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The Beamway

by Olav Naess, 2006-2014


Why Light-weight Rail?

The Monorail – always Exiled to the Future?

Car or Bus?

Container Transport of People?

Recommended Beamway Design

The Poles

The Beam

The Train

The Center Wagon

The Propulsion

Traffic Routines

Many Kinds of Stops

A City Beamway

Metros and Architecture


Where can the Beamway go?

Annoying Penduling?

The Safety

Still further – with Containers

Modular Cabin Sizes


Additional Passenger Wagons

Private Pods

Transport of Cars

Mobile Services

Running (between) Hospitals


A new Tourism – or Home Type


The Disabled

The Environment

If the Beamway Fails to Perform

Existing Beamways in Germany

The Main Points


This is about the question: Perhaps there should be railways for transporting people?

For transporting passengers (with 6-8 tons/wagon), it is a very bad idea to use conventional heavy rail (for over 100 tons/wagon).

A (correctly weight-adapted) beamway should then be used. This is a suspended monorail running along a steel beam. These trains can run above other ground activities (road traffic, pedestrians, playing children, wildlife, avalanches, untouched nature...). The beamway can negotiate slopes of over 10%, and give a 99% reduction of ground razing, barrier formation and snow problems.

This is important for the environment.

Additional track area will not be needed in difficult/congested areas, as the beamway goes above roads – also across road bridges. If the beamway tunnels run along road tunnels, free escape tunnels are obtained.

As the beamway grips cabins at the upper edge, it can easily transfer cabins (4-24 meters long) between ground positions, boat decks...

Such cabins can be used for recreational/living quarters, mobile services...

The beamway can also move cars, boats, cargo containers...

Suspended monorails are now in operation in e.g. Germany, but should be improved (for 200 km/h) as described in this article, and with:

The beamway can (with short wagons) be used in cities, also in old, compact cities: No houses must be removed, no street or road be closed.

The normal commuting radius may then exceed 100 km. The same region size will be achieved also for airports and hospitals, into which the trains may enter. Medical personel, patients and equipment may then be sent between hospitals like with the latter's pneumatic tube systems.

Why Lightweight Rail?

Traditional railway is heavy-weight, designed for each wagon to carry 125 tons (Wikipedia). The real requirement for passenger, express and local trains is 6-8 tons, and such a wagon weights 40 tons. This is a tradition which is based upon the assumption that flat ground may be appropriated and reserved for the railway. Where this is possible, the consequence is: All ground transport must be in one plane. In more awkward locations (like coastal Norway) the consequence is: No railways at all.

Politicians evaluating high-speed rail for passenger transport should have experts on passenger transport. But they only have (or use) experts on heavy freight, and these assume that their rail concept is appropriate for transporting passengers, when less than 10% of the weight load capacity is utilized. The consequences of this assumption is not analyzed.

The minimum weight for trains running on the ground was demonstrated in February 2007 when a train was derailed by snow masses on a Norwegian mountain line. The train — called a Signature train — consisted of motorized wagons, each with 72 seats and weighing 54 tons. A local train expert told the media that he had warned against using such a light train, as it could slide like a snowboard and derail. A heavier locomotive, which could push an efficient snow plow, should be used in front. In warmer climates, where snow masses may be disregarded, trains must still be built to survive collisions with cattle and other large animals, as well as crossing road vehicles. If the track were replaced by a beam running 6-8 meters above the ground, resting on pillars, both snow mass disturbance and collision danger would be virtually eliminated, so now lightweight technology could be employed. A positive feedback is encountered here: Rail elevation enables light trains, and light trains are easy to elevate above the ground. (Such positive feedback situations can create quantum leaps in technology, and this effect seems to be effective here.) An empty wagon for 70 passengers needn't then weigh 40 tons – perhaps only 5.

The reduced weight leads to improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, as well as simplicity and reduced costs for bridges and other railway installations.

Having the lightweight rail "upstairs", enables it to be placed above existing roads and road bridges. It can also take shortcuts over rivers, lakes, agricultural areas, parking lots, garages, streets, pavements... Complicated compulsory purchase processes may be replaced by simpler economic compensations.

The Beamway
(a suspended train, running in a steel beam):
99 % less ground razing and barrier formation

(Scenery photo:

It is highly unlikely that something will get in the way of such a train. It can consequently run at high speed, also in densely populated areas. And it can be driverless, the way the suspended trains in Dortmund and Düsseldorf do. Low passenger capacity in each train may then be compensated by frequent departures. It is better for the passengers to have a small train each 15 minutes than a large train every hour. The passengers may then choose between fast trains with few stops, and slower trains with many stops.

When transport of passengers (along with mail and other light goods) need only 1/15th of the weight capacity, it should be clear that an alternative rail type should be considered. If freight trains must keep adapting to the needs of the passengers, the transport capacity cannot be efficiently utilized. To upgrade conventional rail for fast passenger transport can easily become more expensive than a separate light-weight rail, so why settle for a compromise railway when two efficient can be had instead?

The Monorail – always Exiled to the Future?

The monorail is a light railway running on a narrow-gauged track which is on or inside a rigid beam. This means the track needn't be upon the ground, but can run on top of poles, so that it doesn't conflict with constructions, activities and the nature down on the ground. Conventional railway, on the other hand, will normally require a reserved area which can only be crossed by other traffic on certain places. The train doesn't have to balance upon the beam, so this can be narrow and thick (high). It can then really function as a load-carrying beam. The lightweight rail will then become a monorail. Monorails in general are thoroughly described here.

There are two main types of monorails:

The beamway we are going to discuss, is of the type SAFEGE, a French design from the fifties. Such a railway was tried in France about 1959-70 (and shown in the movie Fahrenheit 451), but wasn't successful. The Safege technology was later sold to the Japanese, who used it for some local railways. (See a movie cut here.)

The beam/rail design is called SIPEM, and is developed by amongst others Siemens.

The Swedish Swedetrack Systems AB has here presented a description of their FLYWAY concept. My discussion and ideas mainly take this description as the point of departure, but has a different attitude towards the means of conveyance: Swedetrack's FLYWAY-description is car-biased, while the present discussion is bus/train-biased.

Car or Bus?

Visions about future transportation systems often start with assuming that the car is the preferred means of transportation, but regard the conveyor belt principle to be needed for managing the flow. This is also the point of departure for FLYWAY, which depicts and describes essentially small passenger cabins. The largest cabins are for 32 passengers, but also these are treated like small private cabins: The entire cabin is lowered whenever somebody is entering or leaving, and such a bus ride would be quite annoying. Small cabins with 2-6 seats pose the problem: Shall they be private like taxicabs, or are strangers supposed to mingle? Such mingling would give personal security problems in small cabins, but is safer in larger, bus-sized cabins. It stands to reason that taxis are private, as they go all the way to the destination building. But when the stop has to be somewhere along the track – and perhaps only at designated stops, it becomes meaningless – and perhaps dangerously confusing – to privatize cabins. The fear of strangers is intricately connected with society splitting and Hollywood dramatization, but should not preclude future visions involving public transportation.

