"The US isn't ready for High Speed Rail:"

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

JontyMort

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 4, 2021
Messages
328
Location
United Kingdom
AVE train sets are not multi gauge, but there are a large number of other train sets that are gauge changing, which they can do at slow speed but without stopping that operate partly on the high speed standard gauge lines at upto 250kph and partly on upgraded Spanish gauge lines. A quick summary can be foud in the Wikipedia article on AVE..

There are (or were) also Talgo gauge sheds at Irun and Port Bou for the Paris-Madrid and Paris-Barcelona overnight trains.
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,126
There are (or were) also Talgo gauge sheds at Irun and Port Bou for the Paris-Madrid and Paris-Barcelona overnight trains.

The sheds are still there AFAIK but unfortunately the overnight trains that used them (along with the two daytime trains to Montpellier that also used them) were discontinued back in about 2013 (speaking from memory).

There is now talk of bringing back the Zurich to Barcelona train. The plans are still a bit wishy washy, but it seems unlikely this would be a Talgo,

But there are now similar sheds all over the system, with lots of Talgo trains crossing over between the gauges. They now use locomotives that can change gauge in the same shed so they no longer need to switch locomotives as they used to do in Irun and Port Bou.
 

JontyMort

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 4, 2021
Messages
328
Location
United Kingdom
There is now talk of bringing back the Zurich to Barcelona train. The plans are still a bit wishy washy, but it seems unlikely this would be a Talgo,

Was it Zurich? I thought the Catalan Talgo was just Geneva-Barcelona.

OT alert...

I have happy memories of a Paris-Barcelona normal overnighter (couldn’t afford the Talgo) over 40 years ago. The train was (IIRC) non-stop to Toulouse Matabiau. Opening the train doors - even at 0500 - was like opening an oven as a great blast of heat came in. You then fetched up on the Côte Vermeille right down at the border, and changed trains at Port Bou. Reader, she married me!
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,126
Geneva was a day train. That was the Catalan Talgo which ran Barcelona to Geneva initially as the only TEE branded train in Spain . In the early days she was hauled on the French leg by a Spanish 353 talgo locomotive fitted with standard gauge wheel sets . Later sncf provided their own locomotives for this leg . In about the late 1980s the train was cut back to Barcelona Montpellier . The TEE branding had been dropped by this point . The onward connection to Geneva was provided by a TGV which was marginally faster because it could use a section of high speed line . the loss of a direct connection combined with airline competition led to a slow demise of this once front line service .

I think this train was one of the last to still use Talgo III equipment . Which afaik it did until the end. The train was discontinued in circa 2013 when a TGV / AVE service was introduced between Barcelona and Lyon using the new high speed line . All long distance and inter city trains on the old line via Figueres and Port Bou ceased at this point . The old line can only be travelled on local trains .

this was a different train to the Barcelona Zurich sleeper Talgo , Pau Casals , which ran combined with a Milan Barcelona sleeper on part of its journey . I think this was introduced in the early 1980s and discontinued in 2012 . I was on one of the very last runs .

There were two further talgos that crossed over at Port bou . There was the Barcelona Paris sleeper and there was a day train from Cartagena to Montpelier , the Mare Nostrum Talgo . Another old favourite of mine.

yes , I remember the non talgo night trains too . There was one from Geneva that split I think in narbonne and one half went to Port Bou and the other to Hendaye via Lourdes . It was a very long train and quite impressive to see a single locomotive handle it on the mountainous section after Geneva .

The Hendaye leg would be combined with another night train that came from Rome but was later cut back to Ventimilia . I’m not sure when all this was discontinued but I guess in the early 2000s
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,126
Was it Zurich? I thought the Catalan Talgo was just Geneva-Barcelona.

OT alert...

I have happy memories of a Paris-Barcelona normal overnighter (couldn’t afford the Talgo) over 40 years ago. The train was (IIRC) non-stop to Toulouse Matabiau. Opening the train doors - even at 0500 - was like opening an oven as a great blast of heat came in. You then fetched up on the Côte Vermeille right down at the border, and changed trains at Port Bou. Reader, she married me!
Lovely story

lovely memories
 
Joined
May 13, 2015
Messages
1,162
Location
N. Texas
What If The United States Had A National High Speed Rail Network?

