Rail transport

Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. It is also commonly referred to as Train transport. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks on which they run. Track usually consists of steel rails installed on sleepers/ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves. However, other variations are also possible, such as slab track where the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.

Rolling stock in railway transport systems generally has lower frictional resistance when compared with highway vehicles, and the passenger and freight cars (carriages and wagons) can be coupled into longer trains. The operation is carried out by a railway company, providing transport between train stations or freight customer facilities. Power is provided by locomotives which either draw electrical power from a railway electrification system or produce their own power, usually by diesel engines. Most tracks are accompanied by a signalling system. Railways are a safe land transport system when compared to other forms of transport.[Nb 1] Railway transport is capable of high levels of passenger and cargo utilization and energy efficiency, but is often less flexible and more capital-intensive than highway transport is, when lower traffic levels are considered.

The oldest, man-hauled railways date to the 6th century B.C, with Periander, one of the Seven Sages of Greece, credited with its invention. Rail transport blossomed after the British development of the steam engine as a viable source of power in the 18th and 19th centuries. With steam engines, it was possible to construct mainline railways, which were a key component of the industrial revolution. Also, railways reduced the costs of shipping, and allowed for fewer lost goods. The change from canals to railways allowed for "national markets" in which prices varied very little from city to city. Studies have shown that the invention and development of the railway in Europe was one of the most important technological inventions of the late 19th century for the United States, without which, GDP would have been lower by 7.0% in 1890. In the 1880s, electrified trains were introduced, and also the first tramways and rapid transit systems came into being. Starting during the 1940s, the non-electrified railways in most countries had their steam locomotives replaced by diesel-electric locomotives, with the process being almost complete by 2000. During the 1960s, electrified high-speed railway systems were introduced in Japan and a few other countries. Other forms of guided ground transport outside the traditional railway definitions, such as monorail or maglev, have been tried but have seen limited use.
History

The history of the growth, decline and resurgence of rail transport can be divided up into several discrete periods defined by the principal means of motive power used.
Pre-steam
Horsecar in Brno, Czech Republic

The earliest evidence of a railway was a 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) Diolkos wagonway, which transported boats across the Corinth isthmus in Greece during the 6th century BC. Trucks pushed by slaves ran in grooves in limestone, which provided the track element. The Diolkos ran for over 600 years.[1]

Railways began reappearing in Europe after the Dark Ages. The earliest known record of a railway in Europe from this period is a stained-glass window in the Minster of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany, dating from around 1350.[2] In 1515, Cardinal Matthäus Lang wrote a description of the Reisszug, a funicular railway at the Hohensalzburg Castle in Austria. The line originally used wooden rails and a hemp haulage rope, and was operated by human or animal power. The line still exists, albeit in updated form, and is one of the oldest railways still to operate.[3][4]

By 1550, narrow gauge railways with wooden rails were common in mines in Europe.[5] By the 17th century, wooden wagonways were common in the United Kingdom for transporting coal from mines to canal wharfs for transshipment to boats. The world's oldest working railway, built in 1758, is the Middleton Railway in Leeds. In 1764, the first gravity railroad in the United States was built in Lewiston, New York.[6] The first permanent tramway was the Leiper Railroad in 1810.[7]

The first iron plate railway made with cast iron plates on top of wooden rails, was taken into use in 1768.[8] This allowed a variation of gauge to be used. At first only balloon loops could be used for turning, but later, movable points were taken into use that allowed for switching.[9] From the 1790s, iron edge rails began to appear in the United Kingdom.[10] In 1803, William Jessop opened the Surrey Iron Railway in south London, arguably the world's first horse-drawn public railway.[11] The invention of the wrought iron rail by John Birkinshaw in 1820 allowed the short, brittle, and often uneven, cast iron rails to be extended to 15 feet (4.6 m) lengths.[12] These were succeeded by steel in 1857.[10]
Age of steam
A British steam locomotive-hauled train
Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds), located in Salta, Argentina

The development of the steam engine during the Industrial revolution in the United Kingdom spurred ideas for mobile steam locomotives that could haul trains on tracks. James Watt's patented steam engines of 1769 (revised in 1782) were heavy low-pressure engines which were not suitable for use in locomotives. However, in 1804, using high-pressure steam, Richard Trevithick demonstrated the first locomotive-hauled train in Merthyr Tydfil, United Kingdom.[13][14] Accompanied with Andrew Vivian, it ran with mixed success,[15] breaking some of the brittle cast-iron plates.[16] Two years later, the first passenger horse-drawn railway was opened nearby between Swansea and Mumbles.[17]
Earliest British steam railways

