Need to get somewhere in a hurry? If you’re going to a friend’s house, the answer might be to ride your bicycle. But what if you need to get somewhere over a hundred miles away?

If you need to travel a long distance quickly, you might think first of an airplane. Today, though, it may be a good idea to think about trains, too.

Trains? Really? Have you ever been stuck at a railroad crossing, waiting for a slow-moving train to pass by? If so, you may not think of trains as a quick way to get from one place to another. However, today’s passenger trains can be a comfortable way to travel long distances quickly. Some trains may get you from one place to another just as quickly as an airplane. Taking the train may also be cheaper, too.

Have you ever used a subway system in a big city? If so, you already know that trains can be a quick and easy way to get around. Today’s modern aboveground trains are also catching up. They can be the best way to get to other nearby big cities without driving or flying.

In the United States, Amtrak’s Acela Express can reach a top speed of 150 miles per hour. That makes it the fastest train in the United States. However, it makes many stops. It also moves along aging, curved tracks. For that reason, the train’s average speed on an actual trip is about 80 miles per hour.

In other parts of the world, though, high-speed rail passenger trains can move much faster. In fact, many call them “bullet trains” because of their high speeds. Bullet trains in China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia regularly approach 200 miles per hour. 

Some of the fastest trains in the world — called Maglev trains — use a special technology known as magnetic levitation. These trains use magnetic fields to levitate them above special tracks that propel them along quickly. For example, Japan’s Series L0 MagLev train is currently the fastest train in the world. It travels at 375 miles per hour!

Compared to riding in a car on the interstate at 70 miles per hour, you can see how a trip by train could be much quicker! What do you think it would be like to travel on one of the world’s fastest trains? Where would they take you?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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