Image copyright CEN Image caption Electric-powered trains reached supersonic speeds
History can be pretty fleeting. As we’re in the midst of the biggest expansion of rail networks in 100 years, some of the key infrastructure from the past appears to be disappearing at such a pace that it’s hard to spot. And as BBC Culture’s Sam Fraser notes, as trains leave their stations in the future, there won’t be anything comparable in sight.
A head-spinning list of the world’s fastest trains will do nothing to stop you from falling asleep on board, but they do give a glimpse of what’s still possible.
Most trains running in the world aren’t supersonic, but while many sleep below the perceived limits of history, a host of experimental trains have been running in tunnels, making mysterious deals with the sky and making ground-breaking breakthroughs.
“Over the last 150 years, the railway has not been able to sustain an air-powered engine,” says Sir Nigel Gresley.
“That is because no one has been able to solve the problems of signalling and brakes.”
Image copyright CEN Image caption All the same, a select group of experimental trains have been able to pull off supersonic travel
But perhaps it’s only fitting that the dream of the clean, luxurious travel of the future comes with a few relics from our recent past, particularly with Britain hosting the world’s biggest international railway exposition, which ran until 2 October.
While its schemes may have been the stuff of wishful-thinking, these experimental trains somehow didn’t leave the land of dreams behind them.
Here are some of the names of some of the fastest trains travelling around the world.
Image copyright Gavan Clarke Image caption A supersonic car called Mercurial zeppelin. Image copyright Gavan Clarke Image caption A prototype electric-powered electric locomotive was never able to break the world record. Image copyright Gavan Clarke Image caption Göteborg was awarded the accolade of the world’s most beautiful station in 2013. Image copyright CEN Image caption Plans to cut carbon emissions at Göteborg in the 1960s included a high-speed train
Image copyright CEN Image caption Hyperloop One plans to have pods travelling at the world’s fastest speed in 2020. Image copyright CEN Image caption Seattle have chosen the green and safe Hyperloop. Image copyright CEN Image caption Dubai metro passengers don’t seem to have noticed that their trains make top speeds of over 800km/h. Image copyright CEN Image caption New York’s S.B.P train is already up to 250km/h. Image copyright CEN Image caption A prototype in China is capable of transporting 656kg in less than five minutes. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Images from the Swedish World Fair in 1897 show the close relationship between transport and architecture. Image copyright Globe Photos Image caption Gustave Eiffel’s Pompidou station for the 1889 World Expo was voted by travellers as the world’s best public space in 2018. Image copyright CEN Image caption Amid a boom in railway travel, Hawaii had some of the fastest trains in the US in the 1950s and 1960s. Image copyright
Image copyright CEN Image caption An engineer takes the control in just 14 seconds. Image copyright CEN Image caption The Azerbaijan S-Tube has been expanded with a diesel locomotive, so it can now travel at nearly 200mph (322km/h). Image copyright Gavan Clarke Image caption The bullet train was designed to save greenhouse gases by reducing the amount of fuel needed to travel from the capital to the suburbs. Image copyright Airbus Image caption Wired wings enable the train to operate at supersonic speeds in less turbulent conditions. Image copyright CEN Image caption Wiring the train to power Wi-Fi for passengers allows the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Tazmany train to reach speeds of up to 185mph (300km/h). Image copyright CEN Image caption The Icelandic Spur offers visitors its own entertainment centre. Image copyright CEN Image caption The Buenos Aires Buenos Aires train has a library on board. Image copyright CEN Image caption The ultralight Flying Machine vacuum train was developed by London’s National Railway Museum. Image copyright National Railway Museum Image caption A driver faced with a sudden incline takes steps to keep the train at speed before the train defies gravity and begins running backwards. Image copyright CEN Image caption A driver presses the brake when he spots a hydration station. Image copyright CEN Image caption Working on behalf of the Central Pacific Railway, Los Alamos built the electric-powered Santa Fe Light and Power Station in 1935. Image copyright BBC Image caption In India, trains become the only means of transport with the population living in cities. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Despite improvements since the Suez-era, the Ivarsson ferries remain the world’s fastest ferries. Image copyright CEN Image caption A Lancaster-style boat