In 1811, John Blenkinsop designed the first successful and practical railway locomotive[18]—a rack railway worked by a steam locomotive between Middleton Colliery and Leeds on the Middleton Railway. The locomotive, Salamanca, was built the following year.[19]:20 In 1825, George Stephenson built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, north east England, which was the first public steam railway in the world. In 1829, he built The Rocket which was entered in and won the Rainhill Trials. This success led to Stephenson establishing his company as the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the United Kingdom, the United States and much of Europe.[19]:24–30

In 1830, the first intercity railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, opened. The gauge was that used for the early wagonways and had been adopted for the Stockton and Darlington Railway.[20] The 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) width became known as the international standard gauge, used by about 60% of the world's railways. This spurred the spread of rail transport outside the UK.

By the early 1850s Britain had over 7,000 miles of railway, 'a stunning achievement given that only twenty years had elapsed since the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.[21]
Early railroads in the US

Railroads (as they are known in the US) were built on a far larger scale than those in Continental Europe, both in terms of the distances covered and also in the loading gauge adopted, which allowed for heavier locomotives and double-deck trains.

The railroad era in the United States began in 1830 when Peter Cooper's locomotive, Tom Thumb, first steamed along 13 miles (21 km) of Baltimore and Ohio railroad track.[22] In 1833, the nation's second railroad ran 136 miles (219 km) from Charleston to Hamburg in South Carolina.[23] Not until the 1850s, though, railroads offered long distance service at reasonable rates. A journey from Philadelphia to Charleston involved eight different gauges, which meant that passengers and freight had to change trains seven times. Only at places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, the railroads were connected to one another.

The Baltimore and Ohio that opened in 1830 was the first to evolve from a single line to a network in the United States.[24] By 1831, a steam railway connected Albany and Schenectady, New York, a distance of 16 miles, which was covered in 40 minutes.[25]

The years between 1850 and 1890 saw phenomenal growth in the US railroad system, which at its peak constituted one third of the world's total mileage.[26][not in citation given] Although the American Civil War placed a temporary halt to major new developments, the conflict did demonstrate the enormous strategic importance of railways at times of war. After the war, major developments include the first elevated railway built in New York in 1867 as well as the symbolically important first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.[27]
Electrification and dieselisation
0-Series Shinkansen, introduced in 1964, triggered the intercity train travel boom.
Elevated section of the Chicago 'L'
Luas in Dublin, Ireland

Experiments with electrical railways were started by Robert Davidson in 1838. He completed a battery-powered carriage capable of 6.4 km/h (4 mph). The Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway was the first to use electricity fed to the trains en route, when it opened in 1881. Overhead wires were taken into use in the Mödling and Hinterbrühl Tram in Austria in October 1883. At first, this was taken into use on tramways that, until then, had been horse-drawn tramcars. The first conventional completely electrified railway mainline was the 106 km Valtellina line in Italy that was opened on 4 September 1902. During the 1890s, many large cities, such as London, Paris and New York City used the new technology to build rapid transit for urban commuting. In smaller cities, tramways became common and were often the only mode of public transport until the introduction of buses in the 1920s. In North America, interurbans became a common mode to reach suburban areas. At first, all electric railways used direct current but, in 1904, the Stubaital Line in Austria opened with alternating current.[28]

Steam locomotives require large pools of labour to clean, load, maintain and run. After World War II, dramatically increased labour costs in developed countries made steam an increasingly costly form of motive power. At the same time, the war had forced improvements in internal combustion engine technology that made diesel locomotives cheaper and more powerful. This caused many railway companies to initiate programmes to convert all unelectrified sections from steam to diesel locomotion.

