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A story from Japan.

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  • Ronald Dawson
    DepotNews.com NewsWire Japan has fastest train in the world -- for now Source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Publication date: 2000-12-24 Japan has fastest
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 24, 2000
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      DepotNews.com NewsWire

      Japan has fastest train in the world -- for now
      Source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
      Publication date: 2000-12-24


      Japan has fastest train in the world -- for now
      By GARY WARNER

      Orange County Register

      Sunday, December 24, 2000

      Rocketing across the Kanto Plain between Osaka and Tokyo at 150 mph, I'm
      suddenly hit with a popping noise, a lurch left and a loud rush of air.

      Out my window, a blue-white flash blurs by a few feet away. Just as the jolt
      of knee-buckling adrenalin hits and I dig my nails into the armrests of my
      airplane-style seat, all again goes quiet and calm.

      The sound and vision explosion is just my northbound Nozomi bullet train
      passing a southbound Nozomi.

      For everyone else in my second-class car, it's a ho-hum moment.

      Passengers continue to munch from their bento box lunches of salmon, shrimp
      and bean-curd cubes, scan their newspapers or snooze. Older businessmen keep
      cool with ornate hand fans.

      I'm watching the scenery speed by -- a momentary pleasure at best.

      Terraced temples outside Kyoto pop into view and are gone in a blink of the
      eye. A school playground, a rice paddy, a bus repair yard come and go in
      seconds as the urban sprawl of central Japan unfolds.

      Fastest in the world

      The Nozomi is the fastest scheduled train service in the world, according to
      the International Railway Gazette.

      The latest in Japan's long line of shinkansen bullet trains hits 162 mph at
      one point on its run from Hakata on the southern island of Kyushu to Tokyo.
      Top design speed: about 190 mph.

      I'm aboard for the most popular leg, a 343-mile stretch from Osaka to Tokyo
      (roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Phoenix) that takes just 2 hours,
      17 minutes.

      Passengers sit in thin but comfortable seats in rows of two or three.
      Attendants roll carts laden with Japanese lager, sake, coffee, tea, cookies
      and boxed meals through the corridors.

      "Please put cell phones on vibrate," a sign reads near the door.

      Many of the gray-suited executives who pay the premium rates to ride on
      Nozomi have their laptops open to survey spreadsheets or write reports.

      Japan is the birthplace of the bullet train, developing The Dream
      Super-Express beginning in the late 1960s. The first bullet trains entered
      service in 1964, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. France
      wrestled the high-speed crown away after introducing its TGV express trains
      in the 1970s.

      Spain's Talgos, Sweden's X2000 and the French-British Eurostar all top the
      120-mph mark. America's Acela has joined the lineup, with 150 mph service
      between Boston, New York and Washington.

      Japan has designed trains that are not only fast, but pleasing to the eye.
      The 45-foot-long tapered nose and bubble cockpit of the Nozomi make the
      train look like a missile on its side.

      Even Nankai, the commuter rail line from Kansai Airport to Namba in suburban
      Osaka, features retrofuturistic trains that look like something from a Jules
      Verne novel.

      New German train

      Japan's top-speed spot is expected to fall next year when the International
      Railway Gazette's next semiannual survey comes out. The new German ICE-3
      train has been clocked at about 190 mph on its scheduled runs.

      The future will be even faster. Engineers in Japan and Europe are working on
      magnetic levitation (maglev) trains that float above the rails at speeds up
      to 350 mph. Someday, a train could cover the distance from Los Angeles to
      San Francisco in 70 minutes.

      A little over two hours after leaving Osaka, the train is snaking through
      downtown Tokyo, past gridlock on the elevated highways.

      The car commuters have that resigned look so familiar on a California
      interstate.

      The cell phones of the business people begin to beep and buzz -- Nozomi is
      on time and the bosses know by the second when the train will pull into the
      station.

      Outside on the long station platform, a gaggle of schoolgirls in their white
      blouses, red bow ties and blue skirts line up in a neat row, waiting to
      board an older white snub-nosed Hikari bullet train headed for Mount Fuji.

      As I exit, the cleaning crew is on its way in to make the Nozomi sparkle
      when the rocket takes off in a half-hour to head back south.

      Publication date: 2000-12-24
      © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.
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