Regardless of the cabin size, the danger of vandalism should be taken into account. Both personal and material security can be improved through video surveillance, but it is of little value that a situation is immediately perceived in a security central if it takes more than ten minutes before somebody can act where the action is. Personel on the train may be using the same video images, but if they sit in the next wagon, they can be far more useful.

Visions of future technology tend to be far more optimistic regarding human nature, but nevertheless: I will assume we will need vehicles emulating conventional trams and buses, and with a centrally positioned conductor.

Transport visions tend to forget an important point: That travellers need access to a toilet. Also this calls for the bus size.

But private cabins may be used for special purposes: Transport of patients and medical personnel can be automatized and function like the pneumatic tube systems in hospitals. And mobile services should be able to have their service cabins dispatched around in the beamway system. It is also useful to let the beamway transport camping cabins to and from camp sites, and transport boats between storage and sea. Besides, wagons for mail and other light goods could go along. In some areas, private pods (cars/cabs) may swarm. This may occur in the same beamway line system, provided there are enough sidetracks to prevent train traffic delays.

Quite many (half) private wagons may use the public lines if they are scheduled to move in caravans.

It is very important for beamways that the cabins will not be overloaded by chaotic crowds (at rock concerts, sport events, ...). Here are two ways to avoid this:

The first station type is suitable on special places (like end stations) where the traffic is heavy, but leaves the problem with throwing out some of the seated passengers. If the beamway contains an elevator, it will be able to stop for arriving and departing passengers almost anywhere, and at the same time have an excellent sluice mechanism which automatically refuses to raise an overloaded elevator, or to lift passengers up to a train which is becoming overloaded.

Such a sluice would also make it difficult for terrorists to place their packages and immediately leave. If all luggage items are registrated when passengers are admitted, it should be possible to detect if anybody tries to leave without all their luggage.

Container Transport of People?

Transport of goods became far more flexible and efficient after the introduction of intermodal freight transport, which is based upon use of containers, easily transferred between different means of communication.

It is now natural to ask: Could similar efficiency gains be obtained with passenger transport? The concept of intermodal passenger transport implies merely a short walk between the modes of transportation.

The main advantages would be:

Most passengers would undoubtedly benefit from using their legs, but they should get opportunities for this in other ways.

Transferring containers involves slow operations with cranes, and stacking the containers in ships and harbors. Passengers can't be subjected to this: For passenger cabins, smooth and swift transfer is imperative, without cabins dangling under cranes.

Transport by both ship, railway and road imply placing the cargo on horizontal surfaces, so each transfer involves lifting the cargo, moving it to another surface, and putting it down there. There is a need for a means of conveyance which can deliver cabins from above and (with minimal movement) directly to a receiving surface, and vice versa.

This is the way the suspended train of the beamway operates, and that is one of the reasons we will take a closer look at it.

Recommended Beamway Design

The main principles for the recommended beamway design will consequently be:

Start with the FLYWAY design, which states that an 80x80 centimeter beam can carry 7 tons if the distance between the poles is 30 meters. Then add the following set of improvement proposals:

Let the beam go from pole to pole without a joint. The joints should come at the poles, where it is easy to place heavy and balanced splints – fortifying side plates which go along the beam, strengthening it like the splints placed along a broken leg. If they fortify really efficiently, we could, with 20 meter long splints, sort of have 20 meter wide poles, so that we could have one pole every 50 meters instead of every 30. It may, however, be more realistic to assume that this pole widening is done only half ways, so I will tentatively assume one pole every 40 meters.

When the beam is forced to be horizontal (or with another precise inclination) near the poles, it will not be able to sag much down near the middle. Besides, the whole beamway structure is strengthened and able to withstand e.g. emergency braking.

It may seem strange that the FLYWAY concept, for up to 7 tons, can be used for long trains with several times the weight. But a long train will have only a small fraction of its weight in the weak central part of the beam, especially if it is designed to function as a movable beam. This beam will have a stiffness which adds up to the stiffness of the beam, so that mainly the poles will get the weight of the train.

The Poles

The poles carry a bracket or a small platform which on its lower side (inside) carry the ends of the half-beams, and a splint on the sides of a beam joint. The beams are not assumed to have exactly the correct length, so there must on both sides here be a holder for a small rail piece – e.g. 1-80 cm. Some places a service platform may be needed, so the gap between the beams must here be so wide that the bogies running on the track can be lifted out.

A pole should be prepared for expansion from single-tracked to double-tracked operation, carrying either simultaneous traffic in both directions, or letting parts of two different lines follow each other for a while. The pole should then on its backside be able to carry an additional beam holder – seen in the background here – so that the pole has traffic on both sides. Another alternative is that two poles are mounted with meeting beam holders, or a long common beam holder – in the foreground here – so that the whole assembly form a bridge which can carry a double track beamway along and above a road.

If the two poles have side support legs as shown here, a stable and movable stand is obtained. This enables provisional beamway lines, which may e.g. be moved to the side if the beamway gets its own tunnel.

It should be possible to attach the beamway to the facade of certain structures like large garage buildings.

A line of windmills should also be able to function as a row of beamway poles, and the two systems may cooperate about power lines.

The Beam

Beam joins should not occur between the poles, only at them – between the splints. But a 40 meter long beam would still not be too unmanageable, as it is divided in three parts lengthwise: Two C-shaped half-beams, both symmetric and exchangeable, supplemented with a connecting and protecting plastic part which contains the power line.

As the power line is surrounded by iron, a good shielding of the electromagnetic fields is achieved, in contrast to the freely hanging power line of conventional railway, which causes strong electromagnetic pollution of the environment.

Section of the 2C-beam. The power line is in the middle.
Left: We see how the wheels (for slow local trains) run in the two C-shaped half-beams. Right: Air cushion drive (for high-speed trains) with the same beam. The air cushion is trapped under a steel lid (blue), and between two valves (yellow). The front valve is open. The rear valve is closed, so the train will be pulled in that direction. (The air cushion unit gets pressurized air from a compressor loc – see under The Locomotive below.)

Each C-shaped half-beam will be only about 30 cm wide, and can consequently at the line construction site be given the moderate curvature needed for turns on high-speed lines (with increasing/decreasing curvature before/after turns), as well as the twisting needed before and after graded turns. If conventional SIPEM beams were to be used, they would be about 80 cm wide, and far more difficult to bend and twist. If they had to be factory ordered with specified combinations of curvature and twisting, the manufacturing, logistics and line modification operations would all be very problematic.

Having the power line surrounded by iron, will greatly improve the shielding of electromagnetic fields emitted – in comparison to the strong electromagnetic pollution caused by conventional railway power lines.

