A Rand corporation physicist has devised a rapid transit system to get you from Los Angeles to NY in half an hour for a $50 fair. He said
existing technology made such a system feasible and so does a cost analysis. The essence of the idea is to dig a tunnel more or less along the present
routes of U.S. highways 66 and thirty. The tunnel would contain several large tubes for East West travel of trains that float on magnetic fields,
moving at top speeds of 10,000 mph. Passengers would faced forwarded during acceleration, backward during deceleration.
According to R. M. Salter Jr. head of the physical sciences department at Rand, the idea of high-speed train travel using electromagnetic suspension
was first put forward in 1905 and actually patented in 1912. The trains he suggested now would be single cars rather than actual trains, and would be
big enough to carry both passengers and freight, including large containers and automobiles.
Could Carry Automobiles
The cars, or gondolas, would leave the New York and Los Angeles terminals at one minute or even 30 second intervals. On the main line their would be
intermediate stops at Amarillo and Chicago. Feeder lines would meet the main lines at both locations. Their would also be subsidiary lines coming into
the two main terminals from such cities as San Francisco, Boston and Washington. The main idea of VHST, or Very High Speed Transit, developed
originally in thinking about the satellite program and hyper sonic aircraft speeds.” Salter said in an interview at Rand. “The underground tubes
were for suggested as alternatives, perhaps not quite seriously, but it was soon apparent that the idea of a tunnel containing such tubes had a lot of
real advantages.” he said.
Conservation of Energy
In the first place, he explained there is the extremely important matter of the use and conservation of immense amounts of energy needed to move the
vehicles at such great speed.
“An airplane that travels faster than sound uses up a large part of its available energy supply just in climbing to an altitude where the speeds for
which it is designed are possible.” Salter said. “That’s true of rockets to. Much of their energy is spent and lost forever and getting above
This would not be true for the VHST gondolas traveling on their electromagnetic rail beds, according to Salter. The tubes would be emptied of air,
almost to the point of vacuum, so the trains would not need much power to overcome air resistance. They would not even have to be streamlined. In
addition to an electromagnetic roadbeds, the opposing electromagnetic loops of wires in the floors of the gondolas would be super cooled with liquid
Helium to further eliminate electrical resistance.
Just as important, the gondolas would, like old-fashioned trolley cars, generate power as they break to a stop.
“Since the trains would be leaving New York and Los Angeles simultaneously every minute, the power generated by cars breaking coming into the
terminal would be transferred to the power lines propelling the cars going the other way.”
“For example, there will be halfway points between each stop. Trains would use power and getting to that halfway point, and generate power going the
other half of the way to the stop. Each would use power generated by trains going in the other direction.”
That is the way trolley cars have operated for eighty years - taking power from the overhead lines while accelerating or running along at a steady
speed, and putting power back into the lines while breaking or coasting. The big drawback to the Salter scheme is the cost of tunneling across the
nation. He admitted that it would be expensive but it does not daunt him. “After the tunneling was finished, everything else would be practically
free.” He said. Even at the low fair he proposes, the enormous debt created by the tunneling would be amortized within a reasonable period if the
number of passengers and the amount of freight came up to Salter’s expectations. He figures the tunnel’s would carry seven or 8 million tons of
freight a day and that passengers would take to traveling back and forth between the Eastern West Coast has readily as they now fly between San
Francisco and Los Angeles.
“The technology of this is much easier than was developed for the space program.” Salter said.
And tunnels, he added, need not be so expensive to dig is people think. The most expensive thing about surface routes is the acquiring right-of-way
and removing buildings that stand on the chosen route. The tunnel would not incur this expense. The tunnel, besides carrying tubes for passenger and
freight gondolas, would carry many of the utilities now strung across the countryside on high wires. Salter said these underground power “lines”
could be super-cooled with helium, like the electromagnetic loops in the floors of the gondolas. He said this would so reduce resistance that power
could be transferred from one end of the country to the other without appreciable loss. At the present time long distance transportation of power is
difficult because of the amount of energy wasted.
He said laser beams could be carried in the tunnel for the instantaneous transmission of messages. Even the mail could go cross-country in pneumatic
tubes carried in the tunnel. All this would save money and speed amortization, thus cutting the overall cost of tunneling. Salter said approximately
8000 miles of tunnel were dug in America and Western Europe in the 1960s. That includes mine shafts. But he said existing tunneling technology could
be vastly improved. Salter said many tunnels are dug nowadays almost as they would have been in the dark ages. Drilling holes in tunnel faces, and
using machines with rotary bits are methods of tunneling that can be improved, according to him. He said the tunnel could be worked on from a great
many “faces,” for instance. Salter suggested, too, that electronic beams or even water be used to drill holes for blasting. The high-powered
electrons would drill blasting holes almost instantaneously.Source