Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World: The Shinkansen Story

Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World: The Shinkansen Story


In 1964 Japan unveils the Shinkansen
Bullet Train, and it has the Japanese glued to their televisions. As news
helicopters filming the train struggle to keep up, cheers erupt in living rooms
across the nation. The Shinkansen is a powerful symbol of Japan’s post-war
recovery. But it’s also groundbreaking. Because at the dawn of the Jet Age, when
air travel and cars seem destined to replace everything else, the lowly train
is about to make a comeback. In the 19th century, the locomotive and
steamship replaced the horse and sailing ship as the primary movers of humanity.
In the 20th century, it seemed almost certain that the automobile and aircraft
were going to do the same. Make earlier forms of transport largely irrelevant.
Trains in particular were seen as obsolete. A slow and inconvenient way for
people to travel. No match for the unfettered freedom of the personal
automobile. In the 1950’s, the Americans were pouring billions into building
Interstate highways and rail lines were shutting down. In Europe, railways were
stagnating. Many countries were still operating steam locomotives. And it was
in this context that Japan was blasting through mountains, drilling 67 miles of
new tunnel, and constructing over 3,000 new bridges. All to build a railway. But
this wasn’t going to be just any railway. This was one of the most ambitious rail
projects of the century. The Japanese were calling it the Shinkansen, and the
trains on this new line would run at speeds unmatched anywhere in the world.
Nearly twice as fast as any existing train in Japan. And the new line would be
dedicated only to high-speed trains, which meant they’d be able to travel at
incredible speeds between Japan’s two biggest cities; Tokyo to Osaka. And to
make such high speeds possible, the new line would be built using a wider gauge
of rail. And it would be laid out with gentle curves, which meant tunneling
through and bridging over much of Japan’s difficult terrain. But for all
its ambition, many dismissed the Shinkansen as ridiculous. A senior railway
executive described the project in 1964 as the ‘height of madness.’ The wider gauge
of rail, which was necessary for such high speeds, made the Shinkansen incompatible with the rest of Japan’s rail network. Many questioned the value
of a fast train, if it would be stuck running on a single line, and whether the effort
involved in getting trains to reliably go this fast, was really worth it. But the
criticisms weren’t just technical. This was one enormously expensive project.
And to make matters worse, over five years of construction, the Shinkansen’s
budget had spiraled out of control. Nearly doubling over the original
estimate. And because of that, two visionaries leading the project, the President of
Japanese National Railways and his Chief Engineer, both resigned before the
project even finished. The media were calling it Japan’s Great Wall of China. A
massive but ultimately misguided effort, when other countries were looking
towards jets and automobiles as the future. But the critics would soon fall
silent. When the first Shinkansen line opened in
the fall of 1964, the world took note. Because it made cars on expressways look
like they were standing still, and once profitable inter-city air routes were
now being threatened by a train. In just the first three years of service,
the Shinkansen carried over 100 million passengers. Demand skyrocketed. The
new line not only better connected Japan’s two largest cities, it seemingly
pulled them closer together. A Tokyo executive could now attend a meeting in
Osaka more than 320 miles away, and still make
it home in time for dinner. A combination of speed and frequent
service made the world’s first high-speed railway enormously
profitable. It turns out that the Shinkansen was anything but ridiculous. Because the
project’s visionaries weren’t taking a gamble on some radical new technology.
Instead, they adapted the very best proven technologies and brilliantly
integrated them into one seamless system. A Shinkansen train’s
streamlined shape and smooth outer surfaces minimized air resistance and
noise at high speeds. There was no locomotive, not in the
traditional sense. Instead motive-power was distributed with axles each driven
by separate electric traction motors. The setup offered superior acceleration, and
