Railcarts are the latest breakthrough in mass transit in the world of Disparia. Railcarts are a form of rail transport consisting of a series of long carts running along a Y shaped track. They are powered by Magi operators and use solar-powered magnetic tracks to propel them great distances at speeds reaching 55 miles per hour or more. Unlike motorcarts, which can be operated by a single individual, railcarts require upwards of 10 people just to operate the cart itself (not considering cooks, maintenance crews, hosts and hostesses, and cleaning crews).
Railcarts have evolved and advanced since the early models became popular at the Golden Carnival in Westlake. But it wasn’t until 210 EM that they began to look and function like the carts of today. Prior to 210 EM the carts were nothing more than amusement park attractions. Today there are a huge variety of carts designed to carry passengers, building materials, military equipment, livestock, and much more. Some of the longest railcarts can stretch for nearly two kilometers and haul loads weighing in excess of 50,000 tons.
Unlike motorcarts which were a single invention based off of one design (the horse and carriage), railcarts were the result of a simple idea that evolved significantly over four decades. The fantastic machines used today share their beginnings with humble amusement park rides that, though based on similar fundamental principles, looked so different from today’s carts that only those who have been around to witness their birth and evolution could identify them.
Westlake City is home to the nation’s largest amusement park, the Golden Carnival, which has been around for more than 100 years. Since it opened in 140 EM the park was known for innovations in fun and excitement, pioneering attractions such as the rollercoaster, waterslide, and freefall cable. John Bishop, an engineer and lead ride researcher for the park, is credited with creating the first railline ride specifically for the amusement park just before the third century EM.
During the winter of 190EM, Bishop, a native of Gray Lake Haven, became fascinated with a small toy his son created while playing indoors. According to Bishop, his son, while rummaging in his father’s supply shed, found a long piece of metal wire and a few magnetic metal rings that fit loosely over the wire. His son then tied one end of the wire to a pole and gripped the other with a pair of metal pliers while the magnets rested in the middle of the wire. By using the magi and creating a small electric charge in the pliers and through the wire, Bishop’s son was able to get the circular magnets to levitate around the wire, hovering as if by magic. By changing the way the ringed magnets faced and he was able to create a simultaneous push and pull motion against the central ring, propelling it around his small wire track. As the coil floated he was able to push the magnets forward or backward, watching it glide effortlessly over the metal cable. Bishop was so captivated by his son’s creation that he spent the next month doing nothing but creating larger and more elaborate magnetic tracks. When spring of 191 EM dawned, he had a fully working magnetic cart ride crisscrossing his home and yard. When The Golden Carnival opened that spring he brought the park’s research and development staff to his home to show off his new creation.
The team from The Golden Carnival were astonished with Bishop’s new creation and saw its potential within the park. They set to work designing and testing a magnetic rail ride for the park. It took them 5 years to develop something fun, reliable, and safe. But all of their hard work paid off—the park was proud to unveil their newest ride, the Magslide, at the opening of the 196 EM season.
The MagSlide was a three-cart ride that seated up to eight passengers and one operator. Everyone sat inside a tube-shaped cart that looked strikingly similar to a grain silo laid on its side and cut in half horizontally. The operator would control the charge of the cart and power the machine around a half mile oval track at speeds of approximately 25 miles per hour.
Perhaps the most significant breakthrough the R&D team discovered was the low energy requirements for the ride. After extensive testing they realized that the entire track did not need to be electrically charged at all times. By breaking the track into distinct sections and providing power only to the areas immediately around the cart’s permanent magnets fewer operators were needed, safety increased, and speeds increased as well. This one discovery is considered the most important in giving birth to the network of raillines crossing Atla today.
From the moment it opened the Magslide was a tremendous success, producing the longest lines ever seen in the park. On one occasion the line was so long that guests spent the entire day waiting for a single ride. Over the next 5 years the park added more and more magnetic rides to sate the public’s growing appetite for fun.
Sometime during the summer of 202 a scientist from the Atlan military visited the park with his daughter. News of the Magslides had spread throughout the nation and, at great expense and effort, families from every corner of the continent made the summer journey to The Golden Carnival. From his first ride on a Magslide, Science-Sergeant Douglas Quincy was immediately captivated by the creative use of magnetic levitation. He, perhaps before anyone else, saw in the ride the possibility for trans-continental travel. When he returned to duty later that year Quincy had already formulated the plans for a network of larger Magslides that could transport troops from his bas in Fort Jerrel as far north as Camp Hesiod. Even though motorcarts made travelling across the continent quicker and easier than any other time in history, transporting platoons and military equipment to Camp Hesiod (or any other major base) was still expensive and time consuming. Quincy knew that, if he could take advantage of the technology used in The Golden Carnival, he could reduce the time and money required to transport troops to and from various locations throughout Atla.
