Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby philipmartin » Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:19 pm

I don't know much about the Northeast Corridor these days; I worked there before Amtrak came into being. It is a four track railroad. I imagine there are drills on it serving local customers.
When I worked there the Pennsylvania had plenty of freight on it, heading towards and from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It didn't interfere with the passenger trains. Both passenger and freight were fast, though not as fast as today.
Our first high speed trains were the Metrolinres, originally EMUs, in 1969. just before we got the Metroliners, the railroad modified the interlocking machines in the towers along the way, so that if you pulled up a signal, you had to run the slow releas, to get the lever back, even if nothing was on the approach.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:09 am

johnthefireman wrote:
george matthews wrote:There are several European contractors who could build such a system.


True. But it's the Chinese who seem to be leading the world in building high speed lines at the moment. I believe they have about twice as much high speed rail mileage as the whole of the rest of the world put together.

I think the Chinese have a slapdash attitude to safety. I wouldn't want to see them building anything where safety is crucial. And European manufacturers have an excellent record and the expertise for building high speed lines - which I don't think Americans have. After all Americans have run down their rail system for decades. To rebuild it will need expert work from people who know how to do it.

Does BREL still exist, or was it abandoned when BR was broken up? (British Rail Engineering Limited could contract for all kinds of rail work in other countries as well as Britain. They were an important body whose loss was more serious than the privatisers appreciated.)
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby David Benton » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:50 am

BREL is now part of Bombardier with a much reduced manufactering capacity.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby MaRoFu » Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:11 pm

I know I'm quite late to reply to this, but in my opinion the United States railroads are quite inferior compared to ones in Europe or Asia.

And no, the Japanese Shinkansen isn't entirely freight free. At least that's what is happening in the tunnel linking Honshu and Hokkaido. Freight trains still need a way to get to Hokkaido, as most of the Kaikyo Line was converted for the new bullet train tracks. Freight trains for the most part have the priority in the tunnel, causing the bullet trains to go through the tunnels slower than usual. This is almost a reflection of what is occurring with United States passenger and freight railroads, except on an unfortunately higher scale.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Sat Jul 08, 2017 11:39 pm

MaRoFu wrote:I know I'm quite late to reply to this, but in my opinion the United States railroads are quite inferior compared to ones in Europe or Asia.

And no, the Japanese Shinkansen isn't entirely freight free. At least that's what is happening in the tunnel linking Honshu and Hokkaido. Freight trains still need a way to get to Hokkaido, as most of the Kaikyo Line was converted for the new bullet train tracks. Freight trains for the most part have the priority in the tunnel, causing the bullet trains to go through the tunnels slower than usual. This is almost a reflection of what is occurring with United States passenger and freight railroads, except on an unfortunately higher scale.

I quite enjoy trundling across the US on its rather moderately speedy trains, but there is surely much scope there for speeding up - which would attract more users. Doubling the singled main lines would be a good idea too.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Statkowski » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:07 am

Two items people occasionally forget when attempting to compare American railroads with rail systems in other countries are population density and the competing road network. Without population density, one is not going to find either the need or affordability of passenger service. And the competing road network, geared to handle heavy trucks and plenty of automobiles, has eliminated in many places the need for rail service.

Throw in a pair of mountain ranges, the Appalachians and the Rockies, and long distance, high speed service goes out the window. For example, the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line from New York to Chicago. Running westward from New York, there's mostly high speed trackage down to Philadelphia and then west to Harrisburg, but from Harrisburg to Altoona it's winding track through assorted valleys, from Altoona to Johnstown its up, over and through the Allegheny Ridge, then more winding track on to Pittsburgh. From Pittsburgh to Chicago much of it is or could be higher speed trackage, but by then there's no passenger density to justify it.

The sheer size of the country, coupled with geographic hurdles, coupled with competing highways and airways, coupled with a lightly populated interior (when compared to the East or West Coast), all makes the American railroad environment difficult, if not impossible, to compare with other, much smaller countries.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:54 pm

But the constant boosting, mostly in another place, of the US rail network, so shrunken of its historic scope, is tedious. Those of us who have actually travelled there will know what I mean.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby johnthefireman » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:28 pm

Statkowski wrote:Throw in a pair of mountain ranges, the Appalachians and the Rockies, and long distance, high speed service goes out the window...


I think that is true of what we might call "classic" railways and what we used to call "high speed" rail (up to around 160 km/h or so). But the Chinese have demonstrated that modern dedicated true high speed rail (ie 250 km/h and above) can be built through the most difficult terrain, including mountains as diificult (probably more difficult) than the Appalachians and Rockies.

The sheer size of the country, coupled with geographic hurdles, coupled with competing highways and airways, coupled with a lightly populated interior (when compared to the East or West Coast), all makes the American railroad environment difficult, if not impossible, to compare with other, much smaller countries.


Again, that may once have been true, but China has again demonstrated that the size of a huge country (much bigger than the USA) is actually very conducive to modern high speed rail. I believe around two thirds of all the high speed rail in the whole world is now in China, whereas the USA has no high speed rail at all. Perhaps the key difference with the USA, as you note, is the availability of highways, coupled with the US love affair with the private car (and/or truck) and the culture of individualism.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:44 am

Again, that may once have been true, but China has again demonstrated that the size of a huge country (much bigger than the USA) is actually very conducive to modern high speed rail. I believe around two thirds of all the high speed rail in the whole world is now in China, whereas the USA has no high speed rail at all. Perhaps the key difference with the USA, as you note, is the availability of highways, coupled with the US love affair with the private car (and/or truck) and the culture of individualism.