a train could operate even with multiple failed motors. It also meant more evenly
distributed weight on tracks, which reduced wear. At 130 miles per hour, the
new Shinkansen trains had the highest service speed in the world. And yet speed
had never been the real motivation. This wasn’t some vanity project.
the Shinkansen had always been about moving a large volume of passengers, so
engineers designed the new line to withstand the stress of running 60
high-speed trains in each direction every day. A number that would only
increase through the years to hundreds today. To withstand the stresses, rail
ties were made of pre-stressed concrete and rails, each normally 82 feet long,
were welded into nearly 5,000 foot long continuous sections to reduce vibration
and noise. Rail crossings were eliminated. Cars were routed either above or below
the line to ensure safe and reliable service. Moving at over 190 feet per
second, a Shinkansen conductor would have struggled to react in time to
conventional wayside signals. The solution was Automatic Train Control, a
system that sent signal information directly on board to the conductor,
regulating speed based on a train’s position. The entire line was monitored
by a centralized traffic control center in Tokyo, critical to the safe operation
of a high volume of trains. And in one of the most earthquake-prone countries in
the world, seismometers were installed along the line. The system
would cut power at the first sign of earthquake, automatically activating a
train’s emergency brakes. And to keep the track in tip-top shape, special
diagnostic trains nicknamed the ‘Yellow Doctor’ regularly assessed the state of the
track and overhead lines using sophisticated on-board monitoring
equipment. The enormous success of the first Shinkansen line spurred its
extension westward, and over the course of the next half century, new lines would
be built to reach nearly every corner of the nation. The opening of the world’s
first high-speed railway in 1964 had a profound impact on Japan. But it also
changed the way the world saw railways. In no small part, the success of the
Japanese helped inspire other countries to develop their own high-speed networks
like France’s TGV, which began service in the early 1980’s. Over the past 50 years
speeds on shangkun’s and lines have continued to increase, made possible by
new track technologies and successive generations of trains. Shinkansen trains
on newer lines now regularly hit 198 miles per hour. While Shinkansen trains
are no longer the fastest in the world, focusing on speed alone misses the point.
No other rail system in the world can match the Shinkansen for it’s incredible
efficiency, safety and punctuality. Today, the Shinkansen moves over 1 million
people every single day. During peak periods, one departs Tokyo every three
minutes. And since 1964, the Shinkansen has maintained a pristine safety
record, moving over 10 billion people without a single passenger casualty. It’s
punctuality is the envy of the world, with average delays measured in just
seconds. And for the visionaries who forged ahead with getting the first
Shinkansen line built, over half a century ago, they were ultimately
vindicated for creating the world’s most renowned high-speed rail network, and for
introducing modern high-speed rail to the world. Japan’s Bullet Trains run on their own
dedicated tracks. But if a Bullet Train traveling at 137 miles per hour were to
approach a much slower train, one struggling just to maintain 54 miles per
hour, and it takes 7.5 seconds for the bullet train to overtake the slower
train, well then you should be able to figure out what the length of the bullet
train is (in feet). The first viewer to post the correct answer in the comments
gets a free t-shirt from the Mustard store. It’s one thing to know basic math
concepts and another to have an intuitive ability to solve actual
problems, like this one. Brilliant.org helps you master foundational math
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thinker, and a problem solver. If you have no idea where to even begin solving our
train problem, check out Brilliant’s algebra courses,
which cover the whole range from introductory to advanced. In Algebra 1
there’s a whole section called ‘Algebra in Motion’ where you’ll learn how to
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100 thoughts on “Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World: The Shinkansen Story

