A wide gauge railroad would make piggyback trucking much more efficient and would have economies of scale for bulk cargo. It would have numerous environmental, political, and military advantages
I would like to propose a railroad system which would have such low charges that a cross country freight line would make the Panama Canal obsolescent. It involves the concept of wide gauge rails. The present system uses a rail gauge that tied right in with the wooden axles of Louis the XIVth stagecoaches. With modern metals, equipment is possible with spans of a hundred feet or more. Back in the days when capital (especially steel) was hard to come by, when track had to thread through and around valleys and mountains, engines were small, and railroads had to go through towns, narrow gauge rails were logical, in fact essential.
Now, we have massive freight tonnages, low cost Bessemer steel, huge earth moving machines for leveling right-of-ways, and fleets of supporting trucks. It seems strange to me to make railroads using such machines while the railroads themselves wander around the country using Toonerville trolleys. In spite of this they are hopelessly more economical than trucks. They carry 42% of USA ton miles with only 10% of the revenue, while trucks carry 28% .of ton miles and 80% of revenue. Coal and chemicals are the two highest of the categories, accounting for one third of tonnage. They are three times as fuel efficient per ton mile as trucks are. Studies by the Federal Railway Administration reveal that rail fuel efficiency is between 156 and 512 ton-miles per gallon of diesel. The average truck fuel efficiency is 68 to 133 ton-miles per gallon of fuel. The railroads do all this in spite of drastically less miles of tracks than roads suitable for trucks. There are 4,048,525 center-line miles of public roads, 603,250 bridges, 171,500 miles of track operated by freight railroads, more than 13,700 airports, 12,000 miles of inland waterways, and 8,100 miles of subway and commuter rail tracks.
A railroad with, say a 50 foot wide track, would be able to field cars with up to 1,000 times the capacity of the existing boxcars for low density loads (like furniture). This would represent a substantial escalation toward the cube of the gauge ratios for low-density cargo. This would represent a labor cost between 0.1% and 1% of existing costs for such cargo. The fuel costs would be considerably reduced also. Indeed, they could nudge down toward zero if solar panels were placed along the track. Air resistance should increase about proportional to the gauge for long trains while the capacity for most cargo should rise about proportional to the square, or even better, of the gauge for that same air resistance. Bearing frictional losses and maintenance cost differentials are more difficult to predict, but there should be considerable advantage. While it is true that inertial losses from starting and stopping would be about the same, this should be an express line with stations as much as 100 miles apart and no switching yards, so there would be little starting and stopping. In addition, short trains would be practical, as short as even a single car (analogous to highway trucking), so that with competent computerized scheduling, a car might well go across the whole continent without stopping. Furthermore, it might be possible to use the same geared wheel used for accelerating out of a station to feed power back into the system or into an adjacent town upon stopping. With such large equipment, many clever devices would be practical which would be too bulky for the present tiny equipment, such as Cotrell precipitators for pollution control.
The track would not require much more steel than existing tracks because the track would be almost straight. Flat 2 or 3 inch thick plates a foot or two wide or so of manganese steel or high strength steel with manganese steel edges on top of high strength concrete bases running in the same direction as the track would probably work fine if separated from the concrete by a rubber mat. If the bases were in the form of a wall about seven feet high or more in some areas it would make children noticeably safer and make underpasses much easier. Zigzag end of rail expansion slots would be possible because of flat rails, thus permitting long rails and easy nailing (tie downs). The tie downs would be easy because manganese steel does not lose its great strength and hardness upon welding. If the wheel flanges were on the outside, the compression strength of concrete could be used for the "ties" (but actually they would be separators then). Indeed, if the concrete rose on the inside edge, very few tie downs would be necessary and sabotage would be noticeably more difficult. No crushed stone bed would be necessary and few breaks in the concrete stringers not in the form of a wall should prove necessary if it were insulated against the worst temperature extremes of expansion and cooled or heated with a water pipe. Placing the rails below the surface of the ground would make the temperature expansion and contraction even easier to control and would make derailing accidents almost impossible, and sabotage very difficult. It also would make possible over pass bridges able to be a foot or two lower. Building a concrete pad between the rails would make maintenance and accident relief much less costly since rubber tired trucks could be used. It would also make shedding of water possible.