The United States has never had a true high speed rail line, let alone an entire network. Instead, a quasi-governmental organization called Amtrak has provided the vast majority of passenger rail service across the country. But because Amtrak does not currently own 98% of its own track, its ability to speed up its trains or provide more service is severely hampered. But what if the United States had built out a high speed rail line?

Posted by What If Geography June 1, 2022

 

MccfamschoolMom

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
536
Location
Dwight, IL
There was a lot of resistance to building a "high-speed rail" line along the Lincoln Service/Texas Eagle tracks in my part of IL, largely because the original plan was to close all but 1 railroad crossing in each community along the tracks -- which would have greatly disrupted daily life in those communities. The track was eventually upgraded without closing railroad crossings (although the crossings in my town which had been at 4-way intersections had the intersections modified so that only 2 directions of road traffic would use the crossing -- which fouled up the GPS for out-of-town clients coming to our business). We got a new (unmanned) station for our town, too, which the Lincoln Service ridership from our town didn't justify, and there has been local concern ever since about gang-bangers and druggies from Chicago coming to hang out at our station. (The local historical society got the old depot to use for a museum, though, so at least they were happy.)
And "high-speed rail" along those Lincoln Service tracks apparently only means 80mph (per the warning signs at the railroad crossings).
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Messages
1,011
Location
suburban Chicago (Deerfield)
We got a new (unmanned) station for our town, too, which the Lincoln Service ridership from our town didn't justify, and there has been local concern ever since about gang-bangers and druggies from Chicago coming to hang out at our station. (The local historical society got the old depot to use for a museum, though, so at least they were happy.)
Did the "hoods from Chicago" thing actually happen, or did some paranoid locals pull this out of their ... hats? This sounds like the old "loot rail" crap from the early Internet of the Nineties defrosted and warmed over for a new decade.

Firstly, they've got cars, whether their own or stolen. The idea that "gangbangers and druggies" needed a train to go make trouble somewhere else was always more than a little ridiculous. Secondly, Amtrak fare isn't a couple of bucks like the L, nor is it only a few minute's ride to go to another neighborhood like the L, so the idea anyone was going to pay $20 and travel two hours just to "hang out at our station" borders on utter absurdity.
And "high-speed rail" along those Lincoln Service tracks apparently only means 80mph (per the warning signs at the railroad crossings).
As to speed, the Lincoln Service trains are routinely traveling 90mph now, and they'll be up to 110mph once the signaling system is fully ironed out.
 

MccfamschoolMom

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
536
Location
Dwight, IL
Did the "hoods from Chicago" thing actually happen, or did some paranoid locals pull this out of their ... hats? This sounds like the old "loot rail" crap from the early Internet of the Nineties defrosted and warmed over for a new decade.

Firstly, they've got cars, whether their own or stolen. The idea that "gangbangers and druggies" needed a train to go make trouble somewhere else was always more than a little ridiculous. Secondly, Amtrak fare isn't a couple of bucks like the L, nor is it only a few minute's ride to go to another neighborhood like the L, so the idea anyone was going to pay $20 and travel two hours just to "hang out at our station" borders on utter absurdity.

As to speed, the Lincoln Service trains are routinely traveling 90mph now, and they'll be up to 110mph once the signaling system is fully ironed out.
We were already having drug dealers coming down from the Chicago suburbs in their cars, many of them associated with some gang or another. And they don't need train fare to access the unmanned Amtrak station in our town; anyone can enter it, ticketed or not, regardless of how they got there (although train fare might be cheaper than gas now!). Granted, I haven't seen the station defaced by grafitti yet, nor have I smelled pot there nor seen drug transactions taking place there personally (although I haven't had a family member catching the Lincoln Service trains from there in 3 1/2 years, so I've only driven past the station rather than parked there since then); however, we do still regularly read reports of local drug busts in the weekly newspaper, and it's usually the case that the drugs came into town from Chicago & its suburbs.
Good to hear that the Lincoln Service trains are already traveling at higher speeds, though!
 

