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Author Topic: Trains: US vs Europe/etc  (Read 2675 times)
robbs


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« on: July 25, 2009, 05:14:37 AM »

Alright so I've had this question on my mind for some time now and figured some here might be able to weigh in on the matter. Why is it that trains around the world are so drastically different (as opposed to a globally uniform system in air travel for obvious reasons)?

It seems since the era of steam, when there were still considerable discernible differences, trains both diesel and electric alike have evolved into very different looking beasts. Being born and raised in the good ole US of A myself, I'm partial to what we've got over here (and being from the Northeast I really like the diesel and more recently the influx of electric trains we have here), but after watching videos online, seeing photos in mags/etc, and seeing the Marklin setup at the NMRA convention in Hartford showcasing Euro trains, it's just been on my mind of why the drastic differences?
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jward


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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2009, 06:30:29 AM »

the differences started way back when railroads were first developed. there wasn't alot of importing of technology, most of our locomotives were homegrown. conditions in this country were aand still are drastically different than elsewhere.

probably the primary difference in the early days between north america and europe was that this side of the pond was relatively undevelpoed. in europe, trains had to fit into the existing landscape that had been there for centuries. hence they were smaller, with much lower overhead clearances. also towns and cities were much closer together, making for much shorter runs.

north america, by contrast, was relatively undeveloped. in many areas, the trains were there first, and the towns grew up around them. plus, the distances are much greater. with few restrictions on size, our railroads grew large for the efficient transportation of large quantities of freight.

since ww2 and the rebuilding of europe's railways, their emphasis has been on hauling passengers, and relatively little freight, at high speeds. north american railroads have evolved into haulers of bulk freight, with relatively little emphasis on hauling passengers, or high speeds. without the overhead clearance restrictions of europe, our rolling stock has become truly massive.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Woody Elmore

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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2009, 07:54:33 AM »

Also keep in mind that the european railways have been greatly rebuilt because of the devastation of WW II.

British rolling stock and locomotives are also different from stock used on the continent.

Don't try to figure it all out - it will make your head hurt.
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Atlantic Central

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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2009, 01:37:52 PM »

Jeffery and Woody have given you great info on this. I will ad one other easy fact. Trains and railroading basicly developed seperately in three places, Europe, North America and the UK. After that it was exported to other areas around the world. What type of railroading you have in other parts of the world is largely a function of which of these three the other areas got their trains from.

It is, as Jeffery explained, also about function and need. different conditions, needs, and available resources result in diffeent solutions.

robbs, you sound young. I would suggest you consider the idea that "univeral" or "standardized" is not always in the best interest of human advancement. Often such ideas actually lead to stagnation.

Even here in North America, while the whole system works together, there has been and still is diversity based on regional needs. No Big Boys ever ran in the east and no GG1's ran in the west. There are very specific reasons why.

Sheldon
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bobwrgt

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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2009, 04:10:46 PM »

In Europe the governments wanted trains and often subsidized them to keep them going.
In the US the government wanted to build highways and put the trains out of business.
In Europe they don't travel the vast distance that the US trains do.
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Atlantic Central

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« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2009, 05:23:03 PM »

In Europe the governments wanted trains and often subsidized them to keep them going.
In the US the government wanted to build highways and put the trains out of business.
In Europe they don't travel the vast distance that the US trains do.

Actually this is only true in recent times. In the 1800's when the North American rail network was first being built, the government did lots to promote and support the expansion/construction of the railroads. Railroads where given huge land grants, used what they needed and sold the rest, they where given tax free statis in many states regarding property taxes, just to namea few.

The transcontinential railroad was funded by the US government.

Sheldon
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Jhanecker2

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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2009, 09:43:38 AM »

The possible exception to the size theory regarding European trains ,of course is the Russian Railroad System both Czarist & Soviet Union which was built to unify the country and provide for ways to move people & resources through vast undeveloped areas. Their systems were built to a different gauge than the standard ( 4'-8.5") gauge . Their Trans-Siberian Express Line must be one of the longest on the continent and goes through really inhospital terrain & climates.  John II
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Woody Elmore

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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2009, 10:32:23 AM »

Some Russian railway lines are being rebuilt. Originally, many were built by slave labor and are now falling apart because of the shoddy workmanship. Also, new centers of commerce have opened up in the east and rail lines are being added to service these industries.

