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High Speed Rail Celebration at Hydrail’s Second Home

by Guest Blogger Stan Thompson

For three days this December, the 8th, 9th and 10th, the University of Birmingham UK will host the 50th anniversary celebration of the birth of High Speed Rail. The blessed event occurred in Japan in 1964 with the opening of Tokyo’s Shinkansen line.

Many of the top experts in this most fascinating (and literally “dashing”) element of world railway resurgence will be on hand in Birmingham to present—from Japan and elsewhere.

The motto  of the University of Birmingham is “Circles of Influence”.  In December, one big Circle will enfold Japan’s game-changing innovation.

High Speed Rail is a sort of shining city on the hill of railway resurgence. Hydrail (until Northern Germany’s announcement last week of 40 Alstom hydrail passenger consists by 2020) has been an obscure pilgrim struggling toward the distant summit.

But in Germany this year, Ing. Herbert Warcura of Austria gave the pilgrim a quick lift to the top with his presentation at the Neumünster, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Ninth International Hydrail Conference.


A flare for the dramatic may be excused if I observe that Wancura’s 9IHC presentation—linking hydrail to High Speed Rail at last—recalls Michelangelo’s reaching hands on the Sistine Chapel!  Wancura’s speech described the first clear and feasible contact between these two paradigm-shifting railway technologies.

As one whose work has been greatly influenced by UB’s vision and action in the world of hydrail, I can speak with enthusiasm to the appropriateness of the “Circles of Influence” motto.

In 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, North Carolina’s Sixth International Hydrail Conference had the honor of introducing Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter, who received Birmingham’s first hydrail Ph.D.  The following year, (now Dr.) Hoffrichter organized the Seventh International Hydrail Conference at the Birmingham Campus. As of 7IHC, UB’s “Circles of Influence” have been augmented by the international circles that the International Hydrail Conferences have been creating since 2005.

A year ago I spent a week in Shanghai advocating hydrail as a guest of Southwest Jiaotong University, China’s oldest and most prominent railway engineering school. That happened courtesy of an introduction by UK’s Centre for Railway Research and Education. In Shanghai, I had the honor of introducing Birmingham’s Professor Kevin Kendall, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a featured presenter U. Birmingham’s Hydrail Conference.

This week I had the pleasure of attending a hydrail masters thesis dissertation defense at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte—one of many that should flow from the emerging UNCC/UB affiliation springing from Birmingham’s outreach to North Carolina.

When the University at Charlotte, as part of its Birmingham affiliation, inaugurated a series of advanced railway technology lectures, the first speaker invited was Ing. Herbert Wancura.

It’s not surprising that the celebration of the Shinkansen High Speed Rail Line should have been organized by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education. Neither is it surprising that UNC-Charlotte also hosted a Shinkansen lecture in April, 2014, as part of the growing hydrail cooperation among universities.

Thanks go to Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter for sharing the news of the Shinkansen anniversary event!

To keep up with hydrail emergence around the world, visit Appalachian State University’s web site, .

About Stan Thompson

For 33 years I worked as an engineer, planner and futurist for what is now AT&T in Charlotte and Atlanta. Though I have no engineering degree, I’m a Life Member of the IEEE. Other memberships are the World Affairs Council, the local chapter of the National Association of Business Economics and the American Institute of Archaeology. (I dig international business, so to speak.)

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