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"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

Magnetic Railroads  
  A scheme for powering railroads using enormous electromagnets.  

"Another form is the magnetic railway, on which the cars are wedge-shaped at both ends, and moved by huge magnets weighing four thousand tons each, placed fifty miles apart. On passing a magnet, the nature of the electricity charging a car is automatically changed from positive to negative, or vice versa, to that of the magnet just passed, so that it repels while the next attracts. The successive magnets are charged oppositely, the sections being divided halfway between by insulators, the nature of the electricity in each section being governed by the charge in the magnet. To prevent one kind of electricity from uniting with and neutralizing that in the next section by passing through the car at the moment of transit, there is a "dead stretch" of fifty yards with rails not charged at all between the sections. This change in the nature of the electricity is repeated automatically... Magnetism being practically as instantaneous as gravitation, the only limitations to speed are the electrical pressure at the magnets, the resistance of the air, and the danger of the wheels bursting from centrifugal force. The first can seemingly be increased without limit; the atmospheric resistance is about to be reduced by running the cars hermetically sealed through a partial vacuum in a steel and toughened glass tube; while the third has been removed indefinitely by the use of galvanized aluminum, which bears about the same relation to ordinary aluminum that steel does to iron, and which has twice the tensile strength and but one third the weight of steel. In some cases the rails are made turned in, so that it would be impossible for a car to leave the track without the road-bed's being totally demolished; but in most cases this is found to be unnecessary, for no through line has a curve on its vast stretches with a radius of less than half a mile. Rails, one hundred and sixty pounds to the yard, are set in grooved steel ties, which in turn are held by a concrete road-bed consisting of broken stone and cement, making spreading rails and loose ballast impossible. A large increase in capital was necessary for these improvements, the elimination of curves being the most laborious part, requiring bridges, cuttings, and embankments that dwarf the Pyramids and would have made the ancient Pharaohs open their eyes; but with the low rate of interest on bonds, the slight cost of power, and great increase in business, the venture was a success, and we are now in sight of further advances that will enable a traveller in a high latitude moving west to keep pace with the sun, and, should he wish it, to have unending day."
From A Journey In Other Worlds, by John Jacob Astor IV.
Published by D. Appleton and Co. in 1894
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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Journey In Other Worlds
  More Ideas and Technology by John Jacob Astor IV
  Tech news articles related to A Journey In Other Worlds
  Tech news articles related to works by John Jacob Astor IV

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