Following the large-scale construction of motorways after the war, rail transport became less popular for commuting and air transport started taking large market shares from long-haul passenger trains. Most tramways were either replaced by rapid transits or buses, while high transshipment costs caused short-haul freight trains to become uncompetitive. The 1973 oil crisis led to a change of mind set and most tram systems that had survived into the 1970s remain today. At the same time, containerization allowed freight trains to become more competitive and participate in intermodal freight transport. With the 1964 introduction of the Shinkansen high-speed rail in Japan, trains could again have a dominant position on intercity travel. During the 1970s, the introduction of automated rapid transit systems allowed cheaper operation. The 1990s saw an increased focus on accessibility and low-floor trains. Many tramways have been upgraded to light rail and many cities that closed their old tramways have reopened new light railway systems.
Innovations

Many benchmarks in equipment and infrastructure led to the growing use of railways. Some innovative features taking place in the 19th and 20th centuries included wood cars replaced with all-steel cars, which provided better safety and maintenance; iron rails replaced with steel rails, which provided higher speed and capacity with lower weight and cost; stove-heated cars to steam-heating cars, piped from locomotive; gas lighting to electric lighting, with use of battery/alternator unit beneath the car; development of air-conditioning with additional underbody equipment and ice compartment. Some innovative rolling stock included the lightweight, diesel-powered streamliner, which was a modernistic, aerodynamically styled train with flowing contours; then came the ultra-lightweight car with internal combustion engine in each train's power car; others included the dome car, turbined-powered trains, bilevel rolling stock, and the high-tech/high-speed electric trains.[29]

Even more, in the first half of the 20th century, infrastructure elements adopted technological changes including the continuously welded rail that was 1/4 miles long; concrete tie usage; double tracking major lines; intermodal terminal and handling technology; advances in diesel-electric propulsion to include AC traction systems and propulsion braking systems; and just-in-time inventory control. Beyond technology, even management of systems seen improvements with the adoption of environmental impact concerns; heightened concern of employee and public safety; introduction of urban area rail networks and public agencies to manage them; and downsizing of the industry employment with greater use of contractors and consultants.[30]
Trains
Main article: Train

A train is a connected series of rail vehicles that move along the track. Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate locomotive or from individual motors in self-propelled multiple units. Most trains carry a revenue load, although non-revenue cars exist for the railway's own use, such as for maintenance-of-way purposes. The engine driver controls the locomotive or other power cars, although people movers and some rapid transits are driverless.
Haulage
Russian 2TE10U diesel locomotive

Traditionally, trains are pulled using a locomotive. This involved a single or multiple powered vehicles being located at the front of the train and providing sufficient adhesion to haul the weight of the full train. This remains dominant for freight trains and is often used for passenger trains. A push-pull train has the end passenger car equipped with a driver's cab so the engine driver can remotely control the locomotive. This allows one of the locomotive-hauled train's drawbacks to be removed, since the locomotive need not be moved to the end of the train each time the train changes direction. A railroad car is a vehicle used for the haulage of either passengers or freight.

A multiple unit has powered wheels throughout the whole train. These are used for rapid transit and tram systems, as well as many both short- and long-haul passenger trains. A railcar is a single, self-powered car. Multiple units have a driver's cab at each end of the unit and were developed following the ability to build electric motors and engines small enough to fit under the coach. There are only a few freight multiple units, most of which are high-speed post trains.
Motive power
A RegioSwinger multiple unit of the Croatian Railways

Steam locomotives are locomotives with a steam engine that provides adhesion. Coal, petroleum, or wood is burned in a firebox. The heat boils water in the fire-tube boiler to create pressurized steam. The steam travels through the smokebox before leaving via the chimney. In the process, it powers a piston that transmits power directly through a connecting rod (US: main rod) and a crankpin (US: wristpin) on the driving wheel (US main driver) or to a crank on a driving axle. Steam locomotives have been phased out in most parts of the world for economical and safety reasons although many are preserved in working order by heritage railways.

Electric locomotives draw power from a stationary source via an overhead wire or third rail. Some also or instead use a battery. A transformer in the locomotive converts the high voltage, low current power to low voltage, high current used in the electric motors that power the wheels. Modern locomotives use three-phase AC induction motors. Electric locomotives are the most powerful traction. They are also the cheapest to run and provide less noise and no local air pollution. However, they require high capital investments both for the overhead lines and the supporting infrastructure. Accordingly, electric traction is used on urban systems, lines with high traffic and for high-speed rail.

Diesel locomotives use a diesel engine as the prime mover. The energy transmission may be either diesel-electric, diesel-mechanical or diesel-hydraulic but diesel-electric is dominant. Electro-diesel locomotives are built to run as diesel-electric on unelectrified sections and as electric locomotives on electrified sections.

