TGV World Speed Record - Record of 1990 - Overview


Operations TGV 117 and TGV 140, referring to target speeds in metres per second, were carried out by SNCF from November 1989 to May 1990. The culmination of these test programs was a new world speed record of 515.3 km/h (143.1 m/s or 320.3 mph), set on 18 May 1990.

The record runs took place in two separate campaigns, separated by a period of modifications to trainset 325. For each day of testing, the 325 was towed to the test site by TGV Atlantique trainset 308 because its 1500 V DC systems had been removed, preventing operations near Paris. Trainset 308 also performed a sweep of the test track at 350 km/h before each high speed run.

The test runs took place on a section of the Atlantique branch of the TGV network, a few months before the line was opened to TGV revenue service. Strictly speaking, there were no significant alterations of the track or catenary for testing purposes. However, some sections of the line's profile had been planned since 1982 (shortly after the TGV Sud-Est world speed record of February 1981) to allow very high speed running.

Construction of the dedicated tracks of the LGV Atlantique was officially decided on 25 May 1984. Ground was broken on 15 February 1985. The new line was to stretch from slightly outside the Gare Montparnasse in Paris to Le Mans, with a second branch towards Tours. The Le Mans branch was opened for 300 km/h (186 mph) revenue service on 20 September 1989, and the Tours branch opened a year later. The two branches separate at Courtalain, 130 km west of Paris, where movable frog points good for 220 km/h (137 mph) in the diverging route direct trains towards either Le Mans or Tours.

In the early stages when operation TGV 117 was still being defined, several criteria were settled upon to focus the preparation of a test train. These were aerodynamics, traction and electrical systems, rail and catenary contact, braking, and comfort.

The basic purpose of the test program was to push the envelope of the TGV system, and to characterize its behavior at very high speeds. With this in mind, it only made sense to start with a stock TGV trainset and to modify it as little as possible. Brand new TGV Atlantique trainset number 325 (25th of 105 in the Atlantique series) was arbitrarily chosen to be the starting point of the modifications. There was nothing special about this trainset, and it was returned to its intended state after the test program to enter revenue service. Today, the only distinguishing feature on 325, as compared to other Atlantique trainsets, is a blue ribbon painted across the nose, and bronze plaques bolted to the sides of the two power cars to commemorate the event.

Read more about this topic:  TGV World Speed Record, Record of 1990

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