mile of track, the total cost to maintain a (much onger) average stretch of track, and therefore the ticket price for getting from point A to point B is higher than in Europe, where population density is far higher and a greater potential for train service exists. Another drawback in the States is again because of the distance: with Amtrak's usual trains (which are abysmally slow by European standards) it takes forever to get anywhere. So you pay more for worse (slower) service, and the train company has less surplus money to invest in new technology or track improvements. No wonder Amtrak is so terrible.

    (Consider the irony that the USA is generally considered to have the most modern freight rail in the world -- but passenger rail is a joke.)

    The initial cost of a maglev line is probably a lot higher, but I would imagine that its TCO would be much lower than conventional trains -- and given its far higher potential speeds, it could really compete with airliners (at least on the East and West Coasts, where there is a high enough population density to pay for it).

    But the whole train-related mass transit infrastructure is missing in most American cities (thanks in part to the American love of cars) -- okay, so you got to the main station, but then what? How do you get around? Is there a well-integrated tram/bus/subway/coach system? Most cities just don't have that (certainly nothing like in Germany or France). So even if someone is willing to take the (substantial) financial risk and heavy investment load of building a maglev network in the States, there are still a lot of practical issues to deal with beyond just the train lines.

    So, sad to say, even though maglev technology was developed to a large degree in America, I don't see it happening in the near future. In spite of the problems mentioned above in Germany, I do think that there will be several trunk lines running maglev service in Germany in the next few years (probably Cologne-Hannover-Berlin and Hamburg-Hannover-Frankfurt-Munich at the least).

    By the way, one of the main companies working on maglev is TransRapid []. Check out their site (especially the Projects section) for a lot of info about the subject, including about possible maglev lines in the States.


    Ethelred []

  • it would probabbly mean that it is not (actually we are already pretty sure about this, arn't we?) super-conductor mag-lev, but instead just really, really power-hungry conventionaly electro-magnetic levitation.

    This would not, should not, and probabbly could not ever be made into a real commercial train; the margin of safty is simply so much less than superconducting maglev
  • by k2r ( 255754 )
    You might want to have a look at the German maglev "Transrapid" which is running in circles since 20 years now and will finally be build in China.
    It does 310 mph / 500km/h. []

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
    A waste - an utterly complete waste.

    Think about it - it is a train that only goes 40 mph, only travels a small distance (as one poster here said, he could walk it in 5 minutes), and sucks electricity like a pig. Where are the advantages?

    Sure, it looks and sounds cool, but until electricity if free (or near free), it is a near worthless application of the technology (that of magnetic levitation and propulsion - I realise that there ARE some practical uses of the tech, but not "people mover" - yet). What are the advantages of this train over, say, a standard small light-rail train? Or something smaller like a BART system?

    If smoothness of ride is wanted, why not use "sprung" linear ball bearing tracks, and a smooth bottom train, coupled with propelling "booster" wheels (like that used to get roller coasters away from the stations) along the track every so often, activated as the train approached, deactivated after it had gone by (heck, make it cheaper - drop the ball bearing track and use good sprung bogeys, with a bottom friction plate on the train).

    What further galls me is the idea that this is planned to be extended, for larger area use. The cost for this (and light rail) is very high, but there are other alternatives. Phoenix, AZ recently passed its own "light rail initiative", called Transit 2000 [] - the original website is gone, but "they" chose to go with a standard light rail system. There was a competing system, which was passed over (more on that in a bit). Funny thing about the Phoenix system - I haven't heard much of anything on it since the initiative passed the voters (ie, the tax got passed) - likely it is being funneled and used to line pockets. Plus, I haven't got the slightest idea how they plan to put it in the area proposed - if you live in Phoenix, and look at the map of the route, you know that there is NO WAY IT WILL FIT, at least not without serious restructuring of a major freeway.

    Anyhow, as far as the other system is concerned? The other system was Doug Malewicki's SkyTran []. The concept seems sound, he has presented his plan in a clear fashion on his website. I still hope one day he will get the funding to make this invention a reality (hell, if he could just sell his Robosaurus he could probably get a prototype going)...
  • the one time I could have gotten a story posted on slashdot and I don't even recognize it. I live in the city next too Norfolk, Portsmouth. they were originally trying to sell this idea to Virginia Beach as a way for tourists to get around but it jsut wasn't practical. So then they sold it to ODU (Old Dominion University). from what I understand this isn't costing ODU anything which is great. Whats sad is I've known about this for like a year or more and jsut didn't think it that noteworthy. cool things happen here all the time. :)
    • You're right about that. I live in Newport News and when you see this stuff every day you just don't pay any attention. I moved back to Michigan for a couple of months and the tech-throwback shock was horrible. Dialup 33.6K at best.

      Anyhow,just think about it.
      Newport News Shipbuilding : Nuclear Aircraft Carriers and Subs.
      Jefferson Labs: CEBAF particle Accelerator.
      Langley NASA Research: Aviation and space research
      Others... c/ m

      No wonder...

  • by E1v!$ ( 267945 )
    There seem to be 2 main camps when it comes to mag-lev.

    1. You put the propusion/levitaion in the car.
    2. You distribute the propulsion/levitaion between the track and the car.

    #1 while being more challenging from a performance standpoint, has some pretty hefty dollar per-mile advantages. I think this type of design is more likely to be put into use here in the US. TCO is likely to be low. A track maintenance problem would likely be nothing more than alignment or (if the track supplied power to charge the batteries) power delivery. But because of the engineering issues (greater car weight leading to most of them), I doubt mag-lev will come to the US until further advances in power storage and high temp superconductors come down the pike.

    #2 Is much 'cooler' in terms of what can be done today, but I imagine initial build cost as well as TCO would be much higher than #1. A track based propulsion || levitation system would dramatically increase the cost per mile of track. Not to mention if there's a problem with the track (an this is more likely with a complex track) that whole run becomes unusable until someone can go out to BFE to fix it. (can you imagine going out to the middle of nowhere to install a new section of track?) TCO would be HUGE.
  • What happened to the big scare about electromagnetic radiation? Remember the stories about people getting cancer from living underneath power lines? Rememeber people getting their houses checked with gauss meters? These folks are sure to come out of the woodwork if maglev trains are ever built.
  • During the first trial run they had the power turned up too high on the magnets. You can see in the photo [] that the train is levitating a good 15' above the track. This caused stability problems and the power has been reduced in subsequent trial runs.

  • I have a much better and cost effective solution!
    MahaLev: Maharishi Levitation [], teach everybody
    Transcendental Meditation - get a yogi to act as a conductor,
    and have everyone onboard chant "aaoouuumm" as the train raises itself from the tracks.

    And as a bonus for /. readers: You get karma!

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"