A vactrain (or vacuum tube train) is a proposed design for very-high-speed rail transportation. It is a maglev (magnetic levitation) line using partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. Reduced air resistance could permit vactrains to travel at very high (Hypersonic) speeds with relatively little power—up to 6,400–8,000 km/h (4,000–5,000 mph). This is 5–6 times the speed of sound in Earth's atmosphere at sea level.[1] Vactrains might use gravity to assist their acceleration, as in a gravity train. If these trains achieve the predicted speeds, they could surpass aircraft as the world's fastest mode of public transportation.

18th century

In 1799, George Medhurst of London conceived of and patented an atmospheric railway that could convey people or cargo through pressurized or evacuated tubes. The early atmospheric railways and pneumatic tube transport systems (such as the Dalkey Atmospheric Railway) relied on steam power for propulsion.

19th century

In 1888, Michel Verne, son of Jules Verne, imagined a submarine pneumatic tube transport system that could propel a passenger capsule at speeds up to 1800 km/h under the Atlantic Ocean (a transatlantic tunnel) in a short story called "An Express of the Future".[2]

20th century

The vactrain proper was invented by Robert Goddard as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the United States in 1904.[3] Goddard subsequently refined the idea in a 1906 short story called "The High-Speed Bet" which was summarized and published in a Scientific American editorial in 1909 called "The Limit of Rapid Transit". Esther, his wife, was granted a US patent for the vactrain in 1950, five years after his death.[4]

In 1909, Russian professor Boris Weinberg built the world's first model of his proposed version of the vactrain at Tomsk Polytechnic University.[5][6] He later published a vactrain concept in 1914 in the book Motion without friction (airless electric way).

In 1955, Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem in a novel The Magellan Nebula wrote about intercontinental vactrain called "organowiec", which moved in a transparent tube at a speed higher than 1,666 km/h. Later in April 1962, the vactrain appears in the story "Mercenary" by Mack Reynolds,[7] where he mentions Vacuum Tube Transport in passing.

During the 1970s, a leading vactrain advocate, Robert M. Salter of RAND, published a series of elaborate engineering articles.[8][9]

An interview with Robert Salter appeared in the Los Angeles Times (June 11, 1972). He discussed, in detail, the relative ease with which the U.S. government could build a tube shuttle system using technologies available at that time. Maglev being poorly developed at the time, he proposed steel wheels. The chamber's door to the tube would be opened, and enough air admitted behind to accelerate the train into the tube. Gravity would further accelerate the departing train down to cruise level. Rising from cruise level, the arriving train would decelerate by compressing the rarefied air ahead of it, which would be vented. Pumps at the stations would make up for losses due to friction or air escaping around the edges of the train, the train itself requiring no motor. This combination of modified (shallow) gravity train and atmospheric railway propulsion would consume little energy but limit the system to subsonic speeds, hence initial routes of tens or hundreds of miles or kilometers rather than transcontinental distances were proposed.

Trains were to require no couplers, each car being directly welded, bolted, or otherwise firmly connected to the next, the route calling for no more bending than the flexibility of steel could easily handle. At the end of the line the train would be moved sideways into the end chamber of the return tube. The railway would have both an inner evacuated tube and an outer tunnel. At cruise depth, the space between would have enough water to float the vacuum tube, softening the ride.

A route through the Northeast Megalopolis was laid out, with nine stations, one each in Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and two in Connecticut. Commuter rail systems were mapped for the San Francisco and New York areas, the commuter version having longer, heavier trains, to be propelled less by air and more by gravity than the intercity version. The New York system was to have three lines, terminating in Babylon, Paterson, Huntington, Elizabeth, White Plains, and St. George.

Salter pointed out how such a system would help reduce the environmental damage being done to the atmosphere by aviation and surface transportation. He called underground Very High Speed Transportation (tube shuttles) his nation's "logical next step". The plans were never taken to the next stage.