rs9

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 26, 2021
Messages
202
Location
Chicago
We were already having drug dealers coming down from the Chicago suburbs in their cars, many of them associated with some gang or another. And they don't need train fare to access the unmanned Amtrak station in our town; anyone can enter it, ticketed or not, regardless of how they got there (although train fare might be cheaper than gas now!). Granted, I haven't seen the station defaced by grafitti yet, nor have I smelled pot there nor seen drug transactions taking place there personally (although I haven't had a family member catching the Lincoln Service trains from there in 3 1/2 years, so I've only driven past the station rather than parked there since then); however, we do still regularly read reports of local drug busts in the weekly newspaper, and it's usually the case that the drugs came into town from Chicago & its suburbs.
Good to hear that the Lincoln Service trains are already traveling at higher speeds, though!

Not to go too far off topic, but I think there are assumed characteristics of drug use at play here. According to NIH studies, there isn't much significant difference in the use of recreational drugs between urban and rural areas, although there are more recreational drug overdose deaths in urban areas. Likewise, abuse of opioids is now widespread but was certainly a rural issue at the start. To put it mildly, drug sales only happen because someone wants to buy.

Drug busts also only capture drugs for sale where the drug busts are taking place. For example, I live on the north side of Chicago, in a predominantly white neighborhood. I know numerous people who have purchased and used cocaine. They do so with virtually no fear of legal consequences. People smoke marijuana in public with no fear of anything. Even before it was legalized, I have witnessed people in a public park smoking marijuana and a police officer literally walk right past them (not that I felt they should be arrested). At the bars and clubs in River North, it is an accepted fact that (wealthy) people are using "designer drugs" - stimulants, methamphetamines, etc.

To put it simply, there are no drug busts where I live. The police aren't raiding the clubs. No one seems to care. Ten miles to the south, on the south side of Chicago, drug busts are a fact of everyday life.

As for the Lincoln Service - one person's anecdotal examples only add up to so much, but for me personally, I've had a lot more problems with passengers boarding "downstate" than originating from Chicago, Summit or Joliet. Once, a woman who was clearly a ticket dodger tried to steal my phone (long story, but I lent it to her to make a phone call, she showed no signs of giving it back, tried to switch to the aisle seat from the window right before a station stop. I could put 2 and 2 together). I've also had intoxicated and fairly belligerent people in my car who boarded downstate headed toward STL, on more than one occasion.

Again, no anecdotal example is representative of the whole.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
34,419
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
The main topic of this thread though would exclude Lincoln Service and whatever is planned for it from the realm of what "High Speed Rail" refers to, which would be minimally above 160mph. Lincoln Service would some day get to what is known as Higher Speed Rail maybe, on that alignment, which in and of itself would be a good thing.
 

toddinde

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
507
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
Maybe you and your lady friend cannot tell the difference but in my experience the first thing working age people see when they research travel on Amtrak is how long it takes to get anywhere. The TGV and Shinkansen projects were not magic bullets that solved all problems but they did help save passenger rail in their respective regions by proving newer rail technology could still serve a useful and appealing purpose in the era of jet aircraft and personal vehicles. Meanwhile the Western Hemisphere has done precisely as you recommend and mostly ignored high speed rail as our passenger rail networks continue to dwindle in size and relevance as they pass into obscurity and obsolescence.
No we haven’t. By and large we haven’t created usable, high performance rail except in a few places like Milwaukee to Chicago. Of course, Milwaukee to Chicago is one of Amtrak’s most successful routes. Another example is the Surfliner and California’s Capital Corridor. High performance rail that is very successful. Far from dwindling, these prove the rule that high performance, conventional rail is successful and popular.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2021
Messages
880
Location
Boston
No we haven’t. By and large we haven’t created usable, high performance rail except in a few places like Milwaukee to Chicago. Of course, Milwaukee to Chicago is one of Amtrak’s most successful routes. Another example is the Surfliner and California’s Capital Corridor. High performance rail that is very successful. Far from dwindling, these prove the rule that high performance, conventional rail is successful and popular.
Its interesting that when you cite examples of high performance rail, your go-to examples are Milwaukee-Chicago, the Surfliner and the Capital Corridor, all of which fall far short of the level of service provided by NE Regionals (arguably not HSR, but just high performance, high frequency rail).
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,216
Location
Baltimore. MD
Its interesting that when you cite examples of high performance rail, your go-to examples are Milwaukee-Chicago, the Surfliner and the Capital Corridor, all of which fall far short of the level of service provided by NE Regionals (arguably not HSR, but just high performance, high frequency rail).
I think the Surfliner and Capitol Corridor service has frequency that approaches that of the Northeast Regionals. Certianly they're similar to the Empire and Keystone Corridors. And the Surfliner has commuter rail, too, on the route. Of course, the speeds aren't anything like those on the NEC.
 

