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An atmospheric railway uses differential air pressure to provide power for propulsion of a railway vehicle. A static power source can transmit motive power to the vehicle in this way, avoiding the necessity of carrying mobile power generating equipment. The air pressure, or partial vacuum (i.e., negative relative pressure) can be conveyed to the vehicle in a continuous pipe, where the vehicle carries a piston running in the tube. Some form of re-sealable slot is required to enable the piston to be attached to the vehicle. Alternatively the entire vehicle may act as the piston in a large tube.
Several variants of the principle were proposed in the early 19th century, and a number of practical forms were implemented, but all were overcome by unforeseen disadvantages and discontinued within a few years.
A modern proprietary system has been developed and is in use for short-distance applications. Porto Alegre Metro airport connection is one of them.
- "Atmospheric railway" | 2018-10-14 | 44 Upvotes 11 Comments
The Cincinnati Subway is a set of incomplete, derelict tunnels and stations for a rapid transit system beneath the streets of Cincinnati, Ohio. Although it is only a little over 2 miles in length, it is the largest abandoned subway tunnel system in the United States. Construction began in the early 1900s as an upgrade to the Cincinnati streetcar system, but was abandoned due to escalating costs, the collapse of funding amidst political bickering, and the Great Depression during the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1928, the construction of the subway system in Cincinnati was indefinitely canceled. There are no plans to revive the project.
- "Cincinnati Subway" | 2015-07-14 | 94 Upvotes 33 Comments
Crush, Texas was a temporary "city" established as the site of a one-day publicity stunt in the U.S. state of Texas in 1896. William George Crush, general passenger agent of the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad (popularly known as the "Katy", from its "M-K-T" initials), conceived the idea in order to demonstrate a staged train wreck as a public spectacle. No admission was charged, and train fares to the crash site were offered at the reduced rate of US$2 (equivalent to $61.46 in 2019) from any location in Texas.
As a result, an estimated 40,000 people—more people than lived in the state's second-largest city at the time—attended the exhibition on Tuesday, September 15, 1896. The event planned to showcase the deliberate head-on collision of two unmanned locomotives at high speed; unexpectedly, the impact caused both engine boilers to explode, resulting in a shower of flying debris that killed two people and caused numerous injuries among the spectators.
- "Crush, Texas" | 2017-11-27 | 179 Upvotes 40 Comments
The Diolkos: an ancient Greek paved trackway enabling boats to be moved overland
The Diolkos (Δίολκος, from the Greek διά, dia "across" and ὁλκός, holkos "portage machine") was a paved trackway near Corinth in Ancient Greece which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth. The shortcut allowed ancient vessels to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnese peninsula. The phrase "as fast as a Corinthian", penned by the comic playwright Aristophanes, indicates that the trackway was common knowledge and had acquired a reputation for swiftness.
The main function of the Diolkos was the transfer of goods, although in times of war it also became a preferred means of speeding up naval campaigns. The 6 km (3.7 mi) to 8.5 km (5.3 mi) long roadway was a rudimentary form of railway, and operated from c. 600 BC until the middle of the 1st century AD. The scale on which the Diolkos combined the two principles of the railway and the overland transport of ships remained unique in antiquity.
- "Diolkos" | 2020-10-21 | 167 Upvotes 28 Comments
- "The Diolkos: an ancient Greek paved trackway enabling boats to be moved overland" | 2016-07-31 | 121 Upvotes 27 Comments
General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy
The notion of a General Motors streetcar conspiracy emerged after General Motors (GM) and other companies were convicted of monopolizing the sale of buses and supplies to National City Lines (NCL) and its subsidiaries. In the same case, the defendants were accused of conspiring to own or control transit systems, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust act. The suit created lingering suspicions that the defendants had in fact plotted to dismantle streetcar systems in many cities in the United States as an attempt to monopolize surface transportation.
Between 1938 and 1950, National City Lines and its subsidiaries, American City Lines and Pacific City Lines—with investment from GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (through a subsidiary), Federal Engineering, Phillips Petroleum, and Mack Trucks—gained control of additional transit systems in about 25 cities. Systems included St. Louis, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Oakland. NCL often converted streetcars to bus operations in that period, although electric traction was preserved or expanded in some locations. Other systems, such as San Diego's, were converted by outgrowths of the City Lines. Most of the companies involved were convicted in 1949 of conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce in the sale of buses, fuel, and supplies to NCL subsidiaries, but were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the transit industry.
The story as an urban legend has been written about by Martha Bianco, Scott Bottles, Sy Adler, Jonathan Richmond, and Robert Post. It has been explored several times in print, film, and other media, notably in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Taken for a Ride, Internal Combustion, and The End of Suburbia.
Only a handful of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, New Orleans, Newark, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Boston, have surviving legacy rail urban transport systems based on streetcars, although their systems are significantly smaller than they once were. Other cities are re-introducing streetcars. In some cases, the streetcars do not actually ride on the street. Boston had all of its downtown lines elevated or buried by the mid-1920s, and most of the surviving lines at grade operate on their own right of way. However, San Francisco's and Philadelphia's lines do have large portions of the route that ride on the street as well as using tunnels.
- "General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy" | 2022-07-20 | 199 Upvotes 199 Comments
- "General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy" | 2019-05-02 | 11 Upvotes 4 Comments
- "The Great American Streetcar Scandal" | 2014-08-16 | 11 Upvotes 2 Comments
Gotthard Base Tunnel
The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT; German: Gotthard-Basistunnel, Italian: Galleria di base del San Gottardo, Romansh: Tunnel da basa dal Son Gottard) is a railway tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland. It opened on 1 June 2016, and full service began on 11 December 2016. With a route length of 57.09 km (35.5 mi), it is the world's longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps. It lies at the heart of the Gotthard axis and constitutes the third tunnel connecting the cantons of Uri and Ticino, after the Gotthard Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
The link consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden). It is part of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) project, which also includes the Ceneri Base Tunnel further south (scheduled to open late 2020) and the Lötschberg Base Tunnel on the other main north–south axis. It is referred to as a "base tunnel" since it bypasses most of the existing Gotthard railway line, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, which was operating at its capacity before the opening of the GBT. The new base tunnel establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains.
