Amazing trains that never were


In honor of Japan's decision to build a $100 billion maglev train from Tokyo to Osaka, the Infrastructurist blog has put together a list of ambitious train projects that were never completed. Or, in some cases, never even begun.

It's not meant as a knock against the Japanese maglev, which will (in approximately 34 years) carry passengers 320 miles in a mere 67 minutes. Instead, this is more about the way imagining what could be reminds us of what might have been. Some of the things on the list are relatively practical—like Germany's "Rail Zeppelin." Other projects are a little more, shall we say, fanciful. Like the image above, which depicts a proposed network of rail lines leading directly to St. Paul, Minnesota, from such exotic locals as London and, um, the North Pole.


  1. My biggest question is why St Paul? I mean, it’d just be underused, because while I can see why people would want to go from St. Paul to London, who in their right mind would want to go from London to St. Paul? Once everyone left, the city’d just be empty.

    1. If you’d been to the Minnesota State Fair you’d know what a crock that statement truly is.

      /boiled sausages = do not want

  2. London to St Paul? Sounds like a pretty good deal for someone in St Paul and not so good for someone in London.

    “Come on kids! We are all going on a train ride.”
    “Yaaaay! Where to daddy? Paris? Berlin?”
    “No, even better, St Paul Minnesota!”
    “Noooo daddy no!”

    1. London to St Paul? Sounds like a pretty good deal for someone in St Paul and not so good for someone in London.

      Maybe the Londoners want to experience a Northern European monoculture.

  3. The North Pole route appears to continue on to Luna.

    Anyone know the story behind “Jo’s Back Track?”

  4. Ah St Paul, the railway capital of the world. The first time I visited that bustling city I was a young boy. I remember gazing in amazement at the colossal railways leading due east, north, south and west. Times were simpler back then. A man was a man, a boy was a boy, and a train was a train. Now that I think of it, seeing all of the railway workers interfacing in such an efficient way was one of the most defining moments of my life.

  5. Going back a century or more the biggest cons were associated with railroads. Lots of systems promoted, money collected, but never built.
    Worse were the real rails that were taken over only to have their treasuries looted leaving a bare shell. Agents delivered satchels of cash to state legislatures. One who was honest took money only from one side.
    Once Vanderbilt (the younger) got in a price cutting contest with Jay Gould for shipping cattle east. Vanderbilt went below his cost for some time before he found out he was shipping cattle owned by Gould.

  6. I’m more concerned about whatever caused Belgium to disappear into the North Sea…

  7. I suppose it is moot at this point, but the first problem I see with that map is that it’s a straight line on a Mercator projection. The shortest line from St. Paul MN to London UK would not go through Portsmouth NH or Cornwall. It would shoot directly up through Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador, buzz past Greenland’s southern tip, slice Ireland at about the Ulster border, and trudge through Wales to its eastern terminus.

    Don’t even get me started on those lower left corner lines purporting to lead to Sacramento and San Francisco that go through Texas…

  8. I love how that St. Paul to London bridge requires support cables that go all the way to Holland.

    Also, that tunnel to the Sub Oceanic surely holds a Guinness World Record. That’s one serious tunnel!

    (By the way, the notes on the St. Paul map specifically state the map is *not* of St. Paul, Minnesota, which is why they put a tiny little Minneapolis in the upper left of the map.)

  9. way to build extra track by not following a great circle route (which would connect boston to london via halifax, nova scotia, as anyone who has ever flown from the east coast to europe will know)

  10. I notice the list didn’t include the currently touted California High Speed Rail Initiative, surely another unbuildable rail line.

Comments are closed.