George Harris

Engineer
Joined
Apr 6, 2006
Messages
5,366
Location
finally! Back in Mississippi
I wonder how much CAHSR would have saved by going with a top speed commensurate with a 3 hour trip from San Fransisco to downtown LA instead of 2:40. That would probably be a requirement of 200 mph vs the 220 mph max speed probably needed to do 2:40. But I have to admit that I have seen so many different stated probable max speeds for CAHSR that I am not sure if it was 250 mph at one point, is supposed to be 220 mph now or might be 200 mph soon. Californias problems aren't limited to the issues related to speed, they managed to shoot themselves in the foot in a plethora of non-speed related ways as well.
But it definitely seems like 200 mph max speed would give you a lot more choices for rolling stock.
I know this is reaching way back to make a response, however since I was involved in this project for several years, I think it needs one. Amongst other things, I wrote the alignment standards. The design speed is 220 mph, with a concept of don't close the door to going 250 mph. The difference in cost between 220 or 250 is negligible for the majority of the alignment. There are the usual "last mile" problems and political problems that prevent carrying these standards all the way into the end points. San Francisco to San Jose is to use the current Caltrain right of way, but four track it insofar as practical. A political promise to not require new right of way frustrates that last for a considerable portion. Likewise, on the LA end there are alignment constraints. Even going over Tehachapi a speed of 220+ mph is practical for most of it. The current very low speed on the ex SP route is primarily due to two things: First and obviously, minimizing earthwork for 18 whenever construction, and second, "development", that is adding curves and the famous loop in order to keep the grade down. Due to the capability of the high speed trains to easily climb a 3.5% grade, this last is unnecessary along this line. (However, gravity still rules, so even if the train starts up the grade at 220 mph, it will be going slower when it gets to the top.) Likewise, with curves designed for 200+ mph, there needs to be no concern about downhill runaways. Aerodynamics will keep you from going fast enough to derail going downgrade with loss of brakes even with a 3.5% grade.

When thinking of alignment issues, a major factor to emphasize is that, a straight line has no speed limits! If you want to by 200 mph or 125 mph rolling stock, or whatever, have at it. This can be changed, but you will be stuck forever with whatever constraints you have due to alignment geometrics.

Incidentally, this last point is one of the fallacies in the "just follow the interstate highway alignment" concept. You are OK where the highway is straight, but the defined legal design standards for the Interstate system is 70 mph. Even though most curves, particularly in relatively flat terrain can be negotiated considerably faster, "Considerably faster" on highway alignment does not get you to 200+ mph railroad curves.
 
Last edited:

danasgoodstuff

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Messages
420
Location
PDX
The crowd on my 150-mph Acela Express trip this past weekend would certainly disagree.
And it only makes NYC to DC or any of the other trips possible on it marginally quicker, but people are still willing to pay a high premium for that and the other things that come with it. I understand why it's used in the NEC but there are other routes where the difference in top speed between Acela and regular Amtrak would have a far larger impact on end to end times. I think we are about as ready as we're ever going to be for high(er) speed passenger rail and should get on it now.
 

Devil's Advocate

⠀⠀⠀
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
13,576
Location
⠀⠀⠀TX
The crowd on my 150-mph Acela Express trip this past weekend would certainly disagree.
The first high speed train averaged 86MPH in October of 1964. Today the express version averages above 135MPH. When I rode the Acela Express it was averaging 66MPH. Maybe it's more like 70MPH now but we still have yet to catch up with the very first high speed train 60 years after introduction.

