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Levitating Train Breaks Speed Record in Japan

This magnetic levitation bullet train is capable of speeds of 366 miles per hour—and possibly more

(KIMIMASA MAYAMA/epa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Turbo-swift floating trains sound like a thing of the future, but in Japan they’re already out there breaking records. On Thursday, a maglev bullet train hit 366 miles per hour—the fastest train speed ever recorded.

The locomotive, made by the company JR Central, is able to move so fast because it radically cuts down on friction with magnetics that lift the train nearly four inches off the tracks. And it’s super efficient, too: instead of relying on a fossil fuel-powered engine, the train is propelled forward by electrified coils that create a magnetic field

But the record might not stand for long. Vox reports:

Company officials say the train can go even faster, and predict it could hit 372 mph during another test next week. It should eventually be used for a new line that will connect Tokyo and Nagoya, with trains routinely traveling as fast as 313 mph, cutting travel time to 40 minutes.

While maglev trains are also being developed in Germany and California has plans in the works for a high-speed rail that will be capable of speeds up to 200 mph, JR Central’s train beats out the fastest trans we currently have in the U.S. by a longshot.

From Vox:

By comparison, the fastest currently operating train in the US is Amtrak’s Acela, which runs at 150 mph for very brief segments of track in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. However, the majority of the Northeast line runs at 110 mph or slower, and most other parts of Amtrak’s network run at decidedly lower speeds. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that JR Central wants to help us slow-moving Americans along, by implenting their technology in a rail between New York and Washington. All aboard!

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