Science Scope

A ride on the fastest train in the world

A ride on the fastest train in the world

Posting in Cities

I took a ride on the Maglev Train in Shanghai. The trip was short, only lasting less than 15 minutes. The train uses magnetic levitation technology to get people from town to the airport in record time. In a growing city, alternative modes of transport like the high-speed train can help people get around.

What happens in Shanghai, stays in Shanghai -- unless you videotape it like I did.

Last October, I was lucky enough to take a ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train. I boarded near the International Expo Center with a direct (and brief, as you'll soon discover) trip to Pudong International Airport.

I paid 50 yuan for a one-way ticket, and it took less than 10 minutes to get to the airport 30 kilometers -- about 18 miles -- away.

I was surprised; the ride didn't feel fast. The train could potentially go as fast as 268 miles per hour, but it never felt it. (It sure didn't feel like a graviton carnival ride or anything. Instead, it felt more like the smooth ride of the Amtrak Acela, once it reaches cruising speed.)

The train displays the speed for passengers to watch as they zip through the city. I watched the digital screen for virtually the entire length of the ride. I don't think we ever reached top speed.

Here's what it was like, in a video:

I looked out the window, it was clear that we were zipping by cars, homes, you name it. But faster than I've ever experienced.

When a Maglev train heading in the opposite direction brushed by us, it was hardly noticeable -- so fast, in fact, that the other train only obstructed my view for a split second.

If you're not familiar with the train's underlying technology, my colleague Andrew Nusca previously wrote about it on SmartPlanet's Smart Takes blog:

The technology at the heart of the train is Maglev, short for magnetic levitation, technology. A concept that’s been around for more than 100 years, Maglev tech entails the suspension of a train via powerful magnets to remove the friction present at the rails of conventional trains.

Maglev technology is at the heart of record-breaking bullet trains. On Monday, Chinese scientists said they successfully produced a model Maglev train that can travel as fast as a plane. Now that's one window I'd love to look out of.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure