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Welcome to High Speed Records Page!

Welcome to the super high speed records page! It's always fascinating to see the work done for higher and higher speeds, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

We might easily think the need for speed is the ideology of today's generation; wrong. Speed was an issue from the very beginning: to choose the locomotive type for the world's first railway Stockton and Darlington (in Great Britain), a race between the 4 locomotives was arranged and the _fastest_ and most reliable locomotive chosen. Not surprisingly, the winning locomotive was called no less than the Rocket! Technologies evolved continuously with close interest in adding the speed of the operations.

Another interesting event occurred in Germany as late as in the 1970s: it was thought that the train on normal rails could not safely run faster than little over 200 km/h (125 mph)! Although this was probably the result of the Maglev lobby, this also caused the German train industry to be temporarily left behind the French, who soon had their TGVs running 275 km/h (170 mph) in everyday traffic! This figure was soon raised to 300 km/h (185 mph) and currently to 320 km/h (200 mph) with next production generation of trains (AGVs) running 360 km/h (223 mph) in daily revenue service, or in other words, nice round figure of incredible 100 meters per second!

Early High Speed Records
This part will be added later.

The French and German Records
Next we'll go through some of the French and German records:

TGV unit 001 at Strasbourg, France
In 1972
the gas turbine powered French prototype train TGV-001 unit thundered 318 km/h (198 mph) and surpassed the then magical 300 km/h limit several hundred times in 1970s. This is still today the record for the gas turbine powered multiple units.

In 1981 the electric TGV-PSE production unit 16 like the one below ran at an incredible speed of 380 km/h (236 mph) on the Paris-Sud-Est high speed track shown in the picture.


This was the awakening call for the Germans who gradually perfected their ICE-V (V German for Versuch or Trial) train to run faster and faster. In 1988 it was their time to create the new world record of 408,4 km/h (254 mph) with the ICE-V test train.

In 1990 the French had their next generation of the TGVs the TGV-Atlantique ready for revenge and with minor modifications (like added spoilers) a new record of 515,3 km/h (320 mph) was set at Vendome France by unit 325. According to Keith Fender a famous railroad journalist the Germans got the message and the road ahead in speed records was clear for Alstom (builder of the TGVs and AGVs) and the SNCF (French National railways).

in 2001 a production TGV Reséau run 1067 kilometers (663 miles) non stop at an incredible 3 hours and 29 minutes! Below a picture of a similar unit.


In 2007 Alstom and the SNCF made the 'final' record run on the "race-car-built" TGV unit V150, resulting a momentary speed of 574,8 km/h (356,67 mph), which is currently the existing world record for standard trains. The train had dozens of guests, members of media and engineers aboard to witness and assist with the event. The specially built train had several modifications to help achieve the record:

  • extra streamlining was added,
  • the second pantograph removed,
  • larger than normal wheels were installed,
  • just 3 intermediate double decked coaches were used, even these with 2 powered bogies (unusual for the TGVs)
  • and to finalize the effort the voltage on the overhead line on the LGV-EST was raised to 31 kV instead of the norm 25kV.

This record run was widely publicized at the time. For the production runs 400 km/h (250 mph) still has to do mainly because of the catenary technique limitations. Maybe the next generation of infrastructure will solve this problem, or the third rail might be introduced...again. The TGV-POS asynchronous motor locomotives below are of the same production batch as the TGV V150 was.

Below one of the TGV-POS units similar to record braking one at Paris eastern station.

The Maglev Records Story
Maglev Train Front
What ever happened to the Maglev then? It still holds the world record of 581 km/h (361,02 mph) for the nonconventional trains, only 5 kilometers per hour away from the TGV V150 but still the standing record! It remains to be seen, how fast the Chinese will test run their Maglev on its 170 kilometer track near Shanghai once it's finished. Even in the production run the Maglevs might outrun any conventional train, with very little noise generated. (Actually the issue is not the speed but the compatibility: the conventional trains can run on just about any infrastructure while the maglevs are currently limited to only one line in production in Shanghai! For the moment...).


Records for the "Conventional" Locomotives
The record hunting for the conventional locomotives started early, in 1901 Siemens and Halske run their locomotive 162 km/h (101 mph).

In 1955 the French electric locomotive of type BB9004 ran 331 km/h (206 mph), which was the locomotives world record until Siemens run it's Taurus half a century later. The record run almost ended up to the catastrophe and the two locomotives used for the attempt mangled a lot infrastructure to poor condition.

On September 2nd 2006 the Austrian Railways owned class 1216 number 050 run the new world record for locomotives. The record attempt was made on German high speed line between Kinding and Allersberg in two phases, first ending to top speed of 344 km/h (214 mph) and the second for the standing world record of 357 km/h (222 mph). The previous world record of 331 km/h was made back in 1955 by the French Railways unit (with almost disastrous results). The new Taurus record unit pictured below by Siemens AG.
Siemens AG Taurus class 1216 record braking locomotive in 2006

Record Speed on Everyday Traffic
The Chinese conquered the "fastest running normal service" -title from the French in December 2009. 968 kilometers long connection between Wuhan and Guangzhou was opened, dropping the connection time between these cities from 10,5 hours to mere 3 hours! The timetable average speed for the whole route (including several stops) is a very high 312,5 km/h (194 mph) and trains normal running speed is 350 km/h (217 mph), in some cases 380 km/h (236 mph).

The previous record holder was the SNCF with its TGV service averaging 272 km/h (169 mph) between two stations.








Created for by John McKey. Pictures by Andreas Ehnberg, Hannu Peltola, Stanislav Voronin, Ilkka and Sanna Siissalo, Nick Slocombe, Gerard J. Putz and John McKey.

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Also on High Speed

RzD Velaro-Rus' high tech nose under construction, Germany
See the Velaro & ICE 1,2,3 Page for these Siemens prides!



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