Sunday, June 22, 2008

Minneapolis to Duluth An HSR Experiment Worth Watching

When contrasted with other High Speed Rail corridors in the Upper Midwest, this is a short one. About 150 miles as opposed to over 200 for the next shortest (Chicago - Detroit). It's also one that has to traverse many fewer miles of urban rail wasteland.

Chicago to Detroit has about 100 miles of such wasteland, Chicago to St. Louis considerably less, although the corridor is almost 300 miles. St. Louis to Kansas City is comparable in wasteland but over 270 miles.

Now that municipalities, both suburban and rural, along the Minneapolis to Duluth routing are being heard, it is possible that this corridor will become the first to accomodate both HSR and Commuter Rail on the same right-of-way. Perhaps - with good signalling - on the same tracks.

The high price of motor fuel demands this kind of experiment, as does the general greening of public policy whether one believes in man-made global warming or not. (We don't.)

If any of you have ever watched the scoots on their three-track speedway west of Chicago on what was once the Burlington Route (CB&Q, then Burlington Northern and now BNSF Railway) with commuter trains run by Chicago's Metra, even with CTC from the 1930s, then you can believe that this can be done with the right number of tracks and the right investment in signals.

And certainly we have come a long, long way from the CTC of seven decades ago as well as with the extra control that can be had on diesel-electric locomotives with microprocessors and computers - and the newest potential: electro-pneumatic braking instead of all pneumatics. (A boon for longer freight traffic, but also allowing longer controllable commuter trains.)

And a 150-mile route is just the right percentage of long-distance for economical HSR versus slow-speed routing for conflicting trains. If a viable system could be developed for this routing, it could be expanded to apply to just about any one where either the HSR or the low-speed rail wasteland percentages are higher.

We would hope the government, developers, researchers, and manufacturers recognize this as a golden opportunity to carpe the diem.

We can always hope.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com


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