A fairly important advantage of flat rails is that there could be rather wide spacing between the wheel flanges and the track. Not only would this considerably reduce friction energy losses, it would make the straightness of the track less onerous. It would also permit large tolerances between the wheels and the side wheel bearings.
At first you would think that the right of way would be expensive. Actually such a line could easily have a right of way narrower than an interstate highway since no separator strips would be necessary or shoulders. It would probably use less concrete than some interstate highways. The only circumstance that would be much more expensive would be the various political costs of acquiring the right of way. This is because such a line would have to be much more strait than a truck road or even than a current railroad. If it happened to be heading inexorably toward a senator’s mansion, it would have to go through. But it would be worth the cost because it would take enormous amounts of traffic pressure off the interstates. However it might be possible to develop a wheel carriage that could swivel. If so the costs would be dramatically reduced and it could even thread its way through western mountains with minimum excavation.
Another way could be to use four rails. Each pair would be the standard 4' 8.5" width. So, it would be two parallel train tracks. This would have several advantages; I. Current standard trains could use the same right of way at first. 2. Existing railroads could be utilized in some areas. 3. Existing pairs of small locomotives would be possible if desired, although each car having its own engine or electric motor would probably be more practical. 4. The supporting cross beams on the cars could be a little less massive. You may see a development of this concept by William Simpson here and here.
Where such a line would really come into its own, though, and the main reason for building it, would be as a piggyback operation. Trucks, barges, trailers, railroad cars, containers, and even private passenger cars could be loaded and carried at right angles to the track. Thus, no layover loading time or switching would be required. The train could pull into the station, insert a punched card or disc into a computer, and in a few minutes, every device, truck, car, or Toonerville trolley supposed to be unloaded there would be moved off the train with hydraulic pistons or cables on its own wheels or skids. Then, immediately after, or even simultaneously, hydraulic pistons could push on the vehicles meant to be loaded. Furthermore, it would be practical for drivers to ride along, for it should be no problem to maintain an average speed of 40 or 50 miles per hour or more. Indeed speeds of 100 MPH might be practical because tipping and derailment dangers would be largely eliminated. The cost overnight might well be commensurate with motel and fuel charges, alone, to the trucker or passengers otherwise using the highways. If not, it could be subsidized. It would be well worth it to get those damn trucks off the highways.
There would be minimal demurrage charges. Ocean freight could not compete in safety, cost, or speed, especially for oil. Probably not even a new pipeline could compete moving oil or lignite from the western USA. Therefore, one right-of-way no wider than an interstate or less would do it all.
The advantage would not end there. As a system to reduce our military costs, it would dwarf the use of railroads in the Civil War. A two-ocean navy would be not nearly as essential, for ships as large as 70 feet wide by 300 feet long could be moved from one ocean to the other in less than half a week. Such a ship can handle any surface rockets and could even launch an airplane. If designed right, it could also land one. One submarine admiral, when asked, estimated that capital ships would last two weeks in a major war. If GPS guided missals were used, that estimate might be closer to two days. So these small ships might well be all we had to fight with anyway. It would also remove much of the financial horror of a terrorist sailing a boatload of ammonium nitrate into the Panama Canal and detonating it. Unlike the Panama Canal, such a line would be very difficult to sabotage and easy to repair. Even locally, short lines could be very useful for connecting inland military bases with sea ports. This could be done easily and immediately.
There is one more problem that could be solved with low cost freight. Eastern garbage could be moved to a western desert valley, and stock piled there against the time when there was enough "ore" there to "mine" it for its mineral and energy content. There would be no danger to ground water from such a storage if designed right, nor would it be necessary to prevent odors to escape. There would be no one around to complain about real or imagined problems. Instead of going to great expense to throw this valuable "ore" away in thousands of dangerous and expensive dumps while diluting it with tons of useless earth, it would inexpensively disappear from our cities. This system might be worth it for this alone.
