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Tracks and Trains

The tracks and trains required for building a statewide commuter rail service in Ohio are either in place or, in the case of the required self-propelled, diesel-electric trains (DMU), ready to be built by Ohio-based companies, like Ohio’s own U.S. Railcar Company.

Portions of the freight railroad tracks and crossings owned by private companies will need to be upgraded, expanded and their use by OHERN train sets negotiated for lease.  But the normally huge expense of acquiring right-of-ways to lay new rail or electrify track can be avoided since 99% of what is needed is in place.  Ohio is fortunate in having the amount of excellent railroad infrastructure it does.

Railroads – Ohio has nearly 6,000 miles of railroad track, with more rail line per square mile than any other state.  The growth of Ohio’s economy depended on railroads.  Railroads were the dominant mode of transportation for people in the later part of the 19th century and early 20th century.  Railroads provided that convenient and fast link that tied Ohio’s cities and towns together.  Much of that railroad history can be seen today in most of Ohio’s towns and cities.

Although thousands of miles of track have been taken up or abandoned, roughly half remains.  Railroad tracks go through nearly every community of any size in the state.  Every public university as well as most colleges and private universities in Ohio are situated next to or near a railroad track.  This shouldn’t be surprising since at the time most Ohio colleges and universities were being established trains were the dominant mode of long distant travel.  Being next to a railroad made good economic sense and was strategically important for student enrollment.

Trains – An estimated 20 self-propelled, diesel-electric commuter trains, similar to the ones shown below, will be used to service the rail network linking Ohio’s colleges and universities. Diesel electric trains can run on freight rail, are reliable, fuel efficient, inexpensive to operate and have been in widespread use throughout Europe and the rest of the world for decades. DMUs are usually set in a “push-me, pull-me” configuration allowing the train to travel in either direction without turning. OHERN train sets will also include a middle club car providing sandwiches, coffee and drinks.  WiFi will be available in each station and in all trains. 

DMUs can reach speeds well over 100 mph and are designed to accelerate and decelerate rapidly.  They are ideal for commuter rail service.  Since OHERN is a commuter rail network intended to service communities both large and small, the trains will make frequent stops along each route.  As currently planned, OHERN trains will travel at a maximum speed of 79 mph.  This speed is set by the freight rail owners.  However, 79mph is more than adequate given the average distance of <20 miles between stations.

Here are three short videos.  The first two show new DMU trains leaving the station.  Notice the size of the trains - they are not Class 1 trains like those used by Amtrak, nor are they light rail.  Notice, too, their quiet, clean operation and quick acceleration.  The third YouTube video is a TV news story reviewing the interior of a double-decker DMU being put into service.  The story highlights seating, bathrooms, lounge areas and handicap restrooms.  All three videos are worth watching.  They will give you a good sense of the train sets that would be put into service in Ohio.

Exterior, <1min.:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ckKSeofTZA&feature=endscreen

Exterior, <1min.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaDLYEB_h6U

Interior, <3min.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M-ByBAmw3o

             OHERN Institute  •  Bowling Green, Ohio 43402  •  A Research Division of All Aboard Ohio