If the Americans ever come to notice climate change they will need to cut their fossil fuel consumption. The best mode of doing that will be electrically powered railways. At present there seems to be no sign of development there. It must surely be one of the least electrified areas of the world - as well as the least high speed.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Statkowski » Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:19 pm

george matthews wrote:If the Americans ever come to notice climate change they will need to cut their fossil fuel consumption. The best mode of doing that will be electrically powered railways. At present there seems to be no sign of development there. It must surely be one of the least electrified areas of the world - as well as the least high speed.


Climate change and so-called fossil fuel consumption are two separate issues, essentially unrelated (man-made global warming fanatics just got their asses handed to them, in a Canadian court). Yes, the climate does change - it gets warmer for a few centuries, balances out, then gets colder for a few centuries, and balances out again.

As for electric versus diesel-electric, or compressed natural gas-electric, it's a matter economics. For electric railroading to be economically practical, a certain usage level is required to justify the cost of installing and maintaining an electrical system. The Northeast Corridor once had electric freight operations. Using modern diesel-electric locomotives matching the pulling power of electric locomotives was deemed more cost effective and permitted a greater flexibility in operations.

Despite all the political posturing and pontificating, money is still the bottom line. If spent on a politically-correct folly, none will be left over for the essentials.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:34 pm

Climate change is not about "politically correct". It is about science observing the results of adding CO2 to the atmosphere - a process that needs to be reversed as soon as possible. But the main resister is the US, and especially its not very perceptive new president.

A useful step would be to increase the use of railways by increasing their capacity, and electrifying them. The US has one of the lowest proportion of electrically powered rail in the world. And also far too much use of oil and coal - which lead to CO2 emissions, which in turn leads to climate change.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Statkowski » Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:05 am

george matthews wrote:Climate change is not about "politically correct".


The sun's solar output, coupled with atmospheric pressure, might disagree with you.

It is about science observing the results of adding CO2 to the atmosphere - a process that needs to be reversed as soon as possible.


Observing questionable results and interpreting them for a predetermined conclusion is not science. One volcanic eruption will pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than all the CO2 ever created by mankind. One oceanic landslide will let loose more frozen methane (a naturally forming compound) than one could imagine. Atmospheric composition is constantly changing. Mankind may indeed contribute some to that composition, but does that actually mean anything in the long term?

But the main resister is the US, and especially its not very perceptive new president.


"We're from the government and we know better" may well work in some countries, but not here.

A useful step would be to increase the use of railways by increasing their capacity, and electrifying them.


Again, your grasp of economics, traffic patterns and geography fails you. With less than half the trackage than it had following the Second World War, American railroads are carrying twice the tonnage than they did during that very same timeframe. Modern diesel-electric locomotives afford the flexibility that electrification does not.

The US has one of the lowest proportion of electrically powered rail in the world.


Again, the transport distances involved are considerably different from most of the world. Added, electrically powered rail is not the only solution to anything.

And also far too much use of oil and coal - which lead to CO2 emissions, which in turn leads to climate change.


Do CO2 emissions lead to climate change, or does climate change lead to more (or less) CO2 in the atmosphere? Oxygen levels were through the roof when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Before that, CO2 levels were stratospheric and plant life flourished like you wouldn't believe. Output from the sun waxes and wanes, and there's nothing we can do about that. It gets warmer, it gets colder. The icecaps are melting on Mars, and so-called man-made global warming didn't do that.

What works in your country, or any other country, and what works in this country are two, three, four different things.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Semaphore Sam » Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:33 pm

One major difference between the UK and USA was how lines were originally financed and built; for example, Stephenson somewhat, and more so Brunel, tried to find the most level and straight routings (ie, London-Bristol); initially in the US, the idea was to get track down as quickly as possible, build the route, and worry later about operating difficulties with poorly laid rail and ballast, and the many turns around geographic problems. The US government rewarded speed of building, with money and property rights along Right of Ways. The result has been in the UK, mainlines are more amenable to fast running, and consequently electrification (which rewards high speed). There are obvious exceptions (the Milwaukee Road electrified in the early 1910's, to get enough power to get through the Rockies more effectively). The lines still existing in the US would bankrupt many of the operators if they tried to electrify; some high traffic areas are obvious candidates (North East Corridor), but to get maximum benefit from electrification, would take billions of dollars in the areas north of New York City to Boston and beyond to straighten out bottlenecks. The UK uses government money; US companies must fund building mostly from their own resources (they are now, long-term, engaged in reducing bottlenecks by re-doubling long sections usually singled in the 60's and 70's). Sam
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:52 am

Do CO2 emissions lead to climate change,

Yes, they do. They are the most important cause.

Again, the transport distances involved are considerably different from most of the world. Added, electrically powered rail is not the only solution to anything.


The Trans-Siberian is electrically powered. Longer than any line in the US.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Statkowski » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:58 am

george matthews wrote:
The Trans-Siberian is electrically powered. Longer than any line in the US.


The Trans-Siberian has zero competition from anything similar to the American interstate highway system. Its traffic patterns are quite simple compared to American cross-country rail movements. It's government-owned, essentially separated from economic reality. Considering the available Soviet/Russian-designed diesel-electrics available, electrification may well have been the only viable option for them.
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