Air cushion vehicles might prove even more practical than rail. Air flotation becomes more practical as vehicles become larger. The "tracks" should be much less expensive and the cars somewhat so. Moving disabled vehicles off the track anywhere along the line should be much easier. Braking is fail safe. If the air were cut off such a train should stop quicker than a truck. It should be able to tolerate much sharper curves. It would be an inexpensive way to explore whether the basic concept was as practical as I suggest. Nor would air vehicles be necessarily incompatible with flat steel rails if designed right. Indeed they would probably have to retain wheels to avoid noise when passing through towns. A test line to determine the feasibility of the important parameters could be inexpensive. A mile long right of way and scrap steel rails should be enough to determine loading and unloading practicality, determine fuel efficiency, and any problems with speed up to at least 60 miles per hour (the last if single, truncated cars were used). Even if air flotation cars proved impractical, it is possible that sunken tracks might make it possible for partial flotation to take much of the weight off of heavy loads.
Another procedure that might prove practical might possibly be use of water as a lubricant instead of air, similar to the Girard hydraulic railway in the 19th century, Using hydraulic propulsion as he proposed does not seem very practical to me, but a liquid base might work in conjunction with another propulsion or propulsions. In such a non hydraulic propulsion, the most practical liquid would probably be silicone oil. The construction costs of the cars should be much less for such a train and the maintenance costs on the cars should start to approach zero.
One logical place for a full scale test line would be between Ohio and Montana. Such a route would avoid the expense of bridges over the rivers of the southern Mississippi valley and be on easy terrain. Bridges there would often be able to be less expensive because well anchored pontoon bridges would be possible on streams that did not rise more than ten feet or so in a flood. Flooding could be made to disappear as a problem if the flood waters were used to recharge the water tables with gravel filled pits. If it proved practical, it could be extended coast-to-coast. Another possibly advantageous route would be a Toledo – Chicago/Gary – Peoria route. This would link Illinois River traffic with the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal to New York, or to the St. Lawrence water route to the ocean. It would also make the existing canal completely obsolete and thus enable blocking the grave danger of foreign fish and other water life invading the Great Lakes and visa versa.
It might make a good competition to the Panama Canal for container cargo by a 150 mile route across Central America at Coatzacoalcos in Mexico, and a difficult to sabotage alternate during war time. If the grade is too steep, rubber tire locomotives on the flat track or a geared side track would probably work there.
If political problems could be solved, it might be a good way to link trade between North and South American, between Russia and China, between Europe and Alaska, and maybe even between Europe and Africa. It would make these areas noticeably more prosperous. Such routes would also permit major reductions in pollution, since ships are a large source of pollution, especially sulfur dioxide. A railroad between Alaska and Russia was proposed by William Gilpin, the governor of Colorado in the 1890s.
There has been a wide gauge system proposed for passenger service which has similar economies of scale by Raymond Lashley. In addition, it would have important attributes of safety because of the greater stability to rolling over which might make possible speeds which would start to compete with air transport. Since very light cars are envisioned it would probably be easily possible to integrate it with a wide gauge freight line as piggyback.
I think it would be possible to have reasonable transportation in poor tropical countries without the enormous expense of roads or railroads. Michelin has come out with a new “tire”, which consists of a metal rim with steel strap springs to provide cushioning and a coating of rubber. If such a “tire” was made very wide and high, I suspect that it could travel over dirt roads, maybe even when wet. I had a ground cover plant called “walk on me” that is very tough. If there is a tropical analog, maybe being wet would disappear as a problem in lightly traveled routes. Such a system would be especially useful since even the farmers could use it. I see no reason off hand why the “tires” would have to be made of steel. I had a boat once with one and a quarter inch thick hull made of laminated layers of wood that I had fashioned out of what had been a mold for making plastic boats. It was one rugged boat, so I suspect that such construction would work for the rims. It might even be possible to make the springs of wood and certainly the axles could be. They could be easily fire proofed with sodium silicate. Maybe if the ground cover were plush enough the wheels would not even need springs.
An amusing little article on the origin of gauge dimensions from an unknown author came into my Email. Here it is:
"The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did “they”' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder which horse's rear came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses. And now, the twist to the story. There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. Thiokol makes the SRBs at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horse’s behinds. So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a horse's rear!”
That was an amusing message, but it was apparently only partly accurate. The Romans had abandoned war chariots early on, and had deliberately cut ruts in their city roads for freight wagons, because they were only allowed to travel at night. The Persians had preceded their idea of cutting ruts about that size at least 1,000 years before, so “railroads” is an ancient idea.
