French train sets speed record
The Automotive eZine - Trains


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ABOARD TRAIN V150, France

On the April 3rd 2007 the high-speed French train named V-150 broke the world speed record for trains or rails.

The 17 years old record was set by another French train which reached a speed of 515 km/h (320 mph). The new V-150 broke this record reaching an astounding speed of 574 km/h (356 mph).

The V-150 is actually not the fastest train in the world. This title belongs to the experimental Japanese magnetically levitated (Maglev) train which reached an unofficial speed record of 580 km/h (360 mph). The V-150 was modified to be able to break the record including larger wheels and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine. The power to the electric powered train was also increased from 25,000 volts to 31,000.

The V-150 included several double-decker cars and drove along the new line linking Paris to eastern France, starting in the town of Preny. This record is especially important to the France train industry which is trying to win highly lucrative contracts in China which is currently preparing a 300 billion dollars train program across the country. Competing against the French are German and Japanese companies also trying to win contracts in China.

Still, it was quite a show. People cheered as the electric train raced past in a blur, sounding like a jet engine, sparks flying from the overhead power cable.

The demonstration was meant to showcase technology that France is trying to sell overseas. The record was celebrated with champagne and cheers.

What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology which was invented in France 30 years ago is a technology for the future, said Guillaume Pepy, director-general of the state rail company SNCF, which is TGVs main customer.


A timeline of train speed records

Some key milestones in the race to Tuesday's fast train record by a French TGV:

  • Oct. 14, 1829: A English Rocket steam engine earns the first world train record, running between Liverpool and Manchester at 56 kilometers per hour (34 mph).

  • June 20, 1890: Across the Channel, a French Crampton steam engine reaches 144 kph (89.4 mph) between Laroche and Montereau.

  • December 1891: The United States joins the race, as a steam engine operated by the Central Railroad of New Jersey reaches 156 kph (96 mph).

  • Oct. 23, 1903: The race goes electric, as an electricity-run train speeds at 209.3 kph (130 mph) on a military track in Marienfeld, Germany.

  • March 28-29, 1955: Two electric engines reach 331 kph (205 mph) in the Landes region of southwest France.

  • Feb. 26, 1981: A French TGV French for "train a grande vitesse," or "very fast train" reaches 380 kilometers per hour (236 mph) in southeast France.

  • May 18, 1990: Another TGV improves on the last record by 35 percent, hitting 515.3 kilometers (320.2 mph) in Vendome.

  • April 3, 2007: A TGV with a 25,000-horsepower engine and three double-decker cars cuts through eastern France at 574.8 kilometers per hour (357.2 mph), the new record.

    Note: The absolute record for train speed, 581 kilometers per hour (361 mph) was reached in 2003 by a magnetically levitated train that hovers above the rails called a Maglev, in Japan. Tuesday's record was for the fastest train on conventional rails.

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