Alternative methods of motive power include magnetic levitation, horse-drawn, cable, gravity, pneumatics and gas turbine.
Passenger trains
Interior view of the top deck of a VR InterCity2 double-deck carriage

A passenger train travels between stations where passengers may embark and disembark. The oversight of the train is the duty of a guard/train manager. Passenger trains are part of public transport and often make up the stem of the service, with buses feeding to stations. Passenger trains can involve a variety of functions including long distance intercity travel, daily commuter trips, or local urban transit services. They even include a diversity of vehicles, operating speeds, right of way requirements, and service frequency. Passenger trains usually can be divided into two operations: intercity railway and intracity transit. Whereas as intercity railway involve higher speeds, longer routes, and lower frequency (usually scheduled), intracity transit involves lower speeds, shorter routes, and higher frequency (especially during peak hours).[30]

Intercity trains are long-haul trains that operate with few stops between cities. Trains typically have amenities such as a dining car. Some lines also provide over-night services with sleeping cars. Some long-haul trains been given a specific name. Regional trains are medium distance trains that connect cities with outlying, surrounding areas, or provide a regional service, making more stops and having lower speeds. Commuter trains serve suburbs of urban areas, providing a daily commuting service. Airport rail links provide quick access from city centres to airports.

High-speed rail are special inter-city trains that operate at much higher speeds than conventional railways, the limit being regarded at 200 to 320 km/h. High-speed trains are used mostly for long-haul service and most systems are in Western Europe and East Asia. The speed record is 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), set by a modified French TGV.[31][32] Magnetic levitation trains such as the Shanghai airport train use under-riding magnets which attract themselves upward towards the underside of a guideway and this line has achieved somewhat higher peak speeds in day-to-day operation than conventional high-speed railways, although only over short distances. Due to their heightened speeds, route alignments for high-speed rail tend to be steeper grades and broader curves compared to conventional railways. Their high kinetic energy translates to higher horsepower-to-ton ratios (20 hp/ton); this allows trains to accelerate and maintain higher speeds and negotiate steep grades as momentum builds up and recovered in downgrades (reducing cut, fill, and tunneling requirements). Since lateral forces act on curves, curvatures are designed with the highest possible radius. All these features are dramatically different from freight operations, thus justifying exclusive high-speed rail lines if it is economically feasible.[30]
Rail Network in Paris, France

Rapid transit is an intracity system built in large cities and has the highest capacity of any passenger transport system. It is grade separated and commonly built underground or elevated. At street level, smaller trams can be used. Light rails are upgraded trams that have step-free access, their own right-of-way and sometimes sections underground. Monorail systems operate as elevated, medium capacity systems. A people mover is a driverless, grade-separated train that serves only a few stations, as a shuttle. Due to the wide variety of rapid transit systems without much uniformity, route alignment vary widely with diverse right-of-ways (private land, side of road, street median) and geometric characteristics (sharp or broad curves, steep or gentle grades). For instance, the Chicago El trains are designed with extremely short cars to negotiate the sharp curves in the Loop. NJ's PATH have similar-sized cars to accommodate curves in the trans-Hudson tunnels. San Francisco's BART operate large cars on its well-engineered routes.[30]
Freight train
Main article: Rail freight transport
Bulk cargo of minerals

A freight train hauls cargo using freight cars specialized for the type of goods. Freight trains are very efficient, with economy of scale and high energy efficiency. However, their use can be reduced by lack of flexibility, if there is need of transshipment at both ends of the trip due to lack of tracks to the points of pick-up and delivery. Authorities often encourage the use of cargo rail transport due to its environmental profile.[33]

Container trains have become the dominant type in the US for non-bulk haulage. Containers can easily be transshipped to other modes, such as ships and trucks, using cranes. This has succeeded the boxcar (wagon-load), where the cargo had to be loaded and unloaded into the train manually. The intermodal containerization of cargo has revolutionized the supply chain logistics industry, reducing ship costs significantly. In Europe, the sliding wall wagon has largely superseded the ordinary covered wagons. Other types of cars include refrigerator cars, stock cars for livestock and autoracks for road vehicles. When rail is combined with road transport, a roadrailer will allow trailers to be driven onto the train, allowing for easy transition between road and rail.

Bulk handling represents a key advantage for rail transport. Low or even zero transshipment costs combined with energy efficiency and low inventory costs allow trains to handle bulk much cheaper than by road. Typical bulk cargo includes coal, ore, grains and liquids. Bulk is transported in open-topped cars, hopper cars and tank cars.

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Anika Devi received her Bachelor’s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University in 2012. She began freelancing for Business Solutions BD in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor.
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