When the poles have been erected, the beamway could be built without local ground support: The half-beams are transported along the finished part of the beamway. At the end of the stretch, hangs a crane boom which lifts a (left or right side) half-beam up to proper alignment, being partially affixed at both poles. This operation is repeated for the other half-beam, and workers on or at the rear and front poles fasten the half-beams more thoroughly. The crane boom is then moved forward on the new beam stretch, and the operation is repeated.

A half-beam is here lifted up to its correct position

(Detailed description here)

If the monolithic SIPEM beam were to be used, a beam length would be so heavy that beamway lines could have been constructed only on sites accessible to heavy mobile cranes. Or the beam would have been weakened by many splices between short beam stumps. The 2C beam can be without full splices, as there can be many meters between splices of staggered half-beams. (More details here)

The Train

The FLYWAY concept is about city traffic, and prefers small private cabins – automated taxis. We will here consider another use of the beamway: trains, capable of replacing passenger planes on distances up to 3-400 km, so the speed should be at least 200 km/h. (And the fast trains are needed only for light-weight transport, not for the 10-15 times heavier cargo).

Heavy trains with the same top speed will actually become slower due to low acceleration and slow movements in station areas and other difficult areas.

At high speeds, the beamway has the significant advantage that it can easily get a straight path without requiring a brutal leveling of the ground. And in the vicinity of the train is nothing but a smooth metal surface.

The size and weight of the train, however, is a formidable challenge for a beamway dimensioned for beam loads up to 7 tons. The key to designing real trains is: to distribute the weight over a longer distance. The starting point for the train design is: a small center wagon which essentially is an elevator, so that arriving and departing passengers can be transported vertically – about 5 meters – between the ground and the train. Each end of the center wagon has a door leading to a passenger cabin. For tram emulation the cabin will be bus sized (8 meters), for train emulation the cabin will be train wagon sized (24 meters). The passenger cabins may very well have a generous seat separation, and may be sitting 2+1 abreast, so that the weight is well distributed along the beam. (The length will still not approach the walk through the gate corridors of an airport!)

The locomotives, with light electro motors, can be several meters in front of and/or behind the passenger wagons. (Such a miniloc is shown in the yellow train depicted below.)

The train will now become so stretched out that only a small part of it weights down the weak mid part of the beam. A special trick for spreading the beam loading additionally: The center wagon pulls the passenger cabins at floor level and pushes them out at roof level.

Hopefully, the same beam type can be used for trains and trams, so that they only differ in the minimum curvature radius. It may be wise to let the train have a turning loop around the city center, so that the passengers can choose in which city part to go on or off. Or the stop for the long-distance train can be near the stop for a city line. Or the long-distance train can exchange a short second wagon with a city train.

The fast trains require larger wheels, and there isn't room for more than 50-55 cm wheel diameter in the beams. This could give 120, perhaps 140 km/h, according to FLYWAY. This is OK for local trains, but not for long distance trains. Even though the wheels can run somewhat faster in our smoothly curved 2C beam, one should from the beginning be prepared to go for more exotic technologies like air cushion hovering and maglev (magnetic levitation). This needn't mean trains without wheels. A hybrid technology may be used: The weight load on the wheels are gradually decreased by 80-90 % as the speed increases, so that wheels can be used at higher speeds.

An air cushion in the bottom of the beam takes over most of the weight load, and it stabilizes the wheel between the side walls. This cushion can be created by a compressor (in the grey nacelles located between the wagon roofs and the beam in the picture below). Or the cushion can be created by passive wanes leading the air towards the bottom and side walls of the beam interior.

These possibilities are more thoroughly discussed elsewhere, but we may say that those working with these technologies for surface trains, should be envious of the beamway conditions: automatically balanced light-weight trains at a large, clean iron surface, going above the snow and debris of the ground. Those now developing hovering (maglev) trains are doing a grave mistake by taking conventional heavy railways as the point of departure – without having a need for heavy transport. It may seem natural to vary one factor at a time, but now a double innovation is required.

Local and long-distance trains – both with an integrated elevator in the front wagon. With this elevator, the doors leading to the cabins are also used down on the ground. Passengers enter through the front door (green) while those leaving use the back door. This efficiently will largely compensate for the elevator delay.
Threshold ramps for wheelchairs are pushed out under the doors.
These trains have hub motors in all the wheels.

These trains have exchangeable cabins (lowerable and raisable below those funny hats), as well as a separate elevator module between the wagons.
This elevator uses a side door, so that passengers can enter directly if train and platform are on the same level. A disadvantage with side door use is that any train penduling threatens the passengers' feet.
A built-in threshold ramp might have been used here, too.


The Center Wagon

This consists essentially of three or four walls and a roof, as well as an elevator filling the space between the walls. The elevator is for the yellow train above depictet as hanging from a single cable coming out from the middle of the ceiling, and the elevator movement should be guided by vertical telescopic rails hanging from the ceiling, going down through vertical ducts in the elevator walls. If there is a cable in each of the telescopic rails (white trains depicted above), the elevator may be lowered 15-20 meters for emergency evacuation, and yet ascend again with properly collapsed rails.

If the elevator has a side door, a conventional station flatform on the train's level may be used, so that passengers can come and go quickly – without elevator movements. The problem with this is that the overweight-preventing sluice mechanism given by the elevator is lost. A solution for this is to provide high traffic stations with an antechamber (measuring the total passenger weight, and having automatic doors) at each train door position. This antechamber will then provide an alternative sluice mechanism. (The conductor may at low traffic levels choose to leave the door open out there.)

With this external sluice, the beamway will give as rapid passenger exchange on stations as conventional trains do, and consequently as large transport capacity if the latter were trying to give seating for everybody. (But an elevator with entrance and exit on opposite sides might be just as efficient.)

The thick back wall of the center wagon should contain the elevator motor and an emergency battery or generator capable of running the elevator for emergency evacuation, and also be able to move a train somewhat in a powerless area.

The central element (regarding costs and operations) is the conductor, who sits in the elevator.

The tasks of the conductor are to:

The Propulsion

The train may have a locomotive fore and/or aft. The advantage of this is that the train weight can be distributed over a long distance. The picture shows a locomotive with a large motor which can be displaced remotely. But this will block passenger evacuation through end doors of trains stuck in tunnels, under bridge spans, etc.. The most elegant solution is to let an electric motor constitute the hub (and most) of each wheel. This will optimize hill-climbing and acceleration, as all the wheels will be pulling.

For high-speed operation – no wheels, but the train slides on air cushions:
A compressor “locomotive” (left), and one of the hovering bogies with four air cushion units powered by high pressure air coming through the tube.
The compressor hangs under two such bogies.
Propulsion is obtained by opening valves backwards.

