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US trainsets foreshadowed AGV

07 Mar 2008

Letter to the Editor

Sir - With some fellow railway professionals, I would challenge Alstom's claim that the 'AGV is the first train in the world to feature an articulated architecture (with the bogies located between the carriages), ... combined with a distributed drive system (the train's motors being located on the bogies, under the train), an innovation which considerably increases the potential number of seats onboard the train by eliminating the need for locomotives' (www.alstom.com).  No denying the part about eliminating the need for locomotives, but the first part of Alstom's claim is erroneous.

The Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad placed two articulated streamlined trains with distributed electric propulsion located in their bogies into passenger-carrying service on February 6 1941. The Electroliners were four-section trains with three articulations supported by two powered bogies and one non-powered bogie, as well as two powered bogies under their streamlined front and rear sections (RG 2.5.41 p500).

These two trainsets remained in service on the North Shore Line until its greatly-lamented abandonment on January 21 1963. They were sold to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co and were operated by it and its successor, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, as Libertyliners until 1974 or thereabouts, when they were quietly removed from service. Both survive today, one at the Illinois Railway Museum and the other at Rockhill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania.

The North Shore Line, while having an interurban electric railway heritage, engaged in a substantial freight business in which standard railway wagons were interchanged with other railways. It was regulated as a Class I railroad by the Interstate Commerce Commission as part of the general system of railways involved in interstate and international commerce.

One of the two Electroliners (801-802) reached a maximum speed of 178 km/h during a test run on December 21 1950. While by no means having the 360 km/h potential of the AGV, this was a significant achievement for its day - one that does not detract in any way from the magnificent achievements by the French in the development of high speed railway technology in the modern era.

Philip G Craig
Upper Montclair, New Jersey, USA