At the time these reports were published, national prestige was an issue as Japan had been operating its showcase shinkansen for several years and maglev train research was hot technology. The American Planetran would establish transcontinental subway service in the United States and provide a commute from Los Angeles to New York City in one hour. The tunnel would be buried to a depth of several hundred feet in solid rock formations. Construction would make use of lasers to ensure alignment and use tungsten probes to melt through igneous rock formations. The tunnel would maintain a partial vacuum to minimize drag. A trip would average 4,800 km/h (3,000 mph) and subject passengers to accelerations up to 1.4 times that of gravity, requiring the use of gimballed compartments. Enormous construction costs (estimated as high as US$1 trillion) were the primary reason why Salter's proposal was never built.

Swissmetro Network 2005
Swissmetro as proposed in 2005

Starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Swissmetro was proposed to leverage the invention of the experimental German Transrapid maglev train, and operate in large underground tunnels reduced to the pressure altitude of 21,000 m (68,000 ft) at which the Concorde SST was certified to fly.

In the 1980s, Frank P. Davidson, a founder and chairman of the Channel Tunnel project, and Japanese engineer Yoshihiro Kyotani tackled the transoceanic problems with a proposal to float a tube above the ocean floor, anchored with cables (a submerged floating tunnel). The transit tube would remain at least 300 m (1,000 ft) below the ocean surface to avoid water turbulence.

On November 18, 1991, Gerard K. O'Neill filed a patent application for a vactrain system. He called the company he wanted to form VSE International, for velocity, silence, and efficiency.[10] However, the concept itself he called Magnetic Flight. The vehicles, instead of running on a pair of tracks, would be elevated using electromagnetic force by a single track within a tube (permanent magnets in the track, with variable magnets on the vehicle), and propelled by electromagnetic forces through tunnels. He estimated the trains could reach speeds of up to 4,000 km/h (2,500 mph) – about five times faster than a jet airliner – if the air was evacuated from the tunnels.[11] To obtain such speeds, the vehicle would accelerate for the first half of the trip, and then decelerate for the second half of the trip. The acceleration was planned to be a maximum of about one-half of the force of gravity. O'Neill planned to build a network of stations connected by these tunnels, but he died two years before his first patent on it was granted.[10]

21st century

James R. Powell, former co-inventor of superconducting maglev in the 1960s, has since 2001 led investigation of a concept for using a maglev vactrain for space launch (theoretically two orders of magnitude less marginal cost than present rockets), where the StarTram proposal would have vehicles reach up to 14,300 to 31,500 km/h (8,900 to 19,600 mph) within an acceleration tunnel (lengthy to limit g-forces), considering boring through the ice sheet in Antarctica for lower anticipated expense than in rock.[12]

ET3 claim to have achieved some work that resulted in a patent on "evacuated tube transport technology" which was granted in 2009.[13] They presented their idea 2013 on public stage.[14]

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, champions the vactrain concept under the term Hyperloop. An agreement was signed in 2017 to co-develop a hyperloop line between Seoul and Busan in South Korea.[15]

TransPod is a Canadian company designing and manufacturing ultra-high-speed tube transportation technology and vehicles.[16] TransPod vehicles are being designed to travel at over 1000 km/h between cities using fully electric propulsion and zero need for fossil fuels. Unlike the hyperloop vactrain concept, the TransPod system uses moving electromagnetic fields to propel the vehicles with stable levitation off the bottom surface, rather than compressed air.[17] In September 2017, TransPod released a scientific peer-reviewed publication in the journal Procedia Engineering.[18] The paper was premiered at the EASD EURODYN 2017 conference,[19] and presents the physics of the TransPod system.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Joseph Giotta (Narrator), Powderhouse Productions (April 16, 2003). "Transatlantic Tunnel". Extreme Engineering. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
  2. ^ Verne, Michel. "An Express of the Future".
  3. ^ "The SciFi Story Robert H. Goddard Published 100 Years Ago".
  4. ^ "Vacuum tube transportation system".
  5. ^ Weinberg, Boris. "Движение без трения. pre-α" [Motion without friction. pre-α] (in Russian). Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  6. ^ Weinberg, Boris (1917). "Five Hundred Miles an Hour". Popular Science Monthly. 90: 705–708.
  7. ^ Reynolds, Mack (April 1962). "Mercenary". Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Salter, Robert M. (August 1972), The Very High Speed Transit System, RAND Corporation, retrieved September 28, 2011
  9. ^ Salter, Robert M. (February 1978), Trans-Planetary Subway Systems: A Burgeoning Capability, RAND Corporation, retrieved September 28, 2011
  10. ^ a b Dyson 1993, p. 98
  11. ^ Daniels 1992
  12. ^ "StarTram2010". Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  13. ^ "Why ET3? | Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies". US: ET3. 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  14. ^ Oster, Daryl (October 9, 2013). Speedy Travel in a Vaccuum Tube. US. Retrieved October 9, 2017 – via Idea City.
  15. ^ Madslien, Jørn (July 19, 2017). "Investment in hyperloop routes speeds up". UK: Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  16. ^ "About TransPod". TransPod. TransPod Inc. Archived from the original on October 5, 2017. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Janzen, Ryan (2017). "TransPod Ultra-High-Speed Tube Transportation: Dynamics of Vehicles and Infrastructure" (PDF). Procedia Engineering. 199: 8–17. doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2017.09.142. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  18. ^ Janzen, Ryan (2017). "TransPod Ultra-High-Speed Tube Transportation: Dynamics of Vehicles and Infrastructure". Procedia Engineering. 199: 8–17. doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2017.09.142.
  19. ^ "Keynote Lectures - Eurodyn". Eurodyn 2017. Retrieved October 4, 2017.