Several propulsion technologies, using the same beam and mostly the same trains, are available. The most important alternatives are:

  1. Running on wheels, with ordinary electric motors.

  2. Like 1, but airfoils near the wheels can lift partially, so that at least half the weight can be relieved off the wheels.
    Such air-surfing away from vertical beam walls will keep the wheels in position in their tracks. Wheels can thus be used at higher speeds.

  3. Compressor-driven air cushion surfing with high-pressure cushions above the beam track and low-pressure cushions below the beam. This enables strong resistance against penduling if the pressures can be reversed on the side in danger of being lifted.

These may be combined in various ways by combining bogies or bogie parts, and by combining different elements on one bogie.

But one combination – alternatives 1&3 – should be emphasized as an optimal compromise, as it gives high speed on simple beamway lines, that is lines not equipped with trainpulling equipment (maglev, linear motors):

A combination drive for quite high speeds – at least 200 km/h: Two wheels are combined with three air cushions above the track and one (mostly sucking) below. There are electric motors in the wheels.

The air cushions above also act against the side walls, so that the wheels are not stressed by forces from the sides.

This combination is programmed so that the lifting force from the air cushions always are kept so low that the wheels can give the traction needed (or regenerative braking, which receives the braking energy). At high speeds, the need for traction decreases, even though the power level (i kilowatts or horsepowers) is high. As the wheel stresses are reduced – by perhaps 80-90 % – wheel traction can be used at much higher speeds – probably well above 200 km/h.

The wheels give speed control. This means the train stands completely still during stops in wind or in a hill, something likely to cause problems in connection with air cushion drive.

Stabilization against pendulation implies: Fast-acting valves reverse the air cushion pressures on the side about to be lifted by a wind gust.

Simple, strong wheels of steel or compact rubber can now be used without the disturbing vibration forces. (The wheels are not to transmit forces for emergency braking. This is done by mechanisms pinching the edge of the beam.)

The compressor creating the air cushions hang below, at the wagon suspension rod. There may be one unilateral combination of wheels + air cushions (for the left or the right side) for each wagon suspension, but perhaps rather a bilateral combination, so that pendulation can be controlled at each suspension.

Every suspension, with its mechanisms, will then become a complete propulsion module, an exchangeable microlocomotive which could have run alone, so that the wagon only need small motors for displacing the suspensions sideways.

These prospects are more thorougly discussed elsewhere, but it should be said that those who work with developing such technologies for ordinary trains (running on the ground) should envy the beamway's conditions: well balanced lightweight trains at a large, clean steel surface, above the snow and sand of the ground level. Those now developing hover transport (with magnetism or air cushions) and without a need of handling heavy transport, err seriously when they take heavy rail as the point of departure. It may seem natural to vary one factor at a time, but a dual innovation is now needed: both suspended rail and hovering.

Traffic Routines

The control system can control access for the (not unusually audacious) passengers, and can refuse to transport passengers up if the elevator or train is getting overloaded. It can also detect obstacles and stop for them. For local transport, unmanned operation may be feasible. Every second departure, for instance, could be unmanned – for subscribers who feel secure with the system.

As the beamway system simulates scheduled buses instead of a stream of private cars (the FLYWAY attitude), side beams (for passing a stopped train) will not often be needed. The standard operating mode could be that two trains start together. The first one is a direct train with few stops, and the second one stops at many places. When the direct train is about to overtake the other, the two can swap roles at the next end loop passage.

A train's two passenger wagons could be assigned to two branches of the line. When the train comes to where the line splits up, one wagon can be delivered to another train on one branch, while the center wagon with the other passenger wagon continues on the other branch. If the lone wagon has a motorized bogie, it should be able to run on its own for a while as long as no stopping is required.

Many Kinds of Stops

A beam train with elevator could take passengers on and off almost anywhere, and in special cases like ambulance transport (perhaps to a side track into a hospital) this flexibility may be useful. But for practical reasons, designated stops will probably be chosen – at least on crowded places. The elevator will of cause detect people if it approaches them from above, so it should be less dangerous than the tram so commonly seen in pedestrian precincts. A simple and practical solution could be to let the elevator go down towards a lawn, a flowerbed or a lawn, while the passengers go up on a 30-50 cm high ramp which will divert the stream of passers-by. If the elevator can push out a foot board, wheelchairs can roll right in.

The train should be able to start running while the elevator is going up ( – and the elevator shoud have a few folding seats). Conversely, the elevator might start descending while the train is slowing down at a stop, but that may be to demand too much discipline from the passengers. Some seconds will be lost if the elevator descends while the train is standing still, but this is little compared to the delays a bus suffers while its driver sells tickets.

The beamway could visit many unusual places: the deck of a boat, a stadium stand, the gate corridor of an airport, or the balcony of a closed-off area. Some kinds of stops may be used only during special arrangements, and then tickets may be sold or checked on the train. Ticket holders could be admitted to one cabin, while ordinary travelers use the other, so this will be closed when the train stops at the site of the event. On an airport train, the cabins may be assigned to domestic and international travelers, or for checked-in and not checked-in..

A City Beamway

The beamway doesn't displace other forms of traffic, and should be so cheap to build that also smaller cities and towns can afford to think line networks and branching lines instead of just one or two lines.

No matter how congested the ground traffic is, the regularity and reliability of the beamway will not be affected.

The beamway can easily be built with a loop through a destination suburb, even if the streets and buildings are old, so it will not lead to dense spots of built-up area like a conventional metro does. I must say it is appalling to see how local politicians assume suburbs will concentrate around metro stops. This metro is then a Procrustean line.

Correspondingly, the city area should have an end loop which covers the most important destinations in the central area. Having to regard the city center as a point, is a sign of failure.

It can be a dilemma for the city planners to choose: Should we have a small central ring which becomes a suitably diffuse end stop, or a large central ring which in itself becomes a useful ring line? It may be of interest to have both. The two rings needn't be very different if they are both single-tracked, running in opposite directions.

A beamway line's poles may be freely standing racks, and then the line will be reconfigurable, e.g. for a temporary line. Nice to have during events like olympic games.

Metros and Architecture

Metros (subways, undergrounds...) are characteristic of large cities, and they are difficult to scale down for light traffic. If we consider the space requirements of a metro station, one major cause of this becomes evident. A station for four tracks, each 2.5 meters wide, might need 2 meter wide platforms on each side of a track, plus 2 meters for a stairway and elevator for each single or double platform. The minimum station hall width will then be 10 meters for 4 tracks + 16 meters for 8 platforms + 10 meters for 5 stairways = 36 meters – multiplied by perhaps 30 meters for giving access to a few wagons. This amounts to over 1000 square meters, and in addition comes a crossing corridor above or below.

A conventional station for four tracks, with one train present.
White: A crossing corridor below or above.
A pair of stairs can have one escalator and one ordinary flight of stairs. Besides, an elevator will probably be required for each platform. It can be situated between the stairs and make the corridor awkwardly narrow, or it can be beside a flight of stairs and increase the station width by five elevator widths.

