Spain's Tilt Train Is A Low Tech Oldie That Keeps On Rollin'

As the Swedish tilt train chugs along on its national demonstration tour, the makers of Spain's rival tilt train are feeling jealous about all the publicity. Tilt trains increase passenger comfort on curves by leaning into them. Sweden's X2000, from ABB Asea Brown Boveri, does it with sensors that trigger hydraulic lifts when a car heads into a turn at high speed. It works, but it's expensive. Spain is pushing an older, cheaper generation of tilt trains that employ the principle of the pendulum. The passenger compartments are connected to the outer frame by springs. When the train turns a bend, the compartments naturally lean toward the inside of the curve.

These "passive" tilt trains have their own drawbacks, to be sure. For one thing, they're too low for Amtrak's high platforms in the Northeast. Nonetheless, this inexpensive 1950s design may find new buyers in the 1990s. This year, the Swedish State Railways is testing the Pendular train made by Madrid-based Patentes Talgo. In the U. S., Washington and Oregon hope to run the Spanish train from Seattle to Portland and back starting later this year.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.