External links

Avelia Horizon

Avelia Horizon is a high speed passenger train manufactured by Alstom. It was developed in the late 2010s and is expected to enter service with French operator SNCF in TGV service in the 2020s.

Baghdad–Basra high-speed rail line

The Baghdad–Basra rail line is a railway line that operates since 2014 between the cities of Baghdad and Basra in Iraq. The line is roughly 650 kilometres (400 mi) long, with intermediate cities including Karbala, Musayyib, Najaf, and Samawah. The line was planned to be high-speed, allowing a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph), but operates at a lower speed. There is one train service per day, taking 10 - 12 hours, in each direction. Both are at night. the trains is a new train made in China.

Cross-city route

A cross-city route is a public transport route linking one suburb (or satellite) of a city or town with another, usually relatively distant, suburb (or satellite).

Such a route can be operated by various forms of public transport, including commuter rail, rapid transit, trams (streetcars), trolleybuses, or motor buses.

High-speed rail in Croatia

With the highway construction programme in its final stages, the Croatian Parliament has passed a bill to build its first high-speed line, a new Botovo–Zagreb–Rijeka line, with an initial maximum planned speed of 250 km/h. Initially, however, the train will not exceed 200 km/h due to a signaling system which can only accommodate speeds up to 200 km/h. The cost of the new line is estimated at 9,244,200,000 kuna (approx. 1.6 bil USD). The project will include the modernisation of the current Botovo-Zagreb line and a construction of a completely new line between Zagreb and Rijeka.

Also, the Pan-European Corridor X, running from the Slovenian border, through Zagreb, to Serbian border is a likely future candidate for the high-speed extension to this line. It is the most modern Croatian track, already initially built for 160 km/h and fully electrified and connects most branch lines in Croatia, rapidly growing Croatian cities of Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci, and Pan-European Corridor Vc towards Osijek and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


A Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. Drawing heavily from Robert Goddard's vactrain, a hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient.

Elon Musk's version of the concept, first publicly mentioned in 2012, incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors.The Hyperloop Alpha concept was first published in August 2013, proposing and examining a route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly following the Interstate 5 corridor. The Hyperloop Genesis paper conceived of a hyperloop system that would propel passengers along the 350-mile (560 km) route at a speed of 760 mph (1,200 km/h), allowing for a travel time of 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than current rail or air travel times. Preliminary cost estimates for this LA–SF suggested route were included in the white paper—US$6 billion for a passenger-only version, and US$7.5 billion for a somewhat larger-diameter version transporting passengers and vehicles—although transportation analysts had doubts that the system could be constructed on that budget; some analysts claimed that the Hyperloop would be several billion dollars overbudget, taking into consideration construction, development, and operation costs.The Hyperloop concept has been explicitly "open-sourced" by Musk and SpaceX, and others have been encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them.