A corresponding station for beamway trains having elevators.
The blue rectangles are ponds reserving the areas for train elevators.
The part of the hall in the upper part of the picture is for departing passengers, the lower part for arriving.

If beamways were used instead, stairways, escalators and elevators were not needed in stations. With 3-3.5 meters of width reserved for each track, and 1-2 meters extra on each side, the hall might be only 13-18 meters wide. With only 3 meters of the train length coming down in the hall, a room as short as 8-10 meters could be used. So the beamway station needs only about 15% of the normally required station area. And it might be a few floors up in a building. (The trains would take 3-4 meters extra hall height, but this is only empty volume, without construction complexity.) Besides, much space is saved in the environment due to the short transition between parallel tracks and multilevel, strongly curved tracks spreading in the environment.

Actually, the space savings would be still greater if two lines crossed at a 90º angle in the station area – in the same plane, but with trains scheduled not to meet. The passengers would then only experience that the doors were slightly displaced. Also conventional trains could have stations at such a crossing, but this would result in platform islets hardly permitting more than one train door to be used. Hence the complex multi-level design of conventional stations having crossing lines.

If beamway trains were to cross in separate planes, the upper one would need a 6 meter high elevator or a one meter high platform with ramps.

Every 2x3 meter large elevator could go down to an equally large depression in the floor, containing something like round rocks, flowers or shallow water. If the elevator door leading to the front wagon were used as entrance, and the door leading to the rear wagon were used as exit, the passenger exchange would be so rapid that most of the time spent on elevator movements would be regained. (In such a hall, the trains could go just 2.5 meters above the floor.)

Such an elevator might take 20 persons, so if more should want to enter or exit at once, the small scale nature of such transport would become evident. But the savings in space and other resources would be dramatic, while the lacking capacity would be more moderate. And capacity can be increased in various ways: The automatization potentials of the beamway can e.g. make higher departure frequencies feasible. The automatization potentials are related to the increased safety, as people are unable to enter tunnels and tracks.

As long as the trains go only in tunnels, the beam can be mounted in a very robust manner, and the occurrence of many standing passengers is ok. The sluice function of the elevator will then not be needed, so people may also enter trains through simple stairways standing between the trains.

Concentration of the passenger stream in a few elevators permits use of conductors – for improved service and security, as well as new operational possibilities, such as sale or control of tickets to events to which the train may go.

Beamway tunnels can easily also be used for other traffic or transport if the diameter is sufficiently large. Such combination use becomes more difficult if conventional rail is used.

A beamway station can be a few floors up in a building. As this railway type goes in the upper floor above ground activities, architects and community planners should operate with an expanded floor thinking, including not only rooms, but also traffic and nature.

The old paradigm was: All ground traffic had to be in one plane – shoehorned and axed. The new paradigm is: The light traffic components should float up to the surface – in the upper floor – where they, as a beamway system, can be organized with a superior efficiency and safety. Also natural activities, with pedestrians and animals, fit into this multi-floor structure. Perhaps not so much under buildings, which block much light, but at least under beamways.

Future planners and architects will find it natural to plan non-blocking railway lines through buildings, combined with small station rooms near sidewalks, as well as in airports, hospitals, stadiums, etc.


A rail system should be scalable, so that it can be used both in low traffic areas and high traffic areas. It is common that rail systems (especially monorails) are designed for large cities, and consequently get bad scalability. The present beamway system is well suited for sparsely populated areas (it scales down), mainly due to the built-in elevator, which eliminates the need for station buildings. And even for quite high speeds, the track needn't supply pulling force. This gives good scalability, as it is easy to scale up by using a double-track line and short departure intervals.

Beamways use little energy and low power supply voltages. At about 1000 volts, standard electronic components can be used, and hub motors are now being mass produced for cars.

If trains become cheap, backup trains may be kept ready at various places. And beamway conductors (local housewives on part-time assignments?) will be far easier to find than skilled train drivers.

Where can the Beamway go?

In city streets:
Far greater radius of curvature (and absence of obstacles) enable far higher speed

It is simplest to let the beamway follow a road – at least as long as this isn't crossed by bridges. If the road goes in a tunnel, the train can go slightly above the road and behave like a bus, but the beam will demand an extra meter tunnel height in order not to be in the way for high vehicles. It shouldn't be too difficult to cut a groove for the beam in the tunnel roof. Having this beam in a road tunnel, has important safety potentionals: Remotely controlled beamway vehicles (with backup batteries) can be used for firefighting, rescuing people, or pulling out cars.

It may be found advantageous to give the beamway its own tunnel immediately beside the road tunnel, as this could also serve as an emergency exit for the road tunnel, and a beamway tunnel will be much simpler and cheaper than a road tunnel. It may in such situations be smart to let the beam near the tunnel area be carried by freely standing racks which can easily be moved to the new route.

The self-extending beamway described above – lifting half-beam after half-beam into position – can also save time and money during tunnel construction. A tunnelling machine will then go in front and excavate a round hole with a diameter < 4 meters. In the rear, the beamway will be built by mounting half-beams each time a gap is created behind the steadily advancing machine. Immediately behind the tunnelling machine, a special slurry material remover will transfer the excavated masses to wagons moving it to e.g. a bay crossed by the beamway.

The beamway has no need for its own bridges like conventional railways do: The beam can be retrofitted on an ordinary road bridge.

If the beamway is to get its own bridge, it can be just a beam under a simple cable span. The poles are now replaced by suspended beam-holding brackets.
Perhaps the tower-building merely implies erecting standard steel profiles?
- And building a bridge simply implies hoisting up something assembled down on the ground/barges?

These bridge types can be opened

More (shorter) turnable bridges

Agriculture – particularly energy crops:
Harvesters and other machinery can cover the fields by moving like beamway trains on beams which can move sideways on a very wide “conventional” railway track.
Containers go out with the crop and in with fertilizers on the external line in the bottom of the picture. (More about this here.)

A submerged floating tunnel like this is 1 km long, perhaps 4 meters thick, and can be towed out from a shipbuilding yard. A pontoon-held beam can be used for the rest of the crossing.
The submerged floating tunnel has two full depth ship lanes. Small boats can cross almost anywhere.

The beamway can jump from rock to rock – also submerged ones.
The green train is using a submerged floating tunnel.

If it isn't going to cross ship traffic, it can go on a quite simple pontoon chain. If it is to cross a wider channel or bay, it may use a submerged floating tunnel, which (like the pontoon chain) becomes far simpler and cheaper than a similar for cars or conventional railway. (See the previous picture.)

A catamaran ferry for short trains. The receiving beam has a movable end – for obtaining connection with the ferry's beam.
Also electrical connection is obtained, so that the ferry can run on rechargeable batteries.

The beamway can easily do hill climbing by pinching the beam with powered wheels – both from above and below

The hill climbing capability means the submerged floating tunnel can use a quite steep tube (best sheltered if going down in a bay).

