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Robot Railroading (1960)

The April 24, 1960 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think imagined a futuristic world of robot-driven trains. Looking at this image makes me think that someone could produce some pretty awesome steampunk art featuring James J. Hill and a Katrina Van Televox type robot, even though the "robots" described in this strip weren't of the humanoid variety.

Future trains will be fully automatic -- robots that can regulate their own speed and control their own movements to meet the most precise schedules.

The Union Switch and Signal Division is currently working on two kinds of electronic "brains" to make this possible. One type would be a trackside "decision maker," to regulate train speed, routing, starting and stopping. The other would be a "control servo," to signal that the robot train is obeying orders -- or isn't, and why. A central monitoring panel would oversee train movements for hundreds of square miles. The first such installation may be on the New York subway shuttle trains.

Next week: Lunar Power Pack

Thanks to Tom Z. for supplying the color version of this strip.

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Reader Comments (7)

And lo and behold, we got robot trains in 1986 in Vancouver. Not quite, but it's still weird to ride the Skytrain without any drivers.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenton

I believe there is a line in New York that's gone over to essentially automated operation--though I think in that case the trains do still have drivers in them, if only as a backup.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt McIrvin

Awesome! I really want to find out about the Lunar Jet Pack, too! It's high time we all had one of those!

Yep, the L subway line in NYC has been equipped for automatic operation, but opposition from the transit workers' union, as well as passengers, has kept the MTA from using it.

February 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaximusNYC

The m├ętro Line 14 in Paris has been working this way for about 15 years now.

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClaude-r

Is it propelled by turbines? Grab your ear plugs.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterpsCargile

Actually the two most prophetic things in this panel aren't even mentioned in the text - first, it appears to be a mag-lev train; second, check the name on the first car: "Consolidated R.R.". Wasn't that the actual, full name of "Conrail", created by the feds in the 1970s by forced merger of the Penna Rwy and NYC?

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

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