Hyperloop and other vactrains

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby lpetrich » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:15 pm

Hyperloop One announces 10 routes it will study, partners with Colorado DOT | Ars Technica
Hyperloop One, a startup that's working on building high-speed, low-pressure, tube-based rail transportation, announced Thursday morning that it had chosen 10 routes around the world that it will study as potential locations for a Hyperloop. The startup solicited route ideas back in May as part of what it called the "Hyperloop One Global Challenge."

One route, however, was chosen for a headliner feasibility study that will be conducted with Colorado's Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Aecom, a multinational engineering firm: Pueblo-Denver-Cheyenne. Hyperloop One says that route would span 360 miles and be accessible to about 4.8 million people.

Here is all of them.

#1: Colorado
Cheyenne WY - Fort Collins - Greeley - DIA - Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo ... 213 mi, 343 km
Denver - Silverthorne/Dillon - Vail ... 96.7 mi, 156 km

#2: South India
Chennai - Vellore - Bengaluru - Tumakuru - Dharwad - Kolhapur - Pune - Mumbai ... 825 mi, 1327 km

#3: South India
Chennai - Kanchipuram - Chittoor - Palamaner - Kolar - Bengaluru ... 216 mi, 347 km

#4: Great Britain
London - Birmingham - Manchester - Edinburgh ... 414 mi, 666 km

#5: Great Britain
Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds - Newcastle upon Tyne - Edinburgh - Glasgow ... 337 mi, 542 km

#6: Canada
Montreal - Ottawa - Toronto ... 403 mi, 648 km

#7: South Florida
Miami - Orlando ... 254 mi, 409 km

#8: Northeast US
Pittsburgh - Columbus - Chicago ... 540 mi, 869 km

#9: Texas
DFW - Dallas - Austin - San Antonio - Laredo ... 445 mi, 716 km
Houston Port - Houston - San Antonio ... 197 mi, 317 km

#10: Central Mexico
Mexico City - Querétaro - León de los Aldama - Guadalajara ... 377 mi, 606 km
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby lpetrich » Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:22 pm

The distances I calculated using Google Maps highway distances, though with only some of the cities along the routes.

The Colorado one is one of the shortest, and that may be why it was selected for further study. It would presumably be a "demo line", a line that's long enough to be an intercity line, but short enough to avoid costing very much. Even then, the cities along the routes would not have very high populations.

Denver: 2.8m, Colorado Springs 0.71m, Fort Collins 0.16m, Pueblo 0.11m, Cheyenne WY 0.096m, Vail 0.005m (Vail gets many visitors who come to ski)

So I suspect Denver - CO Springs (71 mi, 114 km), then Denver - Ft Collins (65 mi, 104 km) would be the first lines to be built.


This study should come up with an important figure for the Hyperloop: a cost estimate. So far, I have yet to see any carefully-calculated numbers for the Hyperloop's cost. The authors of the study will likely evaluate several alternatives, like Amtrak-style 79-mph diesel trains and 125-mph electric trains, and I'm sure that those two will beat the Hyperloop by a large margin.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:25 pm

I bet Brightline's backers would be thrilled to have Hyperloop competition MIA-ORL. :P

The Colorado example seems ridiculous when compared with the other nine. Also unnecessarily difficult, being as it involves boring through a mountain range to Vail! The omissions are significant too - no NYC-anywhere, no SFO-LAX, no city pairs in Europe except for Britain, no city pairs in Southeast or East Asia.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby electricron » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:11 am

mtuandrew wrote:I bet Brightline's backers would be thrilled to have Hyperloop competition MIA-ORL. :P

The Colorado example seems ridiculous when compared with the other nine. Also unnecessarily difficult, being as it involves boring through a mountain range to Vail! The omissions are significant too - no NYC-anywhere, no SFO-LAX, no city pairs in Europe except for Britain, no city pairs in Southeast or East Asia.

I completely agree, Colorado would be a poor choice. Who would wish to ride within a steel/metal tube in an area that is very, very, very rich in scenery?
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:30 am

electricron wrote:I completely agree, Colorado would be a poor choice. Who would wish to ride within a steel/metal tube in an area that is very, very, very rich in scenery?

That's true, but much more that the ridership just isn't there. For the billions in real estate & mineral rights, Tunnel Boring Machines, reinforced concrete, electrical and electronic components et cetera, neither Colorado Springs/Pueblo nor Vail are strong enough anchors. But, if Colorado is that flush with green :P that it can send some to Elon, may they prove me wrong.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby Telecomtodd » Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:18 am

Some info and some issues. I recently had a chance to speak with a number of company representatives.