The train takes the elevator up to the mountain plateau


Annoying Penduling?

Will the passengers be annoyed by train penduling due to crosswinds and entering/exiting turns?

The proposed train type can displace its suspension sideways. The wind may then simply be permitted to displace the train sideways. The off-center suspension will then by gravity counteract a tilt. This will not deal with wind gusts, but the following mechanisms will.

The wagon suspension can resist penduling up to the point where wheels are almost lifted on one side, and this will give considerable stabilization. (Centrifugal forces in turns will of course not be counteracted in this way, as the turns have banking – tilted beam – and an orderly train banking/sideswing will be permitted.) Compressor-driven air cushion trains will be more able to resist such swings, as the air cushions about to be lifted up can adhere to the beam by suction, by reversing the pressure to an underpressure. And a still firmer tracking can be obtained by having air cushion units (normally sucking) or wheels also at the bottom side of the beam.

At higher speeds, the train can be stabilized wagons by means of a set of stabilizers on the bottom – like anal fish fins, but at least five side by side. The outer ones should be able to detect side wind gusts, and the whole set should then be rotated sideways to displace the bottom of the train towards the wind.

The beamway can also increase the stability by using side support wheels. These can be mounted on the lower edge of the wagons, and enable support from side support rails installed on problematic line stretches (and omitted elsewhere). The side support utilizes the ability of the train suspension to shift the train to the side.

The train is here shifted towards the support rail, which will then push horizontally.
(Fine for air cushion units able to both blow and suck this support rail, so that the train need not be shifted sideways.)

The train is here shifted out from the support rail, which will then carry some of the train's weight.
(Not so good when snow can fall on the support rail.)

The T-shaped support brackets connecting all the rails/beams will strengthen the whole beamway and make greater pole separation possible.

Too strong winds should not result in a sefety problem, as the train will merely yield and swing to the side. This will merely result in passenger annoyance – like during a turbulent flight. In strong side winds, the beamway will be far safer than a bus. On windy stretches, the beamway might get a tunnel.

The Safety

The conventional railway is very sensitive to rail disturbances. It doesn't take much of an avalanche or (mud/rock) slide to cause derailing. Even a quite modest water flooding can wash away the ground support under the rail track.

Under the beamway, however, quite large avalanches/slides can pass without disturbing. In risky parts of the line, the beam will be carried by racks having one leg higher in the slope, and one leg lower. Both legs will be streamlined in the cross-direction, and then it probably takes a real rock slide to damage the track. (Wires going up a mountainside may be used for extra safety.) If one rack collapses, the beam will bend downwards and probably give a scary train passage near the ground. (On such dangerous places, a staggered beamway configuration will probably be used, with each C-shaped steel beam having its splice near the middle of the other one.)

Driving heavy trains is inherently a gamble – particularly through wilderness. The train driver cannot know if the track is blocked or damaged, and if such a situation is encountered, the train is unable to stop in time. One then simply hopes that the train is able to sweep away the obstacles. This assumption may be acceptable in flat and simple terrain, but not with fast trains through wilderness.

By having an embedded power line, the beamway avoids the problems and dangers plaguing the conventional overhead wire system. A full beam disruption will cause an easily detectable power line disruption. Smaller beam disturbances should be detectable by checking transmission of light, microwave or ultrasound signals through the beam interior.

Collision with other traffic or with animals are naturally rather unlikely. A quite simple radar (and/or a tiny precursor vehicle) can easily detect obstacles ahead the train, which then brakes automatically. And a beamway train, which can emergency brake by pinching edges of the beam steel, can have a very short brake distance.

In tunnels, there will not be meters for traffic below, but half a meter may be granted, so that people or animals straying in there may be passed, perhaps toppled over, but not maimed.

In a tunnel or submerged floating tunnel, a (quite derail-proof) beamway train is unlikely to crash so thoroughly that another train is unable to pull or push it out. The train's (hillclimbing) traction can also pull the train out of a partially water-filled tunnel. Backup batteries in the center wagon will be useful if the power rail is short-circuited. The train's computer can easily be programmed for pulling the train out of water – even if this involves filling the train partially with water. Such an escape is feasible because the train will quite certainly be alone down there – not in a chaos of helpless vehicles. The terror threat will be far weaker when such emergency procedures are known to exist.

If a suspended train accidentally gets stuck, it can be necessary and problematic to get the passengers down. A backup battery operated elevator in the train will then be very useful. It is also useful to have downhoistable passenger cabins. Both mechanisms should have extra wire for emergency situations. If the ground is too far away, another train can come to rescue and pull or push the stranded train, or receive its passengers. Trains should therefore have doors in both ends.

The safety can be transferred to other traffic. Cars can be transported more safely through a submerged floating tunnel by means of a beamway train. Road tunnels can get an escape tunnel at practically no extra cost if the beamway has tunnels alongside. (The heavy railway is less likely to be nearby.) If the beamway goes in a road tunnel (behaving like a bus), emergency preparedness can be improved by having remote controlled beamway vehicles (with backup batteries) able to do fire extinction, rescue/evacuation or pulling out vehicles.

Still further – with Containers

As mentioned above, the beamway can easily come close to other means of transportation, but it would be best if the passengers could remain seated in a cabin which could be transferred to another means of transportation. On a section which already has conventional railway, the beamway could – at least in a transition period – cooperate with the railway. On a side track without overhead lines, the beamway could go extra low, so that it could lower the passenger cabin to a low well car. To hoist down passenger cabins hanging in wires, will only be recommendable for small height differences, but if the corners of the railway wagon has poles which can guide the cabin, a few meters should be an acceptable vertical distance. Where these operations take place, there will probably be cabin-handling machinery to increase the safety and flexibility. They could for example:

With such a transfer station a metro train can be supplemented with buses meandering around in the suburbs. This is an application for special cabins with side exit and spaces for back wheels (picture below). Its truck has, like an ordinary bus, the entrance beside the driver.

How to take the bus.
Here we see how the beamway lowers down a frame having teeth for grabbing by holes at the top of the sidewalls

The beamway could in special ferry harbors approach the deck of their ferries – special barges having space for a cabin on the deck. This could also be fast boats for quite long distances.
We here see a cabin ready to be lowered.
(The boat can lower its wheel house, which would else be in the train's way.)

The cabin is now placed on the boat, which raises its wheel house and leaves the harbor

The bench around the cabin is a large block of porous flotation material

The cabin can be kept afloat if the boat goes down.
Can any boat type be safer?

Such light-weight cabins could also be sent into the fuselage of special passenger cabin planes. Such planes would then have double walls, and thus be far more bomb-proof. The passenger safety could be further increased by giving each cabin a parachute in the roof.

As the airport train cabins go into the plane, the airport can do without a passenger terminal. Those wishing to dispense with the entire airport, can send the cabins into a blimp.

