Marshall Walker
Tommy Huang
Andrew Lail
Group Name:
“Fat Kids Always Win at Teeter-Totter”
The use of high-speed rail (HSR) mass transit is coming to the United
States. Plans are in the works to connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas as we
speak. The following slides are based on this project.
Currently, high speed trains are widely used in both Europe and Asia – we
are about 20 years behind in implementing a HSR system, as well as
using state-of-the-art materials for the rails.
Makes for a quicker + cheaper way to travel
Currently, passenger trains in America average about 40 mph, but the
new locomotives will be traveling around 150 mph.
Many existing elements in place today will need to be modified/upgraded
to support the new trains.
Higher speeds means the tracks need to be banked (similar to a race
Wood’s low resistance to compressive forces make it unsuitable for use in
such applications.
The high-speed French train broke a
world speed record, on April 3, 2007,
reaching 357.2 mph near Grigny in rural,
eastern France. It normally runs at 185
Higher strength steel
High strength low alloy steel (HSLA) – [80,000 psi yield strength] - greater
corrosion resistance than carbon-based steel, in addition to only being 24% more
expensive than A36 steel [36,000 psi yield strength].
Carbon Fiber - provides an extremely appealing stiffness-to-weight ratio
Aircraft-grade Aluminum – can withstand the forces of flying, which are
comparable to HSR
PVC-related plastics
Resistant to corrosion
2. Can be made from recycled materials
3. Have the ability to conform to very strict tolerances
Currently, the majority of rails in place are A36 (very basic) stainless steel.
As the speed of the train increases, the dimensional tolerances in the rails
themselves decrease, so the manufacturing of the steel needs to be more
From a structural standpoint, not only do the rails need to be cast to higher
standards, they also need to be stiffer.
Higher speed = more efficiency = heavier, longer trains.
•Concrete ties being
constructed on a new rail line
•Reinforced rail track designed to keep the trains aligned
with the rail during cross-overs
The wooden ties used now (in the span from LA to Vegas) range in age from 15–
100 years old, since the lines were laid in 1904. Service on the line was
discontinued in 1997.
92% of all the ties are made from wood
Wood is used primarily because of its relative low cost to produce and the
abundance of material
New system that would require implementing new tracks
Re-routing the lines for entire cities (keeping existing lines for freight/ hazardous
Electric trains will require a new electric grid
Power spikes + demands (energy grants)
Passenger comfort and assurance at higher speeds (culture change)
New terminals to accommodate the higher speed locomotives: parking, support
transportation, restaurants
Habitat disturbance
Storage + maintenance centers for new trains
Picture taken in
China, 2007
•Elevate track over pre-existing rails
•A newly constructed high speed rail station in
Zaragoza, Spain
•In 2009, 40 states applied for high
speed rail grants after Pres. Obama
signed the American Recovery &
Reinvestment Act that put aside $8
billion dollars for high speed rail
•Banking of the tracks
•Concrete railroad
•Rail is Elevated
•Electric Grid
Existing routes? New routes
Just Imagine if Columbia had elevated rails . . .
Re-lining the tracks from LA to Vegas (270 miles) with high-strength steel rails
would cost about $8.15 to install one foot of rail. With all the costs associated
with laying ties, using railroad spikes, and installing everything else need to
complete the line, the cost to lay one foot of rail is $48. This puts the cost to run
the line 270 miles at $670 million.
In comparison, it costs roughly $12 million to build one mile of road. The cost to
build a road from LA to Vegas would be $3.2 billion.
Video of High Speed Rail

Necessary Materials to Support High