• The train to the rocket - passenger access worldwide

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by lpetrich
 
Many airports now have some passenger-rail connections -- urban rail or regional rail or intercity rail -- a train to the plane. I'll consider here the train to the rocket, passenger-rail service to a spaceport. List of rocket launch sites - Wikipedia is a big list of spaceports, both big and small.

This is separate from what I'd discussed in RAILROAD.NET • View topic - Rockets by Train - Spaceport Shortlines -- spaceport rail lines for transporting rockets and rocket parts.

I'd mentioned the issue in RAILROAD.NET • View topic - Brightline Expansion: Jacksonville, Tampa, etc., but I didn't explore it further there because I did not want to derail that thread. The closest town to the Kennedy Space Center is in Titusville, and that's 40 miles / 60 kilometers away from Orlando. I will now discuss two additional US spaceports before continuing to my main subject.

Vandenberg Air Force Base is on the Union Pacific's Coast Line in California, a line that Amtrak uses. The nearest an Amtrak train stops is some Pacific Surfliners in Lompoc. The Coast Starlight's closest stops are some 50 miles northward in San Luis Obispo and 60 miles westward in Santa Barbara. Los Angeles is about 150 miles away, and San Jose 250 mi away.

Virgin Galactic's spaceport is still in testing, but it is near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (pop 6000). That town is 120 mi from El Paso (0.8 m) and 150 mi from Albuquerque NM (0.9 m). There may once have been Albuquerque - El Paso passenger rail service, but if there was, it is all gone.

Now for outside North America. My first stop is the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. That nation's only active rail line is in the spaceport itself, and it's for carrying rockets to their launchpads. The nearest rail line to it is in Brazil, connecting Macapá and Serra do Navio. It is disconnected from the rest of Brazil's rail network, however, and the nearest part is about 1000 mi / 1600 km from Kourou, as is Venezuela's rail network.

Turning to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, it is on Kazakhstan's rail network, complete with passenger service: Train in Kazakhstan | Caravanistan. Its road distance from Tashkent, Uzbekistan is 860 km / 530 mi, from Astana, Kazakhstan 1300 km / 800 mi, and from Magnitogorsk, Russia 1200 km / 800 mi.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia was left with the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, far to the north. It is about 200 km / 120 mi south of Arkhangelsk, near the Arctic Ocean, and 800 km / 500 mi north of Moscow. There is a Moscow-Arkhangelsk rail line, and the Plesetsk spaceport is likely near it.

India's major spaceport is the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island. Its closest town is Sullurupeta (pop 27,000), about 15 mi / 27 km away, roughly the distance between Titusville, FL and the Kennedy Space Center. Sullurupeta has a north-south rail line running through it, a line that extends southward through a major city, Chennai / Madras (pop 7 m), with 81 km / 51 mi distance. So Sriharikota is almost as accessible as Kennedy.

Japan has two spaceports. The Uchinoura Space Center is near the south end of Kyushu, one of Japan's four main islands. It is some 80 km / 50 mi southwest of Kagoshima. The Tanegashima Space Center is on Tanegashima island about 80 km / 50 mi south of Kyushu.

China has four spaceports, and the one closest to some town may be the Wenchang one on Hainan island, about 13 mi / 20 km from Wenchang City itself.


So the most accessible ones by railroad are Baikonur, Kennedy, Sriharikota, and likely also Plesetsk.
  by johnthefireman
 
Slightly OT, but maybe loosely connected - the train to the Zeppelin...

Dead zeppelins: Brazilian gravesite is airships' stairway to heaven
The building was made in Oberhausen, Germany, then shipped, in parts, across the Atlantic, freighted to the site on a railway purpose-built by British engineers, and reassembled.
  by george matthews
 
johnthefireman wrote:Slightly OT, but maybe loosely connected - the train to the Zeppelin...

Dead zeppelins: Brazilian gravesite is airships' stairway to heaven
The building was made in Oberhausen, Germany, then shipped, in parts, across the Atlantic, freighted to the site on a railway purpose-built by British engineers, and reassembled.
I don't think space centres have much interest as rail termini. They are never likely to have any passenger demand. Possibly they may need freight connections.
  by kato
 
lpetrich wrote:China has four spaceports, and the one closest to some town may be the Wenchang one on Hainan island, about 13 mi / 20 km from Wenchang City itself.
Xichang has its closest passenger railway station in the city, 65 km away (there are busses to take north from there as far as i know, at least to villages around XSLC). The other two are quite a bit farther away from public passenger stations.

At Jiuquan, somewhat ridiculously, when a new passenger railway line connecting between Jiuquan to the south and Ejin-Banner to the north was built three years ago, they made sure not to use the railway line that runs by JSLC through a wadi valley in the Gobi; instead the new line runs about 100 km apart parallel to it for 300 km through the desert across the hills before then swerving east into the exact corridor of the JSLC railway line. The line through JSLC even was extended to connect to it again 120 km north of JSLC.
george matthews wrote:I don't think space centres have much interest as rail termini. They are never likely to have any passenger demand. Possibly they may need freight connections.
There's still Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden.

Esrange is served by Kiruna railway station in the town 35 km away, and Scandinavian Rail actually advertises Esrange as a tourist attraction ("Europe's Largest Civil Space Centre") and ESA mentions rail here and there as a decisive factor in favour of Esrange. Other than nature, there are only two possible places of interest in Kiruna: Esrange and the local iron ore mine - the largest underground iron ore mine worldwide. The town itself has only 18,000 people. The airport is also about the same distance as the railway station to Esrange, being located just outside Kiruna. The distance to the railway station will also become a few kilometers shorter since Kiruna will be moved eastwards away from the mine over the next 15 years.

Beyond that there's a private Swedish company that wants to turn Kiruna airport into a spaceport. They have a contract with Virgin Galactic for Virgin to use it for their spacecraft. If that ever comes about that commercial spaceport would be only 7 km from Kiruna station, pretty much just across town. Two or three years ago they were planning a visitor and exhibition center at the airport with an expected 150,000 visitors per year.
  by george matthews
 
Twenty years ago I spent the night sleeping at Gaellivare station, waiting for an early morning train to the coast at Narvik. I had arrived on the train on the Inland line from Oestersund.
  by johnthefireman
 
george matthews wrote:I don't think space centres have much interest as rail termini. They are never likely to have any passenger demand...
I think that may also depend on the size of the work force and whether they live on site or whether they commute from nearby cities (although I know many space centres are far from cities). There may be a possibility of limited commuter rail services, depending on the existing rail infrastructure in the vicinity.