Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Thundering through France at 357mph

Ben Webster (the Times journalist, not the great saxophonist) reports from a speeding train -- and this was a train that set a new world speed record: a French TGV thundering through eastern France at 574.8kph! That's about 150 metres per second! As Webster's report says, "blink and you miss it." I wonder what Sue Kedgley and her Green train-lovers would make of that.

Just imagine being in the cab as this machine sped like a great steel arrow through the countryside . . .
Things streaked past -- a water tank, a tree, a shanty, a grain silo. They had a windshield-wiper motion: they were rising, describing a curve and dropping back. The telegraph wires ran a race with the train, rising and falling from pole to pole, in an even rhythm, like the cardiograph record of a steady heartbeat written across the sky.

She looked ahead, at the haze that melted rail and distance, a haze that could rip apart at any moment to some shape of disaster. She wondered why she felt safer than she had ever felt in a car behind the engine, safer here, where it seemed as if, should an obstacle rise, her breast and the glass shield would be first to smash against it. She smiled, grasping the answer: it was the security of being first, with full sight and full knowledge of one's course -- not the blind sense of being pulled into the unknown by some unknown power ahead. It was the greatest sensation of existence: not to trust, but to know.
Perceptive readers would recognise that quoted passage from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. What an experience that must have been; Rand the railway-lover would have eaten it up.

UPDATE: Not a bird, and not a plane -- and not exactly a train -- but as one commenter in Webster's piece points out, the Chinese Maglev achieved 580kph over four years ago, and regularly touches 430kph in service. Talk about a Shanghai surprise!

LINKS: Aboard the fastest TGV in the world - Ben Webster, Times Online
Dagny Taggart answers Kant - Peter Cresswell, SOLO
Excerpt, Atlas Shrugged, 'The John Galt Line' - Monart Pon



  1. The downside is that the TGV and the other superfast european railways are owned and subsidised by the State. Such a network is not cost effective for private enterprise to build, which is a pity.

  2. There was a great/sad story in the DomPost today that is not online sadly.

    It said the fastest speed reached in a train between Auck and Wgtn was 'likely' to have been 120kph in 1960! To compare, a German electric suburban railcar reached 213kph in 1903 (yes 1903) and Stephenson's Rocket did 56kph in 1829!



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