  1. In my country delays and cancellations are the norm – and worst of all: The railway company don't give a s-h-i-t as it is run by incompetent idiots only thinking of pleasing their owners, the government…

  2. The mindset that Japanese have is the reason why they are so advance. Imagine all are abandoning the train, in japan they are improving it, Now the rest of the world has issue with traffic. Now the whole world envies Japan.

  3. It is innovation that change the future . Surely not like Portuguese first rule the sea in the early 16th century as an example! ☝

  4. Rode the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo…ridiculously smooth ride at 200 mph. And the safety record is remarkable.

  5. Tried this train last May. The train is already on the platform, a bunch of passengers are neatly and patiently queueing except… "why the door is not opening? What are they waiting for?"
    Then I looked at the watch, it is still 5 seconds to 8:33. Then we playfully count, 5…4…3…2…1… aaand the door opens exactly at 8:33:00. Yes this is that particular bullet train service in that particular station.

  6. While in Germany over 20% of all Trains are at least 10 Minutes too late because the only existing Train Company lets the tracks decay because at a certain level the government will pay it…

  7. The Scottish Nazi Party like to call punctual, by arriving at said destination within the same century as it left. Scottish trains are the most advanced in the world, If that world was in 1722. One passed me the other day as I was cycling and 2 miles down the road I caught and passed it. I think a Squirrel was on the line.

  8. This video is interesting but it has an error. At 1:36 , the name of sea between Korea and Japan is not 'sea of japan' but 'East Sea'.
    Please correct this error.

  9. 9:47 I have the answer, Mustard.

    SOLUTION:
    The shinkansen is a 12-car set.
    Length of intermediate cars and end cars are same; 82 feet. But the end cars are longer by 5 inches.

    82 × 12 = 984

    So, the answer is 984.6 feet.
    (.6 because of the 6 inches extra on the end cars)

    EDIT: please heart this comment i worked my ass all day to solve this question

  10. Train at 54 mph
    Bullet train at 137 mph
    Passing speed of 83 mph or in simple terms, the bullet train will overtake the slow train at 121.733 feet per second
    121.733ft/s x 7.5s
    912.9975 feet long

  11. ITS THE FASTEST TRAIN IN THE WORLD. The new train that they are testing can reach over 600 miles per hour with people inside of it.

  12. The map you used has one big error. It is not Sea of Japan. It is historically named as East Sea. Japan illegally took that name during WWII. Do a little bit of research then you will find this info yourself.

  13. (137-54)=83 miles/hour (shinkansen is faster by)
    83/3600=0.02306 miles/sec
    0.02306*7.5=0.1729 miles(shinkansen travels this in 7.5 secs so must be tthat long)
    0.1729 miles = 913 ft

  14. It's an outstanding train in every way and what makes it even better is that it's never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever late, however…….as I said on a previous video of yours, it's only available on its own specially designed and built rail network. All the other routes are still run with run of the mill trains that are the same as anywhere else…. including my "antiquated" Country…..Great Britain!!

  15. And yet again we have a touch of Brit bashing…..when you talked about railway being old and dated, you show a picture of one of our super modern trains……Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha…
    Great videos though mate, I really enjoy them….even though you poo poo my Country a lot.

  16. Can we just get rid of the mid west for cool ass trains like this lmfao. Barely anyone loves out there anyway this would be so cool and cheap to travel on

  17. Is the length of the Shinkansen carriage approx. 912.995 ft.?
    [Calculation]———————————-
    Note: I'm not really familiar with imperial system, so i covert the unit back to metric system for my calculation.
    Therefore,
    Assuming the velocity of both train remain constants, that is, there're no acceleration/deceleration been made in both train. And there aren't any turns. (i.e. both train are moving straightly)
    Then if we covert the velocity of both train back to metric system, the speed of the train are approx. 61.2445m/s and 24.1402m/s respectively. So the relative velocity will be approx. 37.1043 m/s. And we times the relative velocity with 7.5s for it takes the Shinkansen 7.5s to pass the slower train. So the value will be approx. 278.28225m. Hence, if we covert the length of the carriage back to feet, it will be approx. be 912.995ft.

  18. It's shinkansen, not shinkenzen. Why is it so hard to go listen to how the word is pronounced. Especially if you dared to make a video about the subject? Jeez, the ignorance in these muricans.
    Also, you're too late with this. Maglev train called Linear is gonna start operating in 2027. It will take only 1 hour to go from Tokyo to Osaka at 500km/h. Linear has been doing test for 20 years now and anyone willing to ride it can do it for around $40. Just need to apply 3 months ahead on their website.