To that end, a few companies have been formed, and several interdisciplinary student-led teams are working to advance the technology. SpaceX built an approximately 1-mile-long (1.6 km) subscale track for its pod design competition at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.Some experts are skeptical, saying that the proposals ignore the expenses and risks of developing the technology and that the idea is "completely impractical". Claims have also been made that the Hyperloop is too susceptible to disruption from a power outage or terrorist attacks to be considered safe.

List of proposed future transport

Transport today is mostly powered by fossil fuel. The reason for this is the ease of use and the existence of mature technologies harnessing this fuel source. Fossil fuels represent a concentrated, relatively compact source of energy. The drawbacks are that they are heavily polluting and rely on limited natural resources. There are many proposals to harness renewable forms of energy, to use fossil fuel more efficiently, or to use human power, or some hybrid of these, to move people and things.

The list below contains some forms of transport not in general use, but considered as possibilities in the future.

Air-propelled train (abandoned in 19th century)

Bounce tube pneumatic travel (Proposed by Robert A. Heinlein in 1956)

Vactrain also known as ET3

BiModal Glideway (Dual Mode Transportation System) travel (Proposed by William D. Davis, Jr. in 1967)

TEV Project (proposed by Will Jones in Summer 2012)

Kwik Lane also spelled as Qwik Lane (proposed by McCrary Personal Transport Systems, LLC in 2011)

Dual-mode vehicle


Intelligent Transportation System

Jet pack

Backpack helicopter

Launch loop

Orbital ring

Personal air vehicle (Flying car)

Personal rapid transit

Rolling road (proposed by Robert A. Heinlein in 1940)

Slidewalk (proposed by Robert A. Heinlein in 1948)

Light sail (proposed by Jack Vance in 1962)

Space elevator (proposed by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895)

Spacecraft propulsion or Space transport




Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation) is a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track, then another set to move the 'floating train' ahead at great speed taking advantage of the lack of friction. Along certain "medium range" routes (usually 200 to 400 miles (320 to 640 km)) Maglev can compete favorably with high-speed rail and airplanes.

With Maglev technology, there are no moving parts. The train is the only moving part. The train travels along a guideway of magnets which control the train's stability and speed. Maglev trains are therefore quieter and smoother than conventional trains, and have the potential for much higher speeds.Maglev vehicles have set several speed records and Maglev trains can accelerate and decelerate much faster than conventional trains; the only practical limitation is the safety and comfort of the passengers.

The power needed for levitation is typically not a large percentage of the overall energy consumption of a high speed maglev system. Overcoming drag, which makes all land transport more energy intensive at higher speeds, takes up the most energy. Vactrain technology has been proposed as a means to overcome this limitation.

Maglev systems have been much more expensive to construct than conventional train systems, although the simpler construction of maglev vehicles makes them cheaper to manufacture and maintain.The Shanghai Maglev Train, also known as the Transrapid, has a top speed of 430 km/h (270 mph). The line is the fastest and currently the first and only, commercially successful, operational high-speed Maglev train, designed to connect Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the outskirts of central Pudong, Shanghai. It covers a distance of 30.5 km (19.0 mi) in 7 or 8 minutes. For the first time, the launch generated wide public interest & media attention, propelling the popularity of the mode of transportation. Despite over a century of research and development, currently high-speed Maglev is only available in China and Maglev transport systems are now operational in just three countries (Japan, South Korea and China). The incremental benefits of maglev technology have often been hard to justify against cost and risk, especially where there is an existing or proposed conventional high speed train line with spare passenger carrying capacity, as in high-speed rail in Europe, the High Speed 2 in the UK and Shinkansen in Japan.

Multi-primary color display

Multi-primary color (MPC) display is a display that can reproduce a wider gamut color than conventional displays. In addition to the standard RGB (Red Green and Blue) color subpixels, the technology utilizes additional colors, such as yellow, magenta and cyan, and thus increases the range of displayable colors that the human eye can see.Sharp's Quattron is the brand name of an LCD color display technology that utilizes a yellow fourth color subpixel. It is used in Sharp's Aquos LCD TV product line, particularly in models with screens 40 inches across and larger.