The main purpose of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is to increase local transport capacity through the Alpine barrier, especially for freight, notably on the Rotterdam–Basel–Genoa corridor, and more specifically to shift freight volumes from trucks to freight trains. This both significantly reduces the danger of fatal road crashes involving trucks, and reduces the environmental damage caused by heavy trucks. The tunnel provides a faster connection between the canton of Ticino and the rest of Switzerland, as well as between northern and southern Europe, cutting the Basel/Zürich–Lugano–Milan journey time for passenger trains by one hour (and from Lucerne to Bellinzona by 45 minutes).
After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the NRLA project in a 1992 referendum, first preparatory and exploratory work began in 1996. The official start of construction began on 4 November 1999 at Amsteg. Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV, and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011. The tunnel's constructor, AlpTransit Gotthard AG, originally planned to hand over the tunnel to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS) in operating condition in December 2016 but, on 4 February 2014, the handover date was changed to 5 June 2016 with the start of an 850-day opening countdown calendar on the AlpTransit homepage. As of 1998, the total projected cost of the project was CHF 6.323 billion; as of December 2015, the final cost is projected as CHF 9.560 billion. Nine people died during construction.
- "Gotthard Base Tunnel" | 2015-10-28 | 97 Upvotes 48 Comments
A Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. 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, thereby drastically reducing travel times over medium-range distances.
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.
- "Hyperloop" | 2013-06-01 | 10 Upvotes 9 Comments
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (; 9 April 1806 – 15 September 1859) was a British civil engineer who is considered "one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history", "one of the 19th-century engineering giants", and "one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution, [who] changed the face of the English landscape with his groundbreaking designs and ingenious constructions". Brunel built dockyards, the Great Western Railway (GWR), a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship, and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering.
Though Brunel's projects were not always successful, they often contained innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems. During his career, Brunel achieved many engineering firsts, including assisting in the building of the first tunnel under a navigable river and the development of SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven, ocean-going, iron ship, which, when launched in 1843, was the largest ship ever built.
On the GWR, Brunel set standards for a well-built railway, using careful surveys to minimise gradients and curves. This necessitated expensive construction techniques, new bridges, new viaducts, and the two-mile (3.2 km) long Box Tunnel. One controversial feature was the wide gauge, a "broad gauge" of 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm), instead of what was later to be known as "standard gauge" of 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm). He astonished Britain by proposing to extend the GWR westward to North America by building steam-powered, iron-hulled ships. He designed and built three ships that revolutionised naval engineering: the SS Great Western (1838), the SS Great Britain (1843), and the SS Great Eastern (1859).
In 2002, Brunel was placed second in a BBC public poll to determine the "100 Greatest Britons". In 2006, the bicentenary of his birth, a major programme of events celebrated his life and work under the name Brunel 200.
- "Isambard Kingdom Brunel" | 2015-11-16 | 52 Upvotes 17 Comments
- "Isambard Kingdom Brunel" | 2014-05-13 | 103 Upvotes 25 Comments
In British and Irish rail transport, a slip coach or slip carriage is passenger rolling stock that is uncoupled from an express train while the train is in motion, then slowed by a guard in the coach using the brakes, bringing it to a stop at the next station. The coach was thus said to be slipped from its train. This allowed passengers to alight at an intermediate station without the main train having to stop, thus improving the journey time of the main train. In an era when the railway companies were highly competitive, they strove to keep journey times as short as possible, avoiding intermediate stops wherever possible.
- "Slip coach" | 2015-11-26 | 39 Upvotes 12 Comments
The symmetry minute is a significant time point in the clock face timetables used by many public transport operators. At this point in the cycle, a train in a clock-face timetable meets its counterpart travelling in the opposite direction on the same line. If this crossing time is constant across a network, connecting times between lines are kept consistent in both directions.
At the symmetry time, the timetable is mirrored in both directions. At the ends of the line, the center of the turnaround time coincides with the symmetry minute. The distance between two consecutive symmetry times is equal to half the cycle time, so on an hourly schedule, opposite trains on the same line cross every 30 minutes. On a two-hour cycle, there is a symmetry time every hour.
In principle, a train-encounter can be set at any time. However, at the transition between two networks or lines, it is expedient to set uniform symmetry minutes, to create a symmetrical connection relation. For the long-distance cycle systems of ÖBB and SBB, the Forschungsgesellschaft für Straßen- und Verkehrswesen für Deutschland (Research Association for Roads and Traffic for Germany) recommends minute 58, so a four-minute minimum connecting time results in a departure at minute 0. Meanwhile, most railways in Central Europe and a number of other transport operators have established the symmetry minute 58½, for a three-minute hold time before a departure at minute 0. Shorter cycles have additional symmetry minutes, shifted by half the cycle time. So an hourly cycle has symmetries at minutes 28½ and 58½, a 30-minute cycle has symmetries at minutes 13½, 28½, 43½ and 58½, and so on.
The following table shows the departure times in opposite directions for an hourly cycle, using the 58½ symmetry minute (the most common in Central Europe). The other departure times for shorter cycles can be calculated from it. The last line gives the meeting times.
- "Symmetry Minute" | 2019-07-18 | 84 Upvotes 18 Comments