50 years ago, a Japanese scientist dreamed up a rocket-propelled train | Science News

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50 Years Ago

50 years ago, a Japanese scientist dreamed up a rocket-propelled train

Excerpt from the July 6, 1968, issue of Science News

7:00am, June 28, 2018
a superconducting magnetic-levitation train in Japan

BUILT FOR SPEED  Superconducting magnetic-levitation trains in Japan smashed a world speed record in 2015 in a test run.  

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Next in speedy trains

Future trains, in [Hisanojo] Ozawa’s opinion, will all be powered by rockets and run over rollers instead of rails…. His next model will be equipped with three rocket engines and will aim for a speed of 1,180 kilometers an hour, or 0.996 Mach. — Science News, July 6, 1968.


A rocket-boosted model train from Ozawa, who designed aircraft for the Imperial Japanese Air Force, hit 920 kilometers per hour on a 300-meter course in 1968. But real-world trains get nowhere near that speed. Maybe because none use rockets. Japan’s maglev trains, which levitate on superconducting magnets, broke 600 km/h in a 2015 test run — making them the world’s fastest. Passengers will have to wait to embark until 2027. In the United States, Amtrak’s Acela Express tops out at a comparatively slow 240 km/h. But a line from Los Angeles to San Francisco for trains traveling up to about 350 km/h is under construction, and plans to run a maglev train between New York City and Washington, D.C., received some federal funding in 2015.


S. Griffin. Next in speedy trains: approaching Mach 1. Science News. Vol. 94, July 6, 1968, p. 10.

Further Reading

S. Milius. Built for speed. Science News. Vol. 174, August 16, 2008, p. 14.

Science News Staff. English Channel tunnel. Science News. Vol. 185, April 5, 2014, p. 4.

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