And it only makes NYC to DC or any of the other trips possible on it marginally quicker, but people are still willing to pay a high premium for that and the other things that come with it. I understand why it's used in the NEC but there are other routes where the difference in top speed between Acela and regular Amtrak would have a far larger impact on end to end times. I think we are about as ready as we're ever going to be for high(er) speed passenger rail and should get on it now.
Agreed.
 

TheCrescent

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
528
The first high speed train averaged 86MPH in October of 1964. Today the express version averages above 135MPH. When I rode the Acela Express it was averaging 66MPH. Maybe it's more like 70MPH now but we still have yet to catch up with the very first high speed train 60 years after introduction.


Agreed.
Sure, but the Acela does go 150 (and certainly 125 or above) for a lot of its route in NJ and if you compare the Acela to other trains that have a lot of stops, it isn’t much slower.

For example, Thalys can fly at top speed for a long time between Paris and Brussels because it has no stops; the Acela’s frequent stops slow it down.
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,216
Location
Baltimore. MD
The US isn't going to have European or Asian-style high-speed rail because building a true high speed rail line is fiendishly expensive and private capital will not put up the money to build it, nor does our current political culture allow for the efficient spending of the necessary funds. However, it would definitely be possible to upgrade current corridor service to and 80 mph point to point average speed.

Most of the focus is on the Northeast because it's the only place in the country where you have a 400-mile long corridor with large cities spaced all the way through that have an ecosystem of connecting transit, walkable neighborhoods, and a culture of riding trains between those cities. Also, it helps that the existing rail line is in public ownership. This exists in California between Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as the Bay area and Sacramento, but the distances between the endpoints are less, so true high speed operation isn't really necessary. There are a lot of large midwestern cities that could be connected with true high speed rail, but, with the exception of Chicago, there really isn't the transit ecosystem and extensive walkable neighborhoods. It also doesn't help that all the rail routes are owned by private class-1 railroads that have no interest in upgrading their infrastructure for high speed service. Heck, they would like to get rid of the low-speed passenger rail they have to deal with now.
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
130
The US isn't going to have European or Asian-style high-speed rail because building a true high speed rail line is fiendishly expensive and private capital will not put up the money to build it, nor does our current political culture allow for the efficient spending of the necessary funds.
The U.S. will, eventually, have true HSR, probably before 2030. What is unclear is which line will be first. It will probably be Brightline West, with CAHSR following. It looked for a while that it would be Texas Central. Hopefully, they will get it together again now that Texas Supreme Court ruled that they ARE a railroad, against the odds!
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
130
And Brightline and Texas Central will be, at least largely, privately-funded. All will operate very profitably when finished.
 

daybeers

Conductor
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,704
Location
NHV
the Acela’s frequent stops slow it down
Sure, but it's really the speed restrictions that slow it down: curves, bridges, tunnels, congestion, and backwards prioritization of types of traffic. Who cares how many miles of 150 there are (really only, what, 55 miles out of 457?) when there's a 60 curve here, 40 bridge there, 30 tunnel here, and commuter trains in the way there.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
2,061
Location
Denver
Sure, but it's really the speed restrictions that slow it down: curves, bridges, tunnels, congestion, and backwards prioritization of types of traffic. Who cares how many miles of 150 there are (really only, what, 55 miles out of 457?) when there's a 60 curve here, 40 bridge there, 30 tunnel here, and commuter trains in the way there.
That was well-illustrated by the Nisqually accident. The original American Lake branch of the NP had a smooth transition between the (original) Prairie Line and the newer (1914) Point Defiance Line. That was replaced with a sharp turn when the highway over-crossing was built, contributing years later to the fatal accident and sharply restricted speeds.

To paraphrase, "30 mph here, 20 mph there, pretty soon you're talking about real travel times."

Repeatedly on LRT projects minor speed restrictions have been agreed to for political or late-found safety concerns after the rolling stock has been ordered, creating the need for an additional train operator in the cycle and starting off the line with a tight equipment situation.
 
Top