- They consider themselves a start up company. Most employees are well under 35 years old.
- Hardly anyone in the company has any rail experience. Not a bad thing since they aren't actually putting in rail, but they had not considered a number of important things.
- The signals team is concentrating on a long list of specific things they need to communicate to the outside world concerning the well-being of the "pod" (what they call the car) and its occupants. One pod per trip.
- The list of things they want to communicate would normally dictate a broadband channel. Think fiber. Except you can't use fiber for obvious reasons. But fiber will need to be a part of the backbone comms system.
- They had not considered the speed of the pod versus the capability to hand-off data; they had assumed that somehow they would magically maintain constant links with the pod. They had no idea that current technologies are limited to about 200 MPH.
- The pod is limited to 50 passengers. No bathrooms.
- While they describe a boring method, the east coast corridor could be a deep trench. Think the Dulles Airport people mover.
- The first implementation will not be in the United States. Instead it will be constructed in a country where laws are subject to a royal's decision to change them. No names mentioned, but allusions made were the KSA. Money + need + low labor costs + no legal hurdles = perfect test bed. Just don't drink, speed or screw around or you'll get whipped, jailed, and deported.
- The main focus is civil and mechanical engineering.
- There was a confirmation that they were considering a line between STL and Kansas City. I mentioned it would allow protesters to march in both cities in a single night and they thought that was the funniest thing they'd heard in a while. However, they had no idea that Missouri has a lot of caves...and underground silos.

There's so much they don't know at this point. The ability to put a test bed in a remote location overseas will allow them to gain the experience needed to bring their technology to America. Expect a press release that they are going to build the overseas test bed in mid-2018.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby electricron » Sun Nov 05, 2017 10:17 pm

Railroads couldn’t have been built without the advances made by mechanical and civil engineers building the structures and developing the steam engine. But none of them would have been built without lawyers, marketers, financiers, and the general public willing to buy tickets to ride them and buying stocks so they could afford to build the tracks, trains, and companies with employees to run them.
How successful any Hyperloop system will be depends upon developing a business model where it earns profits for its stock holders with fares the average everyday travelers can afford. I’m not so sure that can be done.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Nov 06, 2017 7:37 pm

electricron wrote:Railroads couldn’t have been built without the advances made by mechanical and civil engineers building the structures and developing the steam engine. But none of them would have been built without lawyers, marketers, financiers, and the general public willing to buy tickets to ride them and buying stocks so they could afford to build the tracks, trains, and companies with employees to run them.
How successful any Hyperloop system will be depends upon developing a business model where it earns profits for its stock holders with fares the average everyday travelers can afford. I’m not so sure that can be done.

Judging by the history of most early American railroads, it’ll probably require massive government grants, purchases of stocks and bonds by foreign investors, and several bankruptcies to wipe out that debt owed to stockholders.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby electricron » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:30 pm

mtuandrew wrote:Judging by the history of most early American railroads, it’ll probably require massive government grants, purchases of stocks and bonds by foreign investors, and several bankruptcies to wipe out that debt owed to stockholders.

In other words, a deep hole unsmart investors pour money into.

While the railroads eventually survived using bankruptcy protections provide by the law, those tactics created the anti-trust laws that Teddy Roosevelt pushed through Congress, which I believe are still the law of the land.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby BandA » Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:08 pm

Sometimes you need somebody that doesn't know it can't be done, to do it.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:37 am

BandA wrote:Sometimes you need somebody that doesn't know it can't be done, to do it.

Oh, it can be done, we have the technology. You need someone who doesn’t know they won’t make a profit :P
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby lpetrich » Tue Mar 06, 2018 2:17 am

Ohio is investing in hyperloop studies. Why?
Cities and states are throwing money at a nonexistent mode of transportation.

For American lawmakers, funding public transit often feels like small ball. Politicians prefer to dream bigger. Earlier this month, transportation agencies in the Cleveland region and in Illinois announced they would co-sponsor a $1.2 million study of a “hyperloop” connecting Cleveland to Chicago, cutting a 350-mile journey to just half an hour. It’s the fourth public study of the nonexistent transportation mode to be undertaken in the past three months.

The article continued in that vein, describing the Hyperloop as much more hype than reality. But it did quote a construction-cost estimate from Colorado taking steps to get its own hyperloop. From that article,
The proposed Rocky Mountain hyperloop would be centered at Denver International Airport and stretch about 100 miles north to Cheyenne, Wyo.; about 125 miles south to Pueblo, Colo.; and about 100 miles west to Vail, Colo. It carries a hefty $24 billion price tag.

