Taking the Car out of Carbon

A sustainable future for the world has to reduce car usage, increase walking, biking and transit ridership. Correctly pricing carbon will be key to making this happen.

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Department of Kewl 2: Ist that jet engine on top of a train?

Staying with the M-497 Blackbeetle. A fascinating experiment on rails that - a thinking outside the box exercise - that could only happen in another era. In this case 1966. There is a lot of documentation on this, including a wikipedia entry here and another article at “Dark roast blend”, self professedly about “weird and wonderful things”, here. NY Central, the railroad responsible for all this experimentation and the predecessor of MTA Metro North Railroad, among others, unfortunately was a fighting an uphill battle against sagging ridership esp on its longer hauls.

This was, of course, during the Cold War. So whatever happened in the US, had to find reflection (or equally, the other way around) in the USSR. A couple of pictures above document the Russian experiment. Their poster, I find, to be the most compelling image. It has a little legend going down the side, with what I think is a MiG 17 as the top item.

The French too got into the act, marrying the idea with another futuristic vision of railways - the monnorail. Doubly doomed, therefore, to not finding everyday application. High-speed rail has moved in a very different direction. Platforms like the TGV, or Siemen’s Velaro (underlying the German, Spanish, Chinese and Russian HS systems), routinely top the ~180 mph record set by the M 497. But they do so, by following the Japanese lead. Lighter cars, a great dependence on near perfect track alignment, more efficient electric motors, i.e. lots of small, hard-to-perfect perfections in lots of components. Rather than a mega new idea of transforming propulsion.

  • 26 April 2012
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