World’s 1st bullet train celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Zipping cross-country in a super-high-speed train has become commonplace in many countries these days, but it was unheard of when Japan launched its bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka 50 years ago Wednesday.

The Shinkansen, as it’s called in Japan, gave a boost to train travel in Europe and Asia at a time when the rise of the automobile and the airplane threated to eclipse it. It also was a symbol of pride for Japan, less than two decades after the end of World War II, and a precursor of the economic “miracle” to come.

The Oct. 1, 1964, inauguration ceremony was re-enacted at Tokyo Station on Wednesday at 6 a.m., complete with ribbon cutting. The first bullet train, with its almost cute bulbous round nose, traveled from Tokyo to Osaka in four hours, shaving two and a half hours off the 513-kilometer (319-mile) journey. The latest model, with a space-age-like elongated nose, takes just two hours and 25 minutes…

The Shinkansen renewed interest in high-speed rail elsewhere, notably in Europe. France and Spain are among the leaders in Europe, and Turkey last year became the ninth country to operate a train at an average speed of 200 kph, according to Railway Gazette. South Korea and Taiwan also operate high-speed systems in Asia…The fastest train in the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela Express, averages 169 kph (105 mph) on a short stretch between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware…


Here’s a look at the rest of the modern world. Which really doesn’t include the United States.

5 thoughts on “World’s 1st bullet train celebrates 50th Anniversary

  1. びみょう says:

    The U.S. wants to study the feasibility of building a Japanese-designed magnetic-levitation train line between Washington and Baltimore as part of a plan to upgrade the transportation network in the world’s largest economy.
    The government, which on Saturday announced $27.8 million in funding for a maglev study, wants to build a stronger passenger rail system, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an interview Monday in Tokyo.
    Northeast Maglev LLC says it would cost $10 billion to build a 500 kilometer (311 mile) per hour maglev line to whisk passengers on the 40-mile trip between Washington and Baltimore in 15 minutes. The world’s fastest train broke its own record earlier this year with a run of 603 kilometers per hour. Currently Amtrak’s Acela express makes the 40 mile trip between Washington and Baltimore in 30 minutes (doing 80 MPH.)

  2. Meanwhile in a parallel dimension says:

    A Texas company plans to build a high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston, turning a four-hour drive between two of the nation’s fastest growing cities into a 90-minute train ride. “Not so fast,” say the rural residents who live between Dallas and Houston. City officials favor the Japanese-backed, $10-billion project, but those living between Dallas and Houston are opposed — and rural counties are moving fast to block it. Landowners generally dislike when infrastructure slices their land in half, especially when they aren’t likely to benefit from it. Opposition to the railroad comes down to a question of eminent domain, the government’s right to take private property for public use. Critics argue that because Texas Central Partners isn’t technically an operating railroad, it can’t seize land.
    Compared to other industrialized countries, the U.S. is plain pathetic on high-speed rail, and the Texas “bullet train” is currently one of America’s most promising prospects for starting to change that. Other anti-train arguments aren’t as sane. This protestor told the Japanese government to “peddle your obsolete technology elsewhere,” to which someone in the crowd replied: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

  3. Footnote says:

    The Burlington Zephyr: First Look, April 1934 (video) “With its 8-cylinder, 600-horsepower (447 kW), 8-201-A model Winton engine, the streamlined Zephyr zipped out of Denver at 7:04 a.m. Central Daylight Time and darted to Chicago, arriving at 8:09 p.m., one hour and 55 minutes faster than anticipated. It took the Zephyr just 13 hours and five minutes at an average speed of 77 mph, a trip that usually took about 25 hours. The shiny silver bullet came close to the world land speed record of 130.6 mph when it reached a speed of 112.5 mph on the non-stop 1,015 mile route. Today, the Zephyr lives at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where families are invited to take a simulated, guided “ride” on this symbol of transportation innovation.”

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