Hydrogen Cell Technology





Advocates of hydrogen-fuel-cell propulsion have a new target for their technology: trolleys. At the Fifth International Hydrail conference, held 11 and 12 June in Charlotte, N.C., engineers and transit planners concluded that streetcars are an ideal early application for hydrogen propulsion. Traditional trolley cars have drawn their power from catenaries, unsightly overhead electricity supply lines running along city streets. Hydrogen-powered streetcars will eliminate the wires, which otherwise might stand in the way of a streetcar comeback. Read More . . .

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It would seem that with technology moving forward as fast as it is, that a hybrid power vehicle would be best. It's not totally "green" but would be diesel electric. I would look at hydrogen cell technology in a couple years as an option. It would be totally "green". The advantages of reserving long-term commitments for the future would be that either of the above mentioned options would not include the cost of installing overhead wires--saving about four million dollars per track mile. That kind of savings would lay many miles of track. Personally, I'm personally attracted to the wires as they have made their way in a reputation of cost efficiency (except for the initial installation) and a nostalgic artisticness recognized by all canvass and watercolor artists. But, on a budget, cost would be a consideration at a savings of four million dollars per track mile when you're talking about 37 miles. Track cost with wires runs about eight million dollars per track mile. So the savings is about half.

Portland, Oregon even tows a cart behind an older model streetcar with an on-board generator to provide power on one of their more isolated routes. So it sounds like powering a streetcar with electricity is not exactly "rocket science."

Another option used by other cities as a temporary solution would be to initially lease streetcars from the factory before committing to a technology.

So it would seem that the important thing in adding electric streetcars to Topeka would be to get the track laid first. Many options, in the meantime, would open up. I would look to hydrogen-cell technology as the long-term solution to going green--as the only byproduct is pure water. This technology is being successfully tested in the U.S. and other countries currently. I'm not an engineer, so the opinions of the experts who will be advising the city of Topeka may have some timely suggestions. I would recommend John Smatlak's consulting firm, RPR Consulting as the most unprejudiced source available rather than experts from a specific factory or specific technology as sole advisors.

Steel tracks attract industry, developers, and other investors--- not electric power-source technology. So as it looks right now, it seems laying the track is the priority.

Final thought, in numerous situations, factories have put their cars on demonstration for cities, operators and passengers to experience at no charge--such as the Vancouver Olympics to mention one. The rides were even free for that full week.

John Davis, editor.






Hybrid "wireless" streetcar line makes debut

Savannah, Georgia — A short, somewhat experimental streetcar tourist line made its debut earlier this month, running along an approximately one-mile (1.6 km) single-track line through a restaurant and tourist district adjacent to the Savannah River. The line serves River Street, a former industrial corridor converted into a more upscale recreational, retail, and restaurant area.

The lines's single streetcar (a converted heritage-type car from Melbourne, Australia) was rolled out to participated in Savannah’s Climate Action Parade on River Street on December 9th. On Dec. 13th, the public were invited to take a free test ride on the new line.
[Photo: WSAV-TV]

According to an article in Rail Transit Online (December 2008), the retired Melbourne W5 streetcar, over 70 years old, has been fitted with an on-board biodiesel generator to supply electricity to the traction motors, somewhat similar to the propulsion configuration used on several other lines, such as one in Galveston. Typically, with these kinds of low-cost systems, project managers have sought to avoid the expense and logistical aspects of overhead contact systems (OCS) for supplying power. However, project designers envision eventual conversion to conventional OCS power distribution. According to news reports, the 47-foot-long (14.3-m) car seats about 50 and will accommodate another 50 standing passengers.

The entire project, under the direction of TranSystems, cost about $1 million, including almost $600,000 to buy the right-of-way, $100,000 for engineering and $207,000 for TranSystems to restore the car in Pennsylvania. Rail Transit Online notes that "Savannah has a long history of street railways, with the first horse cars starting operation in 1869 followed in 1890 by electric trolleys. The system closed on Aug. 26, 1946."

The official line opening is scheduled to take place in January.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Light Rail Now!
Updated 2008/12/20



Electric traction systems (where electric power is generated at a remote power station and transmitted to the trains) are considerably more cost-effective than diesel or steam units, where the power unit is carried on the train. This advantage is especially marked in urban and rapid transit systems with a high traffic density.

Above: London Stansted people mover rail with 3rd rail. See below link for other examples of third rail technology.

So far as first cost is concerned, third-rail systems are relatively cheap to install, compared to overhead wire contact systems, as no structures for carrying the overhead contact wires are required, and there is no need to reconstruct overbridges to provide clearances. There is much less visual intrusion on the environment.

However as third rail systems present the hazard of electric shock, higher system voltages (above 1500 v) are not considered safe. Very high currents are therefore used, resulting in considerable power loss in the system, and requiring relatively closely spaced feed points (sub-stations).

The presence of an electrified rail also makes it extremely dangerous for a person to fall into the tracks. This, however, can be avoided using platform screen doors or the risk minimized by ensuring that the conductor rail is on the side of the track away from the platform.

Furthermore, third rail systems must either be fully grade-separated, or, if they operate at-grade, they must implement some kind of mechanism to effectively stop pedestrians from walking onto the tracks at grade crossings. A famous 1992 Supreme Court of Illinois decision affirmed a $1.5 million verdict against the Chicago Transit Authority for failing to stop an intoxicated person from walking onto the tracks at a grade crossing and attempting to urinate on the third rail.

The end ramps of conductor rails (where they are interrupted, or change sides) present a practical limitation on speed due to the mechanical impact of the shoe, and 160 km/h (100 mph) is considered the upper limit of practical third-rail operation, however no testing over 100 mph has been attempted. The world speed record for a third rail train is 174 km/h (108 mph) attained on 11 April 1988 by a British Class 442 EMU.

Third rail systems using top contact are prone to accumulations of snow, and ice formed from refrozen snow, and this can interrupt operations. Some systems operate dedicated de-icing trains to deposit an oily fluid on the conductor rail to prevent the build-up.

Because of the gaps in the conductor rail (at level crossings and crossovers) it is possible for a train to stop in a position where all of its shoes are in gaps, so that no traction power is available. The train is said to be "gapped". In these circumstances a following train is brought up behind the stranded train to push it on to the conductor rail or a jumper cable is used to supply enough power to the train to get one of its contact shoes back on the third rail. On some systems this prevents the running of very short trains (which have fewer shoes).

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Hybrid Streetcars

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Hybrid Streetcar Unveiled in Charlotte

On January 20, Kinkisharyo International announced its hybrid-powered streetcar designed for North American markets had successfully completed testing on the LYNX Blue Line in Charlotte, N.C., and unveiled the first vehicle at a downtown Charlotte event. The streetcar – dubbed the ameriTRAM by the international railcar manufacturer – can operate both under the traditional catenary wire used by light-rail and streetcar systems, as well as under its own lithium-ion battery power for up to 5 miles, which is then recharged through a combination of catenary power and regenerative braking. By offering this dual power supply, the ameriTRAM can serve route segments where installing overhead electric power is costly, technically difficult, unsightly or prohibited by local ordinances, such as crossing a substantial bridge or navigating a historic district. Read More Read More









Pantograph Streetcars






.A pantograph is a device that collects electric current from overhead lines for electric trains or trams. [1] The term stems from the resemblance to pantograph devices for copying writing and drawings. Read More




The diamond-shaped pantograph of the Swiss cogwheel loco in Schynige Platte, built in 1911