Back in the 1830s in the United Kingdom, Isambard Brunel, considered the best English railroad engineer ever, was citing studies he made that indicated that a seven foot gauge was safer and that trains could go faster. At one point a fifth of railways used the Brunel gauge. There was considerable complications with various gauges in England then, but the lack of interchangeability with the standard gauge lead Parliament to gradually phase out the Brunel gauge in 1846.
A LIST of RAILROAD LINKS
Some discussion of future research.
William Middleton wrote a book in 2003 called “Metropolitan Railways: Rapid Transit in America”. It discusses a wide range of ingenious railroad ideas proposed in the 19th century, including some wide gauge rails along with maps and photos. It is printed by Indiana University Press.
See this site, for a free internet book. You will probably have to click on the PDF column.
A container system called SECU that can only be moved by rail or ship, but not highway, has been developed for the Baltic sea in Finland and Sweden. The containers are 44 x 12 x 12 feet and carry up to 80 tonnes of cargo (primarily paper products). They have triple the capacity for paper as the standard containers. That system is edging toward a wide gauge railroad but does not go nearly far enough.
SOME INFORMATION ABOUT EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE CONTROL
Most of the damage to buildings in an earthquake is from side to side motion, because buildings are very strong against vertical forces. This is currently solved with isolator bearings successfully. I suspect that creating a concrete slab and then pouring a thick reinforced slab over it but isolating the two slabs with a layer of grease would be an inexpensive and fail safe alternative. A building built onto the second slab and made an integral part of its structure should, I suspect, have very little earthquake damage. That procedure probably would prove to be a practical way to retrofit existing buildings as well since the building could probably be isolated a hundred square feet at a time. A similar procedure involving single column sliding bearings has been developed.
SOME LINKS TO HEALTH ARTICLES
---- Copper Response in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Nutrition and physiology of copper, especially relating to hemorrhoids, aneurysms, herniated (slipped) discs, anemia, emphysema, and gray hair.
---- Safe supplementation with potassium. Supplementation is essential during heart disease but must be balanced with vitamin B-1.
---- The Purpose of Cortisol: Cortisol is presented as an immune hormone used to defend against diarrhea.
---- Cashew Nuts to Cure Tooth Abscess: Anacardic acids in raw cashew nuts may cure tooth abscesses and possibly gram positive diseases such as acne and leprosy.
---- There is evidence that cell phones can produce tumors. Using remote ear phones would seem to be a good idea.
---- Observations on Diabetes: Diabetes may be caused by the poison in chili pepper and maybe injection timing should be different.
---- Fluoride in city water will cause fluorosis discoloration of teeth, weakened bones, damage to the kidneys and immune system, bone cancer, and, worst of all, damage to the nerves resembling Alzheimer’s disease.
---- The Eve Controversy: A proposal as to why the human species seems to be derived from a single couple.
For a procedure that tetrathiomolybdate for removing copper and thus preventing further solid cancer growth and Hodgkin’s, see this site. This might buy some time for this and other possibly other cancers until you can persuade a doctor to try tumor necrosis factor or interferon or an opioid antagonist drug called Naltrexone. Naltrexone works by blocking some endorphin receptors (Naltrexone in the large 50mg size, originally manufactured by DuPont under the brand name ReVia, is now sold by Mallinckrodt as Depade and by Barr Laboratories under the generic name naltrexone). Said blockage is thought to cause the body to temporarily secrete more endorphins, especially after midnight at night. These endorphins are thought to stimulate the immune system, and in particular to stimulate the TH-1 or type 1 antiviral response by decreased interleukin-4 and with increased gamma interferon and interleukin-2 and a simultaneous decrease of type 2 anti bacterial response [Sacerdote]. It appears to be especially effective for minimizing symptoms and retarding progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) (also see these sites hereand here. Low doses of Naltrexone (LDN), 1.5 to 4.5 milligrams, at bedtime is used (timing is important, and it is important not to buy slow release forms). It is said to have no known bad side effects at those doses other than insomnia the first week or two in some. There are also reports from an extensive survey in this site. I think some clinical studies on Naltrexone are in order, and it should not be a prescription drug. Though side effects appear unlikely, it is not proven over longer periods. Olive leaf extract has shown clinical evidence of effectiveness against a wide range of viruses, including AIDS [Bihari], herpes, and cold viruses. It sometimes produces a Herxheimer or pathogen die off symptoms (from effectiveness against bacteria?). There is evidence that it is synergistic (reinforce each other) with Naltrexone. There have been a few case histories of improvement in what were probably arthritis patients and CFIDS patients. The active ingredient is said to be oleuropein or enolate. There has been very little follow up research done on it.