Non-revenue track

Non-revenue track (or trackage), or a non-revenue route, is a section of track or transport route that is not used to carry passengers or revenue-earning freight or goods. The term is used to refer mainly to sections of track or routes in public transport systems, such as rapid transit and tramway networks, but non-revenue track or routes can also be found in other transport systems. Non-revenue tracks may be used for revenue service during temporary reroutings.

Organic light-emitting transistor

An organic light-emitting transistor (OLET) is a form of transistor that emits light. These transistors have potential for digital displays and on-chip optical interconnects. OLET is a new light-emission concept, providing planar light sources that can be easily integrated in substrates like silicon, glass, and paper using standard microelectronic techniques.OLETs differ from OLEDs in that an active matrix can be made entirely of OLETs, whereas OLEDs must be combined with switching elements such as TFTs.

Pneumatic tube

Pneumatic tubes (or capsule pipelines; also known as pneumatic tube transport or PTT) are systems that propel cylindrical containers through networks of tubes by compressed air or by partial vacuum. They are used for transporting solid objects, as opposed to conventional pipelines, which transport fluids. Pneumatic tube networks gained acceptance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for offices that needed to transport small, urgent packages (such as mail, paperwork, or money) over relatively short distances (within a building or, at most, within a city). Some installations grew to great complexity, but were mostly superseded. In some settings, such as hospitals, they remain widespread and have been further extended and developed in the 21st century.A small number of pneumatic transportation systems were also built for larger cargo, to compete with more standard train and subway systems. However, these never gained popularity.

Robert M. Salter

Robert M. Salter Jr. was an American engineer who worked for the RAND Corporation. He was one of the first to study the possibility of using a satellite to collect information. During the 1970s, he advocated the vactrain high-speed transit concept. He also published papers on energy storage for the space program.

Salter died in May 2011.

Screenless video

Screenless video is any system for transmitting visual information from a video source without the use of a screen. Screenless computing systems can be divided into three groups: Visual Image, Retinal Direct, and Synaptic Interface.

Sokol (train)

Sokol (Сокол, Russian for "falcon") was a planned high speed train in Russia. It was to be a successor of the ER200 for use on the Moscow–St. Petersburg mainline, and was designed to operate at a cruising speed of 250 km/h. A prototype was built in 2000 and tested by Russian High Speed Railway Shareholding Co.The Sokol project was cancelled in 2002. Instead of a Sokol-based design, high speed trainsets (named Sapsan) based on the Siemens Velaro were procured from Siemens in Germany. The Sapsan trains have been operating on the Moscow–St. Petersburg line since December 2009.


Swissmetro was a futuristic Swiss national transportation project using vactrain technology. It was put forward by Marcel Jufer of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.The trains would have significantly lowered the travel time between major cities in Switzerland. For example, the time between Bern and Zurich could be reduced from the present 60 minutes by intercity train to a mere 12 minutes.


Talgo Avril is a high-speed train that Talgo is developing. It stands for "Alta Velocidad Rueda Independiente Ligero" (roughly translated as "Light High-Speed Independent Wheel").

Transatlantic tunnel

A transatlantic tunnel is a theoretical tunnel that would span the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe possibly for such purposes as mass transit. Some proposals envision technologically advanced trains reaching speeds of 500 to 8,000 kilometres per hour (310 to 4,970 mph). Most conceptions of the tunnel envision it between the United States and the United Kingdom ‒ or more specifically between New York City and London.

Advantages compared to air travel could be increased speed, and use of electricity instead of scarce oil based fuel, considering a future time long after peak oil.

The main barriers to constructing such a tunnel are cost with estimates of between $88 billion to $175 billion as well as the limits of current materials science. Existing major tunnels, such as the Channel Tunnel, Seikan Tunnel and the Gotthard Base Tunnel, despite using less expensive technology than any yet proposed for the transatlantic tunnel, struggle financially.

Transport network

A transport network, or transportation network is a realisation of a spatial network, describing a structure which permits either vehicular movement or flow of some commodity.

Examples include but are not limited to road networks, railways, air routes, pipelines, aqueducts, and power lines.

Transport Accidents
High-speed trains
High-speed railway line
By country

planned networks in italics


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