From America’s great railways in the 1950s to China’s latest high-speed rail line.

China’s latest new high-speed passenger rail line halves travel time between Shanghai and the eastern city of Hangzhou

China on Tuesday unveiled what it described as the world’s fastest bullet train, which will connect two of the country’s industrial hubs traveling at an average speed of 350 km per hour.

What American train travel use to be like:  Take a 1950’s luxury train trip from Chicago to Seattle on the “Super Dome Olympian Hiawatha”, replete with footage in the diner, coaches, Super Dome, sky top car, and sleepers, running along the Dells, the Mississippi, and the electrified territory in the mountains. Visits are made to many tourist spots along the way. The films full title is “Pacific Northwest Holiday on the Super Dome Olympian Hiawatha”, it was produced by the Milwaukee Road in 1952 to promote the new “Super Dome” cars.

America at one time had fast trains, nothing like the bullet trains in the UK, Europe, Japan and China. But since Amtrak took over and the U.S. Government has totally ignored the rail system, trains struggle on like the American economy.

In China it’s a different story.  The rail link between Shanghai and Hangzhou, the latest addition to China’s fast-expanding high-speed rail network that is already the world’s largest, covers the 200-km distance in only 45 minutes, reducing the traveling time from 78 minutes.

In Longfellow’s novel, Hiawatha was a great Indian so fast that he could over run his own arrow in flight. The Company Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (The Milwaukee Road) picked this name in 1935 for a range of trains which could reach for the first time over a 100 miles an hour.  Now Amtrak, on the same line, barely hits 60 mph.

The first train on the newly operated high speed railway from Hangzhou to Shanghai runs through Jiashan, east China’s Zhejiang Province, Oct. 26, 2010.

The 202km Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed railway, with a design speed of 350km per hour, began its operation on Tuesday morning. (Xinhua/Han Chuanhao)

The home-built CRH380 bullet train has been recorded traveling at 420 km per hour, a world record. It will, however, travel between the two cities at less than full tilt, at an average speed of 350 km per hour.

China’s high-speed rail network now stretches over 7,431 km. The government plans to expand the network to over 16,000 km by 2020.

Investment in the high-speed rail network has gathered pace since the first line, connecting Beijing with the port city Tianjin, opened in 2008.

Following the $586-billion stimulus plan that was announced in November 2008, spending on infrastructure projects has increased substantially.

China is investing an estimated $300 billion on its high-speed rail network.

The investment has divided opinion — some planners have cautioned that local governments will struggle to recoup the investment. Others have argued the rail network will spur economic development by boosting connectivity.

“The operation of the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed rail line will help alleviate traffic pressure in the Yangtze River Delta region”, which is in China’s manufacturing heartland, said Liu Zhijun of the Minister of Railways. The Ministry forecasts that passengers will make more than three billion trips in and out of the Yangtze delta in 2010, spurring development.

China has also begun work on a 1,318-km high-speed rail line linking the country’s two most important cities — Beijing and Shanghai. The $33-billion line will open in 2012, reducing the travel time between the capital and the financial center in half, to just five hours.

America struggles along with slow trains and Amtrak.  The national rail service was suppose to be the answer but after 40 years its nothing but a tired  joke.

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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