World's Fastest Train

The World’s Fastest Train

April 23, 2015

Here’s one Japanese choo-choo that just set a speed record and may forever change the way that people ride the rails.

World's Fastest TrainThroughout Japan, travelers use the country’s famous “bullet trains” to swiftly maneuver between major hubs. But for a handful of Japanese engineers, those vehicles are so 2005.

That’s why they’re currently hard at work on perfecting their version of what’s called a maglev train on an experimental track in Yamanashi. On April 21, the SCMaglev reached a speed of 374 mph, making it the fastest train of all time. It kept going at that rate for 10.8 seconds while it blazed across 1.1 miles (roughly the length of 20 football fields). The previous titleholder? The same train. It set the prior record only a few days earlier on April 16.

At this rate, the experimental train may break its own record a few more times before you read these words. What’s the secret to this maglev’s success? To- notch engineering, in addition to a friction-free propulsion system that utilizes magnets. Without any wheels weighing it down and rubbing against metal tracks, it can go super-fast while it floats four inches above a guideway. (Maglev = magnets and levitation.)

The train is part of a project to build a speedy route that will run between Tokyo and Nagoya. All involved hope to have it up and running by 2027. Currently, it can take up to five hours to get between the cities by car. Once the maglev is up and running, folks will be able to make the trip in just 40 minutes.

While there’s plenty of benefits, these trains aren’t perfect. A fire broke out on a Shanghai train in 2006 and a high profile accident that same year on a test version in Germany tragically resulted in 23 deaths. Maglevs are also notoriously expensive to construct. The super fast train that will one day link Tokyo to Nagoya may wind up costing over $100 billion.