Though the government at once approved plans to develop their own Magslides, all of the patents and copyrights for the Magslide technology belonged to The Golden Carnival. Try as they might there was no way the military could circumvent the laws and begin construction. Their only other option was to develop an entirely new technology based loosely off of the magnetic tracks, but that would have taken decades at the least. With tensions rising between the allied nations and their enemies Peros and Mogdan, the head of Atla’s military petitioned the Grand Council for help. In one of the most controversial moves of the railline’s past, the GC declared the Atlan military was not bound by the copyright and patent laws like private citizens and corporations. As long as they did not use patented technology for profit, under the banner of national security the GC said the military had full access to any private patents or copyrights. Initially The Golden Carnival attempted to sue the Grand Council for theft, vandalism, larceny, and harassment. However, a jury of provincial representatives and citizens found the Grand Council not guilty, as the seizure of the copyrights and patents was a matter of national security and was not intended for financial gain. The lawsuit did have a positive result for Grand Carnival however. While the government bypassed the copyrights and began producing larger MagSlides that would become raillines, The Golden Carnival was permitted to continue building and operating their own MagSlides and maintained sole ownership of the technology. For another 5 years they were the only amusement park in the nation with Magslides until they eventually sold the patents to a dozen individual companies for a profit of more than 10 billion mig.
Construction on the first railline began in 207, and by 210 it connected Fort Jerrel to Camp Hesiod, traveling along the western edge of the Alpine Mountains, through Alpine City, near Bedrin, and eventually to Fort Jerrel. As more raillines spread, the Atlan military used Alpine City as the nexus due to its centralized location within the continent. Before long a single network of railline connected every major military base and half of the capital cities.
Once a robust network of military raillines was established the government lifted the ban on private raillines and allowed private contractors to begin using the technology. By 230 the first private raillines were open for business. As were the Magslides in The Golden Carnival, the raillines were an immediate and tremendous success. Raillines were constructed as quickly as possible and the people throughout the nation filled every vacant seat. Today the number of private raillines is more than triple the military lines and that number will likely continue to grow.
All railcarts function using magnetic levitation. An electromagnetic field lifts the entire train off of the Y-shaped track, with magnets on the top, bottom, and sides of the carts keeping them in place. Generators in the tracks themselves, powered by a combination of solar energy and magi power, propel the carts forward. While there are dozens of different physical designs for railcarts, most of them vary only in construction materials and interior styling. In fact, the commercial transportation side of the railline industry is dominated by only three models of railcart.
The raillines the carts ride over are tall, metal tracks secured firmly into the ground. Looking head on at a section of rail they will appear in the shape of a large ‘Y’. The base beam is secured into the ground and is able to withstand the intense power and weight of the carts. The two angled beams support the power couplings and solar panels.
The standard passenger railcart is made up of 2 to 10 carts, each between 30 to 100 feet long. Leading the carts is one operator cart, or engine. Each cart, including the engine, is connected to the other carts by a series of metal couplings. Small platforms extend over the couplings to allow passengers to cross between cars safely. Safety regulations require that these walkways be enclosed to prevent passengers from falling off the narrow walkway between carts. Carts seat 2 to 3 people on either side of a central walkway running the length of the cart. Some carts are two stories tall with narrow stairways leading up to the top level from either end of the cart. Each individual cart can be added or removed from any series of carts allowing for an almost endless customization.
Each railcart is controlled from the front or the rear by an engine. Inside the engine is a team of engineers and operators who manage navigation, control the supply of power, or monitor electrical systems. With up to 8 people working in a single engine it is the busiest part of the entire train.
Unlike passenger carts, cargo railcarts usually include either flat carts to store boxed cargo or silo-like carts that can carry grains, liquids, or other substances. Other cargo carts are specifically built to haul unique items, such as livestock or construction materials. Again, while there are dozens of styles of cargo carts, most of them are based on either a flat platform for stacking, an enclosed rectangular box for storing goods, cylindrical containers for liquids or extra long carts for large pieces of equipment. Their coupling mechanisms are identical to passenger carts.
The popularity of raillines has extended beyond the shores of Atla and into various countries throughout Feron and Far Haven. Presently there are more than 100 companies manufacturing, distributing or operating railcarts in Atla alone. Business is exploding almost uncontrollably and construction projects are scheduled through the next decade. Many fear however, that this explosive growth will have an adverse effect on the economy in the long term.
With so many companies forming around raillines, the nation’s infrastructure will eventually fill to bursting. When that happens many of these companies will likely go bankrupt. It is not clear how far the government is willing to let the raillines grow, but at some point they will cover most of Atla. When that happens, the market will no long be able to support the many companies in existence today. But there is still plenty of room across Atla, and for the time being the railline industry will continue to grow.
The latest advancement in rail technology is going to ensure the industry has plenty of room to grow for several more decades. Created by the Silent Light Corporation, the first high-speed railline is in the final stages of testing. This new rail system will be capable of transporting more than 200 people at speeds up to and exceeding 150 miles per hour. Though the trains are far from finished, the first line is set to connect Alpine to Dames within two years.