In 2007, a French train set the locomotive speed record by hitting 360 miles per hour. Given a pair of wings we wouldn't be surprised if that train could take flight. But, while the record was most impressive, that bullet train was an experimental vehicle carrying no passengers, two power cars and only three rail cars. A new high-speed rail in China that will cut the commute from Beijing to Shanghai from 10 hours to four just set its own record, hitting 302 miles per hour.

So why is 302 mph a record when the French hit 360? Because China's new bullet car was toting 16 cars, some of which were carrying passengers. Even more interesting is the fact that the train will actually be in service in 2011. Perhaps the most exciting part is that the train didn't just crest 302 and then settle back to more pedestrian speeds. Instead, the streamlined super-train was consistently traveling at speeds of 260 mph before cranking up the after-burners past the magic 300 number and then finally settling back at a robust 260. Passengers aboard the bullet claim that the ride isn't much different than the 150-mph train they were used to.

While it's difficult to justify the cost of high-speed rail, we can't help but get excited about the prospect of a locomotive that can travel from Detroit to Chicago in the time it takes to go out to dinner.

[Source: China Daily | Image: AlancrhCC 2.0]

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