Trains without wheels: Magnetic levitation technology was meant to revolutionize transport a century ago already, but gained speed only recently. All current applications of this exciting technology involve urban transport and so are quite in the scope of Metrobits.org.
Maglev trains utilize the repelling force of magnets to float and stay guided. The trains are levitating just a few millimeters above the ground, but unlike wheels on rails, Maglev is frictionless and thus consumes less energy, reduces tear and wear, is less noisy and able to provide a smoother ride. Nevertheless, it's been a long and bumpy way from the first patent in 1905 to the first commercial train systems, demanding decades of research in a number of countries around the globe, many test and trial installations, and even serious accidents.
After a first temporary Transrapid installation certified for passengers at an exhibition in Hamburg, Germany in 1979, the first commercial Maglev was a 600 m low-speed airport shuttle in Birmingham, UK from 1984 to 1995. In 2004 came the high-speed Transrapid airport link in Shanghai, and, in 2005, the medium-speed Linimo in Nagoya, Japan. 2016 is a good year as three more Maglev subways, metros, or commuter trains are going into service, one in Korea and two in China.
Why is the high-speed Shanghai Airport Maglev in the list? It was designed as a long-distance train. However, since the plans for an extension to Hangzhou are shelved, we will list it here, as an airport link may count as urban transport.
Berlin, Germany: The limited-access Depot for Municipal Transport houses an M-Bahn train that used to operate 1989-1991 in Berlin in regular passenger service, see Berlin page.
Bonn, Germany: The German Museum's outdoor area displays the 1982 TR06 Transrapid train that was running for years on the Emsland test track in Germany, deutsches-museum.de.
Nagoya, Japan: SCMaglev and Railway Park displays an SCMaglev experimental high-speed train. A dedicated Superconducting Maglev Room explains the technology.
Shanghai, China: Maglev Museum in the Transrapid terminal building, see Shanghai page.
York, UK: Carriage 3 of the former Birmingham Maglev can be found in the National Railway Museum in York.
Projects, proposals, and other uses
A 3.5-km Linimo-like urban maglev is under construction in DaeJeon, Korea. A non-metro project under construction is the Chuo Shinkansen (SCMaglev), a long-distance high-speed Maglev rail project to link Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027. Speed record on the test track in Yamanashi was 603 km/h. The list of proposed but cancelled Maglev projects is long. It includes Swissmetro, train capsules in evacuated tunnels travelling across Switzerland. However, Elon Musk's much discussed Hyperloop is not a Maglev but hovers on air cushions. Examples of other successful uses of Maglev technology: clean conveyor belts, ropeless elevators, amusement rides.
Not to be confused with... LIM
Linear Induction Motor is the propulsion technology used in Maglev trains. It utilizes the attracting force of electromagnets to move the train and is designed like an electric motor unfolded along the track. LIM is not limited to Maglevs however, but has a myriad of applications, including the following wheel-on-steel LIM metro lines: