Hyper-Train

Written by Sierra Brown

A train consisting of a spacecraft dedicated to being the 'engine', capable of hauling a number of cargo pods and traveling along hyper-lanes. Ideal for mass transit/transport as it's more efficient that traditional cargo ships.

 
 
This bad boy can haul so many cargo pods. It's the latest, fastest, and most powerful model of hyper-train yet! The AJIHT-253 Bearclaw, complete with fully functional autopilot through the hyper-lane network!
— An enthusiastic hyper-train salesman.
He had a habit of slapping the side of the engine.
 

An invention of Arasik-Jovale Incorporated, hyper-trains are an assembly of a primary driving hyper-lane capable engine with a series of cargo pods attached. While these trains are slow and inefficient in standard space travel, their specially designed hyper-drive systems allow them to travel at high speed through Hyper-lanes. The nature of these lanes means trains do not have to worry about managing directional changes - The current of an active jump guides each cargo pod along with the engine. This, combined with the modular setup of attaching as few or as many cargo pods as you need, has made hyper-trains the most popular choice for mass transit and shipments throughout the Sol Empire. The concept of hyper-trains has even recently begun to spread into the Sol-Lassi and Katar tribes of the Sionian Republic.

 

Discovery

While trains are far from a new concept, the idea of creating trains in space has always been considered a wasted effort. The Solus-Sionian joint corporation, Arasik-Jovale Incorporated, however, found some value in the idea. AJI took a tug freighter, removed everything except the hyper drive, engines, and life support systems, and connected it to a series of cargo pods and sent it off to the Sol-Lassi border. While the results of this first experiment were far from astonishing, they were promising. After many years of further experimentation and fine tuning, Arasik-Jovale announced the release of their first commercially available model of hyper-train in 248 AU: The AJIHT-248 "A.J.".

This model consisted of a primary driving engine and four specially designed cargo pods that would chain up to the engine in sequence. The engine was a spacecraft dedicated to the hyper-drive engine that would propel the train through hyper-lanes, with just enough standard engine thrust to maneuver the assembly between loading bays and the nearest lane entry point.

Inventor(s)
Invented by Arasik-Jovale Incorporated in 248 AU.
Access & Availability
Commonplace in the Sol Empire. Imported, expensive, but slowly becoming common in the Republic of Sion's Katar and Sol-Lassi tribes.

Related Articles

Hyper-lanes
Physical / Metaphysical Law | Oct 2, 2019

The 'Jet streams' of the Galaxy, hyper-lanes are a complex network of natural space-time ripples utilized by various space-faring cultures for faster-than-light interstellar travel.



Cover image: by Sierra Brown

Comments

Author's Notes

WorldEmber 2018 - Best Technology Badge

This article is the winner of World Ember 2018's Technology Category.


Please Login in order to comment!
16 Dec, 2018 04:55

This seems like a great way to transport bulk cargo, similar to the road trains in Australia. It's a nice implementation of an idea and it's beautifully executed. Your page design is outstanding.

Three Questions

1) How do passenger and high-speed cargo ships deal with having these big and probably cumbersome hyper-trains crossing their path?

2) Presumably the tug can get by with a smaller crew, being a smaller ship. What effect has that had on the professional ship crews?

3) Has anyone taken advantage of the increased opportunities for stealing cargoes or outright piracy that these trains offer (in real- or hyper-space)? Without someone watching over the cargo pods, there could be people breaking in and making off with high-value items. The same has happened with automobiles on rail trains being stripped in transit.

Sideways Observation

This seems like an ideal opportunity to create individuals similar to the rail barons of the 19th century. Building large trains that can carry massive loads for far less than single ships, they could create monopolies and create an entire class of displaced workers. These former ships' crews and dock workers could end up as smugglers, pirates, or rebels against the economic lords.