  19. More the makers of automobiles thought that rail was slow and inconvenient, you had plenty of freedom on rail from trains to trams, the automobile freedom was artificial

  20. I was two weeks in Japan for vacation this year. Used the Shinkansen extensively (like 4 times a day) thanks due to the Japan Rail Pass. Usually the Sakura line
    Only once they had a delay which was about half an hour because something happened on the track and the train had to slow down in order for the track to be cleared before the train get there. (mind you half an hour for trip from Tokyo to Kyoto)
    The conductor was very sorry, sounded like he wanted to commit seppuku.

    It was quite the eye opening experience.
    In Germany basically no train is on time, in Japan the damn Shinkansen arrives punctual on the second. Not only that but stops on “smaller” stations are ultra short only something of about 30 seconds to get people out and in.
    Everything is so ultra efficient.
    If I look at the German ICE they got compartments, tables with club seating etc. The Shinkansen is just rows and rows of seats like the economy class of an airliner (with way more leg room).
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the average Shinkansen has a carry capacity 50% larger than an average ICE.
    And then the speed. Since the Shinkansen runs on its own network they can achieve quite the high average speed even if they are not the fastest trains anymore. In Germany the top speed is usually limited to rather rare sections of the track. In Japan it feels like they can go all out all the time.

    In any case traveling Japan by train? Fuck yes.
    Traveling Germany by train? I think I take the car.

  21. As early as 64? Amazing! It is shameful that the US is without Bullet Train networks in the 21st century. And now, even the airways are in a quagmire because of a Boeing screw up. Any Billionaire Visionaries out there?

  22. I wonder what the electric bill is 😳 The segway into the math problem was spot on!!!👍🏼 Almost makes me want to figure it out! 🤣

  23. I know the answer will have been posted a long while ago, but I still refuse to try and solve the puzzle, since it's given in imperial units and I am NOT from the low standing country often referred to as the USofA!

  24. The Shinkansen was based off the US midwest's North Shore Line Electroliner. Those were streamlined electric trains between Chicago and Milwaukee that would run at 100 mph. Shame we tore it all up.

  25. It sounds like the California High Speed Rail, we need to finish it! It would be the better American Shinkansen and would put trains back on track!

  26. I found the answer for the length of the Shinkansen!

    The Shinkansen consists of 12 train cars.

    The length of each car is 82 feet, but the front and rear most cars (which would be the locomotives in normal trains) are longer by 6 inches.

    82 x 10 + 82.6 x 2 = 985.2

    That means that the length of the Shinkansen is exactly 985.2 feet.

    Man this was a pain since I am used to metric.

  27. It's sad that all the Type 0 sets have been retired. I wonder if Japan will ever allow them back out for special trains.

  28. -USA
    -tries to build high speed rail network in the 21st century
    -builds for about 3-5km of rail and pavement
    -it costs 5 million

  29. One cannot help but think that it was not merely the impressive technical acumen of the Japanese, but also their determination to press on and not cut their losses, (remember 2x over budget), that resulted in the stunning success of the project. Other countries might perhaps have pulled the plug on an idea that, while fundamentally sound from a technical perspective, would then go into the books as an expensive boondoggle. If the "sunk cost" trap is one potential pit fall, then paying 50% of the price to reap 0% of the reward is another. The Japanese saw it through all the way.

  30. 5 minutes to solve MUSTARD in bed! 913 ft exactly! Like it if you got it and "heart" it Mustard.

    T1: 137 mph
    T2: 54 mph
    Time: 7.5 s
    Length of T1 = ?

    137 – 54 = 83 mph = 37.10432 m/s

    37.10432 m/s * 7.5 s = 278.2824 m

    278.2824 m to ft = 913 ft

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