Just imagine high-speed rail from Austin to Chicago

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Imagine stepping out of your car, parked in a reserved spot, with just a short walk to a high-speed rail station. This hyper fast train to Chicago is the future, not sci-fi, and you are about to take a ride!

Over time with practical planning and fantastic engineering a 300 mph designed train would serve Austin every day. Perfect geography was selected for fast rail to exit Minnesota. Future landform engineering will recognize that the best existing route runs true south from St. Paul. Racing towards Iowa the stops include the cities of Northfield, Faribault, Owatonna and Austin-Albert Lea. Designed for fast, straight-line high speeds, this plan was decidedly more efficient than following a winding river or traversing land without rail.

On first sight our citizen of Austin notices a silent, silver, beautifully aerodynamic train approaching under a wire web of electric cantenary. She is a young professional woman with a business degree from the U of M. Hormel is sending her to Chicago’s Board of Trade for the day. There is no pollution as this incredible machine is totally electric, no smell, only a low humming sound from the electric traction motors on each of the passenger cars.

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Simply passing a scanner, she presents her year-long America Rail Pass of the future. Everything about her trip and travel preferences is on this card, even her reserved single seat in business class and breakfast brunch selection served by high-speed rail attendants that notice her every trip need. Settling into her bodyforming individual passenger chair she swipes her Pass Card again and the chair magically forms to her most comfortable memory setting. She snickers to herself, “that’s up close and personal but so comfortable!” The chair has heated momentarily to get rid of any cold while station waiting on this fall southern Minnesota morning.

Before leaving the quick stop at the new architecturally green Austin rail station, the locomotive engineer in the front engine waits a few minutes as a similar high-speed freight with the same engine leaves the Hormel plant for a fast trip to Los Angeles to deliver containers to ships bound for the Asian rim. That freight will enter LA in just 10 hours.

Communication from high-speed rail control in Chicago, gives the engineer authorization to flip a security panel open and set a control to draw 10,000 more horsepower from the overhead electric wires. Today the weather is perfect. Barometric pressures outside the train, wind speeds, forecast for the next 400 miles of rail permit the perfect storm of once in a year ideal fast conditions. Today, in this future morning our lady bound for Chicago’s huge business district will be part of a history making run.

She notices out of her SPF-60 tinted glare resistant coated passenger window a sensation of climbing speed that hasn’t appeared in previous trips on this train. Rotating her chair towards the window and flashing disappearing Minnesota prairie, her pop-up info screen on her chair reads 210 mph as the train races past the Iowa border in just a short couple of minutes out of Austin. Her attendant knows something she doesn’t, and tells her that this morning schedule will set a new world speed record for American rail!

With the extra power boost the engineer sees 40,000 horsepower reading out on his control panel. Each passenger car has powered wheel sets designed to safely exceed 400 mph! The rear matching engine is hooked-up backwards and another 40,000 hp is kicked in. Now the engineer selects a control to deploy trim wings on the front for extra downforce as the speed has blasted to 300 mph on dedicated and secure high-speed rail tracks totally separate and a safe distance from conventional freight rail. The city of Des Moines flashes by in a minute. Turing eastward towards the Illinois border our Hormel executive feels a slight g-force as the train climbs again higher in speed. She notices that travel is at 340 mph, something she has never seen before. Our engineer up front hits a switch that lowers the height of the train over the tracks. A computerized magnetic-liquid filled suspension on the cars grips the rails, it’s like a huge powered caterpillar fastened to the rail. Faster now! Illinois just appeared. Now a straight-as-an-arrow last 100 mile race to Chicago and her digital multi-info screen reads over 400 mph.

Targeting the French world record of 357.2 mph set in an Alstom high-speed French train in late 2008, racing out of Paris for the Mediterranean more than a decade ago, a new record is set. 401 mph for America. An announcement is made by the engineer to all passengers and a cheer goes up, as she is served a celebratory glass of champagne.

In just a little over an hour our young executive arrives in Chicago’s massive downtown Union Station. It’s high-speed rail in the US of A. Stations around the midwest are accessible by walking to, or by bike or car. No more airport hassle and delay. Today her train ride is much faster and more comfortable than air travel. Small towns and cities across the heartland have access to efficient and eco-friendly travel.

What prompted this fantastic American infrastructure advancement?

Finally Congress structured a federal infrastructure bank that provided both public and private industry a means to finance great projects like this train. Hormel gets a similar fast connection to high-speed freight rail as an option to conventional freight trains, providing a way to transport fast if needed. Perfect civil engineering and land surveying built this dedicated and separate high-speed line using already constructed rail corridor through southern Minnesota. Aerodynamics came from Boeing and Lockheed aircraft. All equipment was manufactured and designed in our country. Huge new factories employing thousands of highly skilled workers went up in Chicago’s vast industrial empire. Even Austin, Minnesota built new business sites to produce the high-tech rail ties and operational components for this fast rail system. A new tech school emerged in Austin just to train the hundreds of techies needed to staff the system nationwide. Even TIME magazine features Austin’s new wealth and manufacturing success on the cover, May 2018 issue. Austin is called Chicago’s little brother.


William Hume is a retired Land Surveyor with years of experience in the construction of heavy infrastructure. He is a life-long Minnesotan, an alumni of Winona State University class of 70′, and can be contacted at wrhdesign@hotmail.com, or by phone at 612-205-1962.