Modular Cabin Sizes

The module sizes for the cabins should start with a maximal length corresponding to a railway wagon – the brown one in the pictures. A suitable length for this could be 24 meters, so that it could run like an ordinary railway wagon if placed on a well car. The other lengths should be fractions like 12, 8, 6 and 4 meters. The yellow “bus” in the pictures is 8 meters long. The private cabins in the two last pictures are also 8 meters long, but could have other lengths. A 6 meter car carrier could be useful for moving cars to and from places lacking road connections – mainly islands within jumping distance of the beamway.

A frame for grabbing a 24-cabin could take a shorter passenger cabin (near the center wagon) + one or more compatible mail containers. The frame for grabbing the bus cabin could take two 4-meters mail containers.

Grand stand cabins – 24 meters long.  
They could be placed on the ground before use, or run with the spectators seated.

Also small boats/houseboats could be produced in module format and with compatible grabbable holes, e.g. in the rail as shown in the picture below. Everything else can then be shaped as a real boat, so the difficult combination design of amphibian crafts is avoided. Wherever a beamway takes a shortcut over water, such a boat can be lowered or hoisted. It may become practical for inland people to do this for every boat trip. And large boat-houses for beamway-launchable boats may become popular.

A boat with a rail which can be grabbed by a standard frame.
Ordinary boats could be transported short distances held by loops under the hull.


As long as the weight load on each beam length (30-40 m) doesn't exceed the load of passenger transport – 2-300 kg for each meter train length – the beamway can of course be used for cargo transport. This load can be reduced by using cargo wagons with a smaller cross-section area, and have several meters between wagons. The cargo train may then become quite long, but due to the higher acceleration of this light train, it can avoid getting in the way of other trains. The reduced transport efficiency caused by having intermixed trains with strongly varying weight and speed is avoided.

The limited cargo weight is largely compensated by the adaptability of this rail system. This is also related to the possibilities for automatic (unmanned) driving above the ground scene, and the fact that the track can go over factory fences and into manufacturing halls.

The beamway can take care of the fuel transport of the future by transporting hydrogen tanks. These need not be compact, having high pressures. A few hundred atms will be fine.

Cargo containers hang on the sides of this special freight train, and can be put down on a shopowner's pickup – no station needed.
One or more containers can be replaced by a motor pack – no locomotive needed.
These wagons with vertical chassis are optimal for controlling and distributing the load along the beam.
This beamway is reinforced with (carbon fiber) wires.

Additional Passenger Wagons

A passenger train may be extended with additional passenger wagons at the front and/or rear. The passengers in these must go through the regular wagons, so normally additional trains would be used instead. Extra carriages may, however, be appropriate if they provide extra facilities for existing passengers, and not used for increasing the number of passengers - at least not with a normal passenger density.

Such supplementary wagons can provide:

These are not needed for short trips, so the walk through the regular passenger wagon will not be too annoying. As the passenger densities in these extra wagons are small, the train will not become too heavy. This is because the extra wagons to a small extent increase the weight load on the same beam, but rather on the neighboring beam and the pole between them.

Private Pods

It is popular to propose new transport systems based upon privatized small wagons – often called pods – and often as automatized taxis running on rails or under beams. These proposals imply establishing a new transport infrastructure directed at the transport needs of quite small regions, and they tend to disregard the handicapped, groups needing more than one pod, as well as the need for using toilets during the trip.

The variant to be proposed here follows our principle with a passenger cabin being detachable from the bogie under which it hangs. (A bogie is a little motorized 4-wheeled "wagon" running inside the beam.) These small cabins are so simple and versatile that they are likely to often be privately owned. They can, as depicted below, be carried inside carrier wagons in high-speed trains for long trips, or upon rented or owned cars/boats.

When the cabins are held in the carrier wagon of a fast train, the passengers can walk through a corridor to and from their cabins, the cabins of companion travelers, the toilet and perhaps a (food) store. They needn't complete the trip as a pod traveler or a train passenger, but can change status on the train, using the train's elevator only at the start or the end of the trip. Or they can join the group in another wagon.

Small cabins (under the nearest beam) are here transferred to and from the rear wagon of a train (hanging under the mostly concealed beam). This pod carrier wagon can carry 8 pod wagons. The blue wagon has moved sideways all the way into the carrier, the brown one half-ways in, while the yellow one is still in normal position under the beam. The (upper and lower) doors are still closed for the 5 remaining compartments.

The cabins have small, motorized wheels fore and aft on the top, so that they can move sideways along the transverse mini-beams they are suspended under. From these mini-beams (hanging under the front and back of a bogie), a cabin can move onto abutting mini-beams hanging under the ceiling of a carrier wagon or a parking facility. Cabins can be stacked in multistory parking facilities, as they (and frames with the mini-beams) can be hoisted and lowered by wire (up to 6 meters). This movement can be used for emergency escape in normal terrain.

This shows how a 2.5x1.5 meter cabin can be positioned upon a small car (red outline) or a catamaran boat (blue outline).
Without an external driver compartment (which the limo-sized vehicle above has) the most space-saving seat arrangement, with two reversed seats along the front wall, may not be used.
This car (like the previous limo-sized one) gets a rear baggage trunk when the top-hinged back door is swung somewhat back.

It may be concluded that either of two seat configurations are likely to be chosen for a cabin, depending on if an internal driver's seat is needed.

Cabins with not more then a few folding seats may be used by wheelchairs. For privately owned cabins, many layouts may be used, with foldaway berths, baby seats, storage furniture, etc.

Cabins can also have wheels, motor and batteries, so that they become complete cars. But these will become two-seaters with small wheels and inferior driving characteristics – mainly for local driving.

Transport of Cars

Beamway trains for cars may be useful for various purposes. They can carry cars to places where a road connection will be too expensive and/or bad for the environment – e.g. to sparsely populated islands. Or they can carry cars through a submerged tunnel, where centralized operation is important, and where combustion engines cannot be used. But even if there is a good road connection, a car-carrying beamway will be a good idea – because:

A wagon for cars will have approximately the same shape and appearance as a passenger wagon, but can be made extra long and rigid, so as to not weight down the weak central part of the beam. The wagon's ends – made round and aerodynamic by containing toilets – can slide/swing aside, permitting cars to pass through. The cars are not obstructed by the next wagon, as the gap between wagons can be several meters wide, and a wagon can be rotated sideways by displacing the ends perhaps a meter to different sides.

At the stations, the beam should be so low that the wagons are just above the ground, and then one or both wagon ends can be lowered to the ground. This can be done by means of wires which are so long that wagons in an emergency can be lowered from normal beam height. The station may be a ferry deck, a bridge or a building.

Trains carrying cars will not be particularly heavy. A load weight of 300-350 kg/meter should be about the same as an ordinary passenger wagon should be designed for. Actually, a passenger wagon must be designed for far greater local loads, as its contents may lump together in one end of the wagon.