Also it has been found that curcumin in turmeric or curry powder will inhibit several forms of cancer, including melanoma. People who live in India where these spices are eaten, have one tenth the cancer elsewhere. Here is an article with anecdotal evidence for pressurized oxygen, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin C after head injuries. They also claim a fair percentage of prison inmates from psychiatric disorders after head injuries.
See this site for evidence of a correlation between magnesium deficiency and cancer. The taurate is proposed as the best magnesium supplement. Taurine or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid is an acidic chemical substance sulfonated rather than carboxylated found in high abundance in the tissues of many animals (metazoa), especially sea animals. Taurine is also found in plants, fungi, and some bacterial species, but in far less abundance. It is an amine with a sulfonic acid functional group, but it is not an amino acid in the biological sense, not being one of the twenty protein-forming compounds encoded by the universal genetic code. Small polypeptides have been identified as containing taurine, but to date there has been no report of a transfer RNA that is specifically charged with taurine [from Wikipedia]. It is essential to babies. It has been found that supplements of the amino acid, taurine, will restore the abnormal electrocardiogram present during a potassium deficiency by an unknown mechanism. This information has been used in several case histories by George Eby to control a long standing type of cardiac arrhythmia called pre atrial contractions (PACs), a benign but irritating and nerve racking heart problem, with 2.5 grams of taurine with each meal. Taurine is said to be low in the diets of vegetarians. The 2,500 grams recommended by the American Heart Association causes diarrhea in some people and should probably be reduced in those people. Taurine has been used for high blood pressure [Fujita], migraine headache (I suspect that less than 1000 milligrams can remove the headache caused by allergy to peanuts), high cholesterol, epilepsy, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disorders, alcoholism, and cystic fibrosis, and depression. Keep in mind that some people may have a genetic defect that limits the amount of taurine tolerated and that adequate molybdenum may desirable. Taurine may make a copper deficiency worse, based on a single case history [Brien Quirk, private communication]. This may be because taurine may be mobilizing copper and zinc into the plasma . So if you should decide to take taurine, make sure your copper intake is at least adequate, as well as your zinc.
A site is available which shows. foods which are high in one nutrient and low in another (including calories). This last site should be especially useful for a quick list of foods to consider first, or for those who must restrict another nutrient because of a genetic difficulty with absorption or utilization
You may find useful for definitions and easy to use a search for abstracts of journal references, "Gateway". You must click on “ MEDLINE/PubMed” or for definitions click on "find terms". or a list of medical search engines.
The very extensive USDA Handbook #8 may be seen here. To access the information you must press "enter" to search, and then divide Kcal into milligrams of potassium. This last table is very comprehensive, is used in search mode, and even lists the amino acids. There are also links in it to PDF types of printouts from the table for individual nutrients available here Just click on the “A” or “W” button for the nutrient you desire. A table that has already done the potassium calculation is here in descending concentration or in alphabetical order.
There is a free browser called Firefox, which is said to be less susceptible to viruses or crashes, has many interesting features, imports information from Iexplore while leaving Iexplore intact. You can also install their emailer. A feature that lists all the URLs on a viewed site can be useful when working on your own site.
There is a free program available which tells on your site what web site accessed your site, which search engine, statistics about which country, statistics of search engine access, keywords used and their frequency. It can be very useful.
There is a long list of main newspapers, news search engines, financial news sources, directories (telephone, email, lawyer, government, financial, congressional, business, corporate executives, zipcodes), online legal and ethics research, banking, trade associations, law reviews, bar associations, weather, airline tickets, and more.
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This site updated Aril 2014