State transportation officials estimated it would need an initial investment of $3 billion just to get the first 40 miles from the airport north to Greeley, Colo., completed.

The cost per unit distance is about $75m / mi. Not much savings there.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby lpetrich » Sat Mar 10, 2018 6:04 pm

Is it time to take the Hyperloop seriously? | Ars Technica -- mostly about a lot of people interested in it and willing to develop small prototypes for its vehicles. I am still very skeptical about it.

A big problem is that it is essentially all or none -- all of it has to be working together, and working very reliably, or it won't work. The tunnel has to be evacuated over its entire length, for instance, though a relatively soft vacuum is acceptable for it. So that's why I'm skeptical about its claims of high safety.

This is unlike railroad technology, where the technology has been developed continuously for well over two centuries, with plenty of backwards compatibility along the way. Rails were first wooden, then iron-surfaced wood ("fish plate"), then steel. The motive power was first horses, then steam engines, and then diesel and electric engines. Electricity is supplied by add-ons: extra rails or overhead cables. Signaling has also grown over the decades, starting with signalers waving flags like present-day construction workers.

With incremental development comes the capability of degraded operation, like slow zones. As another example, I recall from somewhere that BART's automatic-train-control systems did not work well in the system's early years, so some BART employees had to wave flags to signal the train drivers.

It is also unlike Elon Musk's two most successful ventures, Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Both of them are developments of existing technologies, technologies that have been incrementally developed over the decades: flat-road cars, batteries, and orbit-capable rockets. The latter is still not quite in a form usable for colonizing the planet Mars, but it is already very functional for more limited uses, and Elon Musk deserves credit for pushing for reusable rockets.

Vactrains are also not a new idea, but nobody has built and successfully tested a full-sized one.
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Re: Hyperloop and other vactrains

Postby lpetrich » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:47 pm

Don’t believe the hype about Hyperloop - Railway Gazette

Steel-wheel high-speed trains can go up to 400 km/h and their tracks often have radii of curvature of at least 10 km. But the Hyperloop pods are supposed to travel as fast as 1100 km/h. This means to get the same outward acceleration at curves, the curves' radii of curvature must be at least 76 km. This is from

(centrifugal acceleration) = (velocity)^2 / (radius of curvature)

So one will need a very straight right of way.

Track switches are also a big problem. From the article:
Switches pose another huge technological hurdle. Indeed, even after almost 200 years of railway development, these components still go wrong quite regularly. Passing trains impart huge forces on the underlying track, resulting in rapid degradation of the steelwork. The mechanism that moves the switch can be complex and cumbersome, while managing detection and the interface with the railway control system can also be challenging. In this context, it is fanciful to think Hyperloop developers could overcome these complex requirements first time around, not to mention at six or seven times the operating speed of the fastest steel wheel railway.


Thermal expansion and maintaning a vacuum both pose additional problems. The vactrain tubes may need expansion joints, and it may be difficult to maintain a vacuum with them. Pump failures and emergencies may make it necessary to restore ambient air pressure, and making a vacuum again could be time-consuming -- "the Hyperloop One test tube needs 4 h to return to a vacuum over a 500 m alignment." Energy consumption may also be a problem, and there is the problem of capacity.

Trains with 1000 seats each running every 3 minutes will be able to carry 20,000 passengers per hour. For the Hyperloop to get equivalent performance with only 50 passengers per pod, it will be necessary to run one pod every 3.6 seconds. That seems dangerously close.
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Re: Subway Trains to Hoverboards???

Postby djlong » Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:14 am

Speaking as a realistic fan of Elon Musk....

Yeah, the most rabid fans will keep unrealistically dreaming of things "just around the corner". But I wouldn't underestimate Musk. When you look at the list of things he's done that Nobody Has Done Before, it's impressive. The *one* thing he has *repeatedly* failed to do is estimate time properly. But, then, it's hard to come up with a planning schedule when you have no examples of one before you. I mean, this is a guy who started his own rocket company with his own money, invented his own rockets and now outperforms NASA, Roskosmos (the Russians), the Chinese and ULA. Never mind what he's done for Tesla (full disclosure, I'm a Tesla stockholder and own a Tesla Model 3).

When it comes to Hyperloop, I'm waiting for proof that it HAS failed, since prototypes are already exceeding 100 mph.

When it comes to his proposals for a warren of subterranean transport tunnels under LA, I'll wait until studies show what kind of capacity they'll have.

He's already impressed enough people in Chicago to win THAT contract. If he comes in late and over budget, instead of screaming about that, compare it to how late and over budget previous projects have come in - and see how it compares to THAT.
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