16 Dec, 2018 07:04

    • With the way Hyper-lanes work, the only real limiter to speed is what the hyperdrive installed in the vessel is capable of, and how much force the hull and crew inside can withstand. If both the train and traditional cargo ship are running the same generation of tech, they'd be equal in speed - The only real notable difference would be the train having a longer acceleration/deceleration curve, which wouldn't be any more inconvenient than just taking longer to get up to speed, and having to decelerate sooner than you otherwise would. It'd be minutes of increased travel time for a ship stuck behind the train at best.
    • If you meant something like a 'railroad crossing', one: Space is three dimensional. Just go over/under it. Two: Hyper-lane junctions, while they do exist, are somewhat rare - And dangerous to traverse. Details on those dangers are in the hyper-lanes article linked above. Even with a Jump Router (A piece of Solus technology that makes it possible to travel these junctions safely), a train probably wouldn't be able to use them without losing half its cargo.
  1. The crew compliment on the engine tug would be about the same as a standard tug that would be used to recover and haul a broken down ship or a lost cargo pod - There'd still be a professional crew involved, they're just running a slightly different kind of highly specialized ship.
  2. When not in a hyper-lane, the trains are very easy targets because of how sluggish they maneuver using standard engines when connected to a series of pods. Everything is wired up to sensors and systems to alert the crew if something breaks open or is tampered with, though anyone trying something like that in the middle of a jump likely has a deathwish for everyone involved.

16 Dec, 2018 07:31

Good answers. It sounds like you've really thought this out. I'm going to have to explore your world some more. I like good SF.

16 Dec, 2018 21:32

I like this idea you have here, and that you address the argument "Yes, but why, exactly?" I do have to note this sentence: "While the results of this firs experiment...", so either the experiment was about trees, or you have a typo on your hands. Good article, love the idea!

16 Dec, 2018 22:12

There's fir trees in space. It's canon now. All hail the space-tree. (I'll fix it when I'm home)

17 Dec, 2018 14:43

  • First off: That opening quote is great. Especially the note about slapping the side. I giggled a bit.
  • Small typo "this firs experiment"
  • I enjoy the formatting here, the prose is good, and the concept is simple but interesting. I love the image of space trainships. How common are they? Do they run constantly, or are they on an irregular travel schedule? Who tends to operate a hyper-train (are they very expensive, or would you find something like this being run by an independent contractor?)
  • If I read correctly, this is a relatively new technology. Has it provided any great disruption to cargo hauling yet?

27 Dec, 2018 19:27

Typo's fixed :P   The trains are fairly common in the Sol Empire, especially in more heavily colonized/industrialized areas. The concept has also spread into parts of the Republic of Sion. As something that's being marketed throughout he empire as a less expensive transport solution, and due to the less luxurious setup of only having the bare necessities, the train engines are relatively cheaper than a traditional cargo liner - But this comes with the drawback of less luxury and a lack of traditional engine power for maneuvers outside of a hyper-lane jump. This isn't to say that more luxurious passenger 'pods' can't be manufactured and attached to a train, however.

17 Dec, 2018 15:32

Love it. Trains in space. I do have a question. Iim a maintenance guy myself and I'm wondering how someone like myself or more educated engineers would work on them if they breakdown in transit. Is it something that breaks often and how wouldn't go about doing it?

27 Dec, 2018 19:31

While the concept being put to use it relatively new, the technology being used for the trains including the engine itself and the hull is older, proven, reliable technology. If the engine breaks down, it's in the same ship that the crew is going to be in and can be repaired just like it could in a traditional cargo ship.

27 Dec, 2018 19:52

Lol so no space walks!? Dang it. Well that's practical. Any special tools or equipment?

27 Dec, 2018 20:04

Space walks are a thing if absolutely required - It's just very very dangerous to do if you're adrift in the middle of a hyper-lane, regardless of what kind of ship you're in.   Tools and equipment required to make repairs are about standard for a spaceship engineer anywhere in the Empire - AJI made sure of this so they could also market how easy it was to repair if something did go wrong.

27 Dec, 2018 20:27

Indeed and that's a good idea as well. Ties it in well. Sorry if it's a silly question. Since it's my job when i read about any kind of tech my initial thought is "oh...how would i even fix that