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Code_Name_D Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-20-03 09:22 PM
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How to build an economical mono-rail.
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I have been tinkering with a few over the top technological ideas. Some of which I have posted here. One was the Space elevator, that explored how one would build an elevator on a space station that was rotating for artificial gravity. A second idea was how to build a true to life, Star Trek like "turbo lift" that could travel not just up and down, but horizontally as well.

And the mono-rail is another example of cutting edge technologies I have been tinkering with. But unlike the other two, I still haven salved its fundamental problem, witch is actually one of economic consideration, and not technical. But before that, let me explore some of the thinking related to a mono-rail.

Why a mono-rail?

Picture if you will, a high tech, futuristic city. With oil nothing more than an entry in a history book, more efficient public transportation has become the only viable alternative to getting around. But picture a young mother and a baby carriage just strolling along for a walk. When suddenly, she comes across an obstacle. A set of three rail road tracks, including that infamous "third rail." To cross it, she would have to step over that third rail.

Okay. I over dramatize. Commuter rail is actually the norm in most developed countries. With the US being an obvious exception. Most use two standard rails laid down on the ground, with a suspended electric line over head. That removes the third rail issue, but still leave tracks that could trip a hapless pedestrian. And despite precautions, pedestrians are still struck down by trains.

So what is a high tech society suppose to do? Well, elevate the rail of course. Or more accurately, elevate the rail without necessarily elevating the cars. Thus letting the pedestrians pass underneath, even as the commuter rail runs over head. That is what a mono-rail is suppose to do, to suspend the car below it.

=====================____<--Suspension arm.
==|CAR|===========|CAR|==|<--Poll or suspention collom
_H___H_<-- Track________|

The problem with mono-rail.
Well, if this solution is so obvious, why don't we see more of them? The reason is economics. For a conventional track, you just have to lay down two rails on the ground. Its as simple as laying down a block of wood onto two pencils. And in general, what is simple, is cheep. But a monorail isn't that easy. Try suspending that pencil in mid air, then try to stick the block of wood up to the pencil to where it hangs beneath. Now you can do it, but your effort will have to be a lot more sophisticated, and that cost money.

And with a rail system, you have distance as a multiplier effect. Even small increases in cost in a dollar per mile can mean the differences between practical and too expensive.

Solution 1: Wheal carriage.
A defense against this is actually to place as much into the car itself as possible. And one way to do this is by adding more wheels to the wheal carriage (the assembly that contains the axles, brakes, and drive) to spread out the load of the car over more of the suspended track. This lets you build a lighter, and there for a cheaper track. But is that enough?

Solution 2: Compromise.
Another solution is to well, to cheat. Rather than suspending the car, what you do is change the arrangement of how the car is arranged on the track.

|===| H |===|
|CAR| | |CAR|
|===| | |===|

|===| H
|CAR| |

The first one uses two cars to balance each other out. The lower one uses a second wheal at the base of the car to prop it up against the wall. This lets you reduce the complexity of the rail to wheal mechanism, and again helping to reduce the cost.

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