Maglev Trains

Maglev Trains

One of the most modern means of transportation is the Maglev, capable of traveling at speeds of over 400 km/h (248.6 mph).



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The floating Maglev

The principle of magnetic levitation and propulsion was patented by the German Hermann Kemper as early as 1934. From the 1960s onwards Germany, Japan and the U.S. have conducted several experiments in an attempt to implement it.
Although Germany was the leading developer of Maglev, at the end of the 1990s the German government decided to suspend the construction of a rail line, due to costs reaching astronomical proportions. A foreign order ended the impasse over the Maglev.
At the end of 1999, the Berlin-based company Transrapid agreed with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology to implement and build the system. Operating since 2003, the trains are capable of traveling at speeds of over 400 km/h (248.6 mph). Their introduction marked the beginning of a new period in the history of rail transportation.

Magnetic train

Driver´s cab

Fast travel - high costs

The world´s first magnetic train started operating in China, between Shanghai´s business district and Pudong Airport, in 2003. Built by the German Transrapid company, the commercial train covers a 30 km (18.6 mi) distance in only 7 minutes.
A Maglev needs its own totally separate track. As nothing can cross its way, closed or elevated tracks have to be built. In the latter case, 5-6 m (16.4-19.7 ft) high concrete pillars support the electromagnetic track. Therefore, the costs are much higher than those of other types of trains.
The new type of trains will be able to overcome steep slopes, thus more tightly curving tracks can be built, which may result in cost reduction. Because there is no friction between the train and the track, Maglev tracks require less maintenance and have longer lifespan in comparison with other traditional train tracks.

Maglev speeding on a track near Shanghai

  • driver´s cab
  • passenger car

  • driver´s cab
  • passenger car


Maglev trains are maintained and propelled on their tracks by magnetic fields. Maglev is short for magnetic levitation.

The principle of magnetic levitation and propulsion was developed as early as 1930, but it was not until decades later that it was implemented in practice. Although Germany was the leading developer of Maglev, the project lost government support and it was therefore China that operated the first Maglev line in 2003.
The world´s first magnetic train connected Shanghai´s business district and Pudong Airport. The train covers a distance of 30 km (18.6 mi) in 7-8 minutes, occasionally reaching speeds of 430 km/h (267.2 mph).

Due to their operating principle, maglev trains require separate and continuous tracks. One option is to built elevated tracks supported by 5-6 m (16.4-19.7 ft) high concrete pillars.

The principle of magnetic levitation originates in the principle of the operation of electric motors. There are several ways to implement this principle in practice. One way is to place magnets on the concrete guideway, that is, at the bottom of the guide rail as well as at the lower part of the trains, that is at the 'skirt'.

In this synchronous linear motor system, the first acts as a stator, the latter acts as a rotor. The current lifts the train up and propels it forward.

The guide magnets fixed to the 'skirt', the built-in sensors and the control computers ensure that trains do not touch the tracks while in motion.

Although the principle of magnetic levitation is very simple, it is very costly to implement. Yet, it is a fact that the new maglev technology, with trains running quickly and quietly without wheels, axles and bearings, has marked a new era in the history of the railway.

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