While we probably won’t see anything quite resembling Switzerland’s most recent architectural achievement here in the US anytime soon, public transportation is an essential part of transitioning civilization away from fossil fuels. Nonetheless, it’s still a worthy goal.
In honour of the 175th anniversary of the country’s first train system, the nation’s railway sector collaborated to construct the world’s longest passenger train, as CNN reported over the weekend. And it’s unlikely that anyone will soon beat the Swiss record with 100 vehicles reaching about two kilometres (approximately 1.2 miles) long and weighing almost 3,300 tonnes each. Below is a video of the actual Snowpiercer:
It’s not unexpected that Switzerland would go to such (virtual) lengths to honour advancements in locomotive technology. Generations of inventive transportation methods have been made possible by the hilly terrain in Switzerland, making it one of the world’s most train-dependent countries. Every year, Swiss residents travel by train an estimated 2,450 kilometres, or roughly 25% of their total distance travelled. On a 3,265-kilometre network with 804 stops, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) “operated 11,260 trains transporting 880,000 passengers and 185,000 tonnes of freight each day in 2021,” according to CNN.
Regenerative braking system
To power the convoy as it passed through the 22 tunnels and 48 bridges that make up eastern Switzerland’s Albula Line, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage monument, the convoy’s rig comprised 25 new “Capricorn” electric trains. Despite just being 15 miles long, the Albula Line’s narrow turns and steep inclines limited the train to just 35 km/h, making the journey take an hour. To manage the speed, a regenerative braking system was used, which is a common feature of electric vehicles. The technology recycles electricity into overhead power lines, but because there are so many train cars being pulled, specialised software had to be changed to prevent overloading the circuit.
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