Article, photos and video by Don Gworek
Plans are in progress for a 220 mph high speed rail in Florida. The first segment from Orlando to Tampa is expected to be completed in 2014, with Miami to Orlando to follow. With proposed stops at the Orlando airport, the Orange County Convention Center and Walt Disney World, this will mean a new choice for tourists. Some exhibits were recently on display at the Orange County Convention Center.
A high speed rail line has been proposed between Tampa and Orlando since 1975, and transportation planners continually look for ways to help reduce the cost.
For example, when lanes were added to I-4 several years ago between Disney and Tampa, they also widened the median so a high speed rail could be built without a need to widen I-4 again. Several years ago, Disney pledged to donate some of its land for a station near the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
The focal point of the exhibits at the convention center was a full-scale model of a train that might be on the rails in Florida. The model had two cars and showed examples of everything you would expect to find on the train (except the restrooms, because those would be way too tempting for people to try out).
Each car had multiple versions of seating – seats with tables, commuter train type of seating, first-class lounge seating and different kinds of fabrics. There also was demo kitchen facility, with a coffee machine.
The proposed convention center stop would be convenient for vacationers staying in the I-Drive area. Of course many Disney fans could take the train from the airport to Disney World, where presumably, Disney buses would be ready to take guests to their hotels.
For theme park fans, this would also be a quick way to get to Busch Gardens in Tampa. It’s also easy to see how our guests from Europe, where rail travel is very common, could find a cheaper flight to Tampa and take the train to Orlando for holiday.
Many aspects of the rail system were shown in the displays:
• How signaling works
• How they keep track of where the trains are in the system
• How motors are in each train for more efficient energy use (similar to the Disney monorail system)
• Maps of other high speed rail systems planned or in progress
Here’s a video and some more photos showing more of the exhibit.