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July 30, 2012

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It's worth reflecting that, by the time Union Station becomes a 21st century transportation hub, one of the more pleasant changes will be that its visual environment will not be cluttered with overhead power feeds for external traction power.

Too slowly, but inexorably, onboard electrification (hydrail) is being positioned to supplant overhead external electric traction power.

Earlier this month several world-class academics met at the University of Birmingham UK's Centre for Railway Research and Education to address the issue. The event was the Seventh International Hydrail Conference and the presenters included Fellows of the Royal Society; the Royal Academy of Engineering; the Royal Society of Chemistry; and Britain's Railway Safety and Standards Board.

(See: http://hydrail.org/conferences/49 .)

Apart from the worldwide epidemic of rail service interruptions caused by theft of copper from rail lines, lately trains have been literally stopped dead in their tracks en masse by power grid failures.

Japan's tragic tsunami stopped trains in cities many miles from the event. East Japan Railways and the Japanese Government's Railway Technology Research Institute had each successfully demonstrated hydrail passenger equipment in the last decade and India—where, per CNN, this week's grid crash halted 300 trains—had been close to powering ten passenger trains with waste hydrogen from chemical manufacturing plants.

But demonstration is not deployment; and, when most needed, the hydrail rolling stock was not in service.

The United States invented hydrail, using Federal Defense Department funding. Yet, so far, the US has only demonstrated freight hydrail, while continuing to plan externally powered high speed rail as if there were no tomorrow.

The tomorrows for overhead and third-rail power are far fewer than our national vision implies. Locomotive manufacturing jobs at Progress Rail and General Electric plants may be linked to the alacrity with which the US media awakens to the coming hydrail paradigm shift and industry re-tools to exploit it.

By the time Union Station becomes a 21st century transportation hub, one of the more pleasant changes will be that its visual environment will not be cluttered with overhead power feeds for external traction power.

Too slowly, but inexorably, onboard electrification (hydrail) is being positioned to supplant overhead external electric traction power.

Earlier this month several world-class academics met at the University of Birmingham UK's Centre for Railway Research and Education to address the issue. The event was the Seventh International Hydrail Conference and the presenters included Fellows of the Royal Society; the Royal Academy of Engineering; the Royal Society of Chemistry; and Britain's Railway Safety and Standards Board. (See: http://hydrail.org/conferences/49 .)

Apart from the worldwide epidemic of rail service interruptions caused by theft of copper from rail lines, lately trains have been literally stopped dead in their tracks en masse by power grid failures.

Japan's tragic tsunami stopped trains in cities many miles from the event. East Japan Railways and the Japanese Government's Railway Technology Research Institute had each successfully demonstrated hydrail passenger equipment in the last decade and India—where, per CNN, this week's grid crash halted 300 trains—had been close to powering ten passenger trains with waste hydrogen from chemical manufacturing plants.

Wireless hydrail technology means that 21st century rail terminals, including Union Station, will no longer be marred by conspicuous 19th century overhead power superstructure.

It is gonna be real tough convincing people to change a landmark. That being said... this county has to take steps to modernize our transportation system or we are going to be left in the dust by China, India and Europe.

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