A good friend works for the NYC Transit Authority and was involved in laying rail for many years. Back in the middle seventies they hired an emigre from the USSR. This man had retired, returned to Russia and is now working as a consultant. He emailed my friend recently to tell him that he is working in the Lake Baikal area relaying with pallet track - kind of like sectional track with concrete ties.



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BestSnowman


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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2009, 08:38:40 PM »

To borrow a line from somewhere (not sure where) "different strokes for different folks"

Design tastes vary in different regions so what goes over well in the US may not in Europe. Personally I'm glad there are differences because variety is the spice of life.
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-Matthew Newman
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buzz

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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2009, 11:18:34 AM »

Hi all
In the 1800's the roads where rubbish so the most efficient mode of transport was this new railway and all governments threw money at them hand over fist.
The first railways in the US UK and Europe where all the same standard well sort of, in that the technology in all three cases came from the home of railways the United Kingdom.
What worked in the UK and Europe was the well engineered railways that the stock was built for.
There where some problems but the engineering improved over time and the factories where there to do it and each country developed its own trains suited to its conditions and laws.
In the US the English trains where a dismal failure allmost from the word go
your early track was built to a lesser std than the locomotives required the small English locomotives where not suited to the distances your railways covered.
It did not take long for your track miles to increase just like other countries your runs where longer and needed a flexable locomotive frame
unlike the rigid European/ UK ones of the time.
Hence the very quick arrival of the now classic Yankee 4-4-0 which was perfect for your early railways it had a flexable loco frame and for its day a big boiler and fire box and could cover the distances, this is also why the Americans adopted bogie's  I think you call them trucks faster than the rest of the world this was needed for your conditions, and as with the rest of the world your railways grew technology and standards improved and adapted to changes in your law.
The problem was every railway had a different idea as to how to do things
hence the need for the various bodies around the world that set the standard for inter railway stock.
Its not that any one railway system is better or worse than another its just that the needs of each are different and built accordingly.
Any way they are standard they all run track which is basically built the same way all over the world OK so some of the gauges varied a bit
but that is covered by "the as long as it is different part of the standard Smiley Wink Grin "
regards John
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A model railway can be completed but its never finished
Hamish K

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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2009, 01:35:59 AM »

Interesting topic.

Part of the difference is clearly due to different conditions e.g.

Longer distances - less use of steam tank locos in the USA than UK, Europe

Rougher track, especially in early days as railroads pioneered areas in the USA - development of  the American 4-4-0

Need for heavy loads over long distances - large steam locos such as Big Boys etc., in the UK and most European countries there was simply not the need for these locos.

Greater population densities and shorter distances between centres in Europe and the UK than the USA - greater electrification in Europe and  quicker development of very fast trains (note Japan, the home of very fast passenger trains fits this well) .
This may also partly explain differences in diesel loco design - in Europe Hood bodies are not common and cabs at each end are - smaller trains running shorter distances may be hauled by a single loco that runs in both directions without being turned - in the USA 2 or 3 locos may well be used, thus they need only one cab each.

However while these factors and others explain some of the differences they do not explain it all - people in different countries may simply have different ideas about what looks good and how to do things. As others have said - this is what makes the world an interesting place.

Hamish
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jward


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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2009, 10:41:45 PM »

one factor not mentioned in diesel locomotive design is ease of maintainance. hoods can be lifted off a locomotive in the shop, leaving alot of room to work on the innards. i am not sure about in europe, but in the usa most cab type locomotives had truss or unibody type carbodies. it is/was impossible to remove major portions of the carbody without destroying the locomotive structure. hood type locomotives usually have a substantial beam type underframe similar to a freight car.

there are also different operating philosophies as well. eurpoean trains are extremely well maintained, whereas, in north america we run them into the ground. reliability is measured in percent of the time available for service and anything less than 90% is considered unacceptable in a newer locomotive. another factor is cheapness of repairs. those locomotives that are failure prone, and/or expensive to repair have short lives. this is why it is difficult to find a general electric locomotive over 25 years of age on a major railroad, but emd's commonly last 40 years or more.

some of the first diesels had truly attrocious availability ratings, baldwin diesels in particular were failure prone, and fairbanks morse were expensive to repair. engine work required the removal of at least one crankshaft ( they had two) which was very time consuming compared to other builders products....
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
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