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Traveling At 500 Miles Per Hour In The Future Electric Railway

A electric railway over which cars will fly at the astonishing speed of 500 miles per hour. or at the rate of 8.3 miles per minute, is one of the scientific possibilities of the day and one which is engrossing some of the master engineering minds of two continents.

An electric railway having such possibilities was broached by Professor Boris Petrovik Weinberg, Instructor in Mechanical Engineering at the Imperial University of Petrograd, Russia, at the recent New York meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professor Weinberg has even built a model of his proposed 500 mile per hour electric railway; but the first difficulty met with in considering his really remarkable invention is that the cars are supposed to be shot thru a tube in which there is created a partial vacuum.

It would seem quite prohibitive, at least with our present understanding of such engineering matters, to build even a relatively small railway of this type and capable of maintaining such a speed as 500 miles per hour where the cars would have to pass thru an evacuated tube or tunnel, even if this were divided into short sections or locks, so as to reduce the total quantity of air that would have to be pumped out of the tunnel at a given instant. If we had available to-day a system extending from New York to San Francisco and on which the cars traveled at the rate of 500 miles per hour, then the trip between the great Metropolis of the East and the Golden Gate could be made in five hours. In other words one could breakfast in New York and lunch in Frisco!

Many other remarkable possibilities of such a railway system will immediately suggest themselves to the reader. The editors of this journal have evolved a system for ultra high speed railway locomotion, such as 500 miles per hour, and which has been portrayed vividly by the well-known artist, Mr. George Wall, on our front cover. This system does not involve any such hyper-scientific proposition as that requiring an evacuated tube thru which the cars are to pass, but, instead, brings into play the rather slightly known method of eliminating friction by electro-magnetic levitation, on the principle developed to some extent few years ago by one Emile Bachelet, formerly of Mt. Vernon. N.Y.. but now engaged in research work in England.

The underlying principle of electro-magnetic levitation, as followed out by the Bachelet floating railway system, is readily understood by referring to Fig. 1 herewith. Here we have an electro-magnet coil M and an aluminum ring R. Now, if we pass an alternating (rapidly changing from positive to negative and vice versa) current thru the magnet coil, it will produce, in turn, an alternating or constantly changing - magnetic field. Such a field will repel sheets or rings of copper or aluminum owing to the Eddy currents which are set up in them, the phase of these eddy currents being retarded by their self-induction. Hence, if we have an electro-magnet M, excited by an alternating current as in Fig. 1,and if we hold lightly an aluminum ring R, just above the pole of the magnet, we find that the alternating magnetic field will react in the manner just described, and forcibly repulse the ring upward, causing it to assume the position indicated by the dotted ring.

Again, if the aluminum ring is held by four cords and the alternating current past thru the magnet coil, the ring will remain floating in space above the magnet as shown.

In the Bachelet system of levitated locomotion, there is involved a fundamental disadvantage, which rapidly assumes alarming proportions when one comes to consider building a commercial railway of this type. This disadvantage lies in the fact that the cars, made of aluminum or having suitable aluminum inductor plates mounted under- neath them, are intended to be levitated or raised into space, so as to eliminate mechanical friction between the cars and the track, by a continuous series of powerful and expensive electro-magnets spaced evenly along the track and just below it. It does not require a great deal of calculating to arrive at the conclusion that it would cost a small fortune to build such a railway even if it were only a few miles in length, if it had to be equipt with such a series of closely spaced, powerful electro-magnet coils.

As is well known, it is possible to arrange an electro-magnet of proper proportions between two horizontal aluminum plates, and when excited by an alternating current, it will he found that the reaction of the magnetic flux set up will lift the magnet coil above the lower aluminum plate, and also cause the upper aluminum plate to be levitated, or raised above the coil.

Here is the germ of a revolutionizing idea, viz., why not transpose the conditions in the Bachelet levitated railway system, and instead of lining the track with millions of dollars worth of electro- magnets, simply place the levitated magnets within the car and construct the lower rail of properly spaced aluminum inductor sections? By this means it becomes more feasible to construct such a levitated railway and at various points along the railway suitable ring-shaped solenoids or hollow tubular electro-magnets are placed to propel or pull the car forward.

The accompanying diagram, Fig. 2, shows several details of the levitated electric railway which the editors believe would work out successfully, if the engineering details are properly taken care of. The car itself is patterned after the modern Zeppelin flying machine, having the front end in the form of a hyperbola and the rear end tapered off, so as to offer the least possible resistance to the air as the car shoots forward at the rate of 500 miles per hour. A series of powerful levitating electro-magnets are mounted under the floor and within the shell of the car as shown. A high tension alternating current is supplied over feed wires carried on cross arms at the top of the tubular track system, and this current could he taken into the car thru special contact shoes or wheels on either - side of the car body: this alternating current being used to excite the levitating magnets for lifting the car from the track.

The road-bed is built up of a specially designed aluminum inductor rail, with a lower sub-rail of iron at station approaches. A small storage battery could he carried at the rear of the car so that in slowing down or stopping, and instead of exciting the levitating magnets with alternating current they could be charged with direct current from the storage battery, and thus a greater frictional effect produced between the moving car and the rail. The flux from the electro-magnets within the car would, in this case, react on the iron sub-rail.

The car would be propelled forward in a manner similar to that of Bachelet's, or by means of powerful electric solenoids placed along the track, as shown in the accompanying plan view. The details of switching, etc., are not given, as there are several different ways in which this could be taken care of, but in some of the schemes developed in this direction, the opening and closing of the solenoid circuits as the car progresses on its way, is functioned or cared for by the movement of the car itself. In other words the car, as it moves along, passes over a set of electrical contacts placed between solenoid points, so that the solenoid is de-energized just as the car approaches it; the momentum of the car carrying it forward owing to the powerful magnetic pull of the solenoid which had acted on the car a brief insant before. This is the principle upon which electro-magnetic guns operate also.

There is still another way to reduce the initial installation expense of such a railway systen, by placing the locomotion coils or electro-magnets within the car, or rather on the car; these moving solenoids to act on iron rings or armatures of suitable cross-section placed along the track The current can be periodically switched on and off automatically, so as to act in the manner above described, whereby the electro-magnet coil would be de-energized just at the instant where the moving car is approaching the point of maximum magnetic pull.

In any event, this particular action simmers down to the point where what is required is a powerful electro-magnetic pull between an iron mass and the electro-magnet. This all sounds very simple, as well as impracticable, but a system of this kind can be worked out, and has been tried out, in fact, in the laboratory by M. Bachelet and other inventors, with track systems having a length of 1,700 feet and more.

Such a high speed, tubular electric railway system would have many advantages over present day methods of transportation, and one of these is that the peculiar design of such a railway lends itself well to support on a single row of steel towers in the manner shown on our front cover, and the elimination of local stops.

While the hypothesis and ideals of Professor Weinberg as previously outlined, not to mention those of numerous other inventors and scientists, have often been rudely shattered by the more level-headed and slow going intellects of the day, it really does not seem so rankly impractical to conjecture on the possibilities of such a high speed railway somewhat of the type here described. A fortune awaits the man who is big enough for the job. It wants another Tesla or Edison and he is bound to arrive sooner or later.

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