Mobile Services

The automatic driving enables services which have previously been impossible, or at least uneconomical. A traditional bookmobile, for instance, is about 12 meters long and needs both a librarian and a bus driver. It can be replaced by a beamway wagon which might be 24 meters long and can do without a driver. A simple little sidetrack beam is needed for each stop to be used by this "book tram" and similar services. As passengers are not transported, the cabin can simply be lowered to the ground by wires. It can still have power connection there.

At the day's end, the wagon is hoisted up, and is then quite well secured. It might also run to a similar sidetrack near the librarian's home.

The same principle can be used for e.g. various medical services: mobile dentist, polyclinic, blood bank...

The strongly reduced expenses for wages and fuel could lead to a closedown threat being turned into expansion plans.

Such a service might become rather one-dimensional, but if it had been more two-dimensional, a structure coarseness could still necessitate supplementary short distance transport like car, bike, taxi, local bus... It might actually be easier to obtain an efficient local transport system if short trips to a beamway stop are known to be needed frequently.

If the mobile services are needed at many locations, downhoistable cabins (like the yellow bus cabin depicted above) for use on special trucks may be used. Then a local driver can be engaged for just two small assignments: Move the cabin from the beamway to the point of service in the morning, and then move it back again in the afternoon. Very long cabins (perhaps 24 meters) can be used on roads when it is known on which stretches they are to be employed. Long cabins are easier to handle on the road if they and their trailers are articulated like an articulated bus.

Kindergartens can have their own trains running around in residential areas picking up the kids in the morning, and going out to deliver them in the afternoon. If parents are too late with their delivery in the morning, they deliver to a local short-term kindergarten instead. And if parents are not showing up in the afternoon, they do the pick-up at that place – which may be a wagon able to move as called upon. Anyway, parents should be able to manage without cars.

The main kindergarten can be a large, central facility quite far away, and the wagon can be the child group's own room here. It will also be simple to go driverless on excursion to various places.

Also schools can obtain such an economy of scale when students easily can be transported quite long distances, but these students can use the normal trains. Alternatively to obtaining economy of scale, the school system can make special educational varieties available for a large area.

Running (between) Hospitals

Hospitals will be the first candidates for using a public beamway network for their "private" purposes. That is: They should be able to dispatch their own (mostly small) wagons to and from their own beamway stations in hospitals. Transport of patients, medical staff and parcels (with medicines, equipment...) between hospitals can be automated like the pneumatic tube systems used in hospitals. Ambulance vehicles – and even wagons from normal trains that happens to become involved – can run directly into the emergency room.

This will be possible because long distance lines (for e.g. 200 km/h) and local lines will use compatible and interconnected beamways, with computer controlled operation. This automatization is easy because the beamway vehicles are alone in their elevated level. The local lines will of cause get a stop within a short walk from each hospital. The only line connection costs falling upon a hospital will then be for building a beamway beam (normally 100-200 meters long) going into a hospital building.

Being able to run between hospitals in this manner will enable running hospitals more efficiently and economically.


The beamway is able to dispatch more or less private wagons automatically, and this ability could be used for at least delivering parcels. The central element will then be an automat for storing and delivering parcels of various sizes – like a vending machine. The wagon – a robotic postman – will need such a mechanism for organizing the parcels it distributes. The mechanism needn't be burglar proof, as transferring parcels to the delivery automat is automatic. Each parcel might be stored in a cloth bag, as these easily can hang or lie together in a space saving manner. When the post wagon arrives at the delivery place, it transfers the parcel to another automat. This is – like a vending machine – accessible to the general public, so it must be rather burglarproof. It might have a shelf, perhaps rotating, with movable dividing walls ensuring efficient space utilization. The recipient opens the correct partition with a key or access code. Two shelf sizes may be needed, having different cross-section areas, for accomodating a wide range of parcel formats economically. But some parcels will be too large for a neighborhood facility, so the recipient must take the train to a post office – which might have a staff.

Alternatively, parcels can simply be placed in the open on the delivery site. The recipient will then acknowledge an arrival message by phone, and later signal he is ready to pick up the parcel on the site.

To send a parcel is somewhat more complicated. The automats could be made reversible, but the system must have the destination address machine-readable. It could be entered with an app on a cellular phone (which can check the address in an address database), or a USB stick with the address in a certain file could be plugged into the automat.

If this system becomes cheap and simple, it might also become used for goods to be recycled.

A new Tourism- or Home Type

When passenger transport in standard cabins starts becoming common, people will buy their own camping cabins and perhaps compatible small boats. Special cruise ships for these will actually be container ships which have platforms for private module cabins instead of normal fixed ship cabins. When the passengers arrive at an interesting destination, a beamway beam will be pushed in over the ship and lift up the cabins of the passengers who want to get ashore there. They will then be transported to the campsite (or small boat harbor) of their choice. For the passengers, this will be much simpler and cheaper than traveling with a private motor home.

Another camping cabin is put down on the camping site.
With a simple servo power mechanism, the user can pull the cabin a few hundred meters away from the track.

If a recreational beamway goes from a coastal town and up to the mountain, it could carry people's cottage cabins for perhaps short winter stays. It could then pass near skiing hills and function as a ski tow. If it at the coast goes out in the water, small wagons could pull water skiers – and the beamway could carry small boats to the sea or up to storage.

It is now common that people get a cabin or summer place in the mountain and/or at the sea, and they may have a boat at the seaside. This may be used for only some weeks each year. Or they may have a motorhome/RV, 6-12 meters long, and might bring along some bikes and an inflatable boat. It is a demanding and slow task to move this around.

With beamway cabins, however, people without a driver's license can easily, rapidly and quite cheaply go on vacation in their own vacation cabins or home cabin – perhaps 24 meters long. Such a cabin could have a separate water section that could be moved (servo pulled) to the place where drinking water is filled and waste water/compost is emptied.

Vacationers may in their neighborhood have a secure cabin storage place where they move into a preheated cabin, and then let this be transported to the vacation resort of choice in perhaps 200 km/h. And they may additionally get a beamway-compatible car, minicar or boat. Even if crowds should choose to do this on public holidays, the beamway can handle such a stream of cabins with high speed and safety.

If a moderate cabin length (6-8 meters) is used, the cabin may be placed upon a bus chassis, and may then be driven around like an ordinary mobile home – as shown in this chapter. This chapter also shows how cabins (up to 24 meters long) can be used as/with a houseboat.

As such cabins can have an area of 50-60 m², they can have extensive use as homes. If a home needs more than one cabin, these can be moved while tied together by means of a somewhat flexible connection. Or the cabin can have extendable/retractable side walls. A cabin home can have a garage with a car in one end.

This mobility can be useful for going on vacation in the home. Or when changing workplace (or life companion).

When homes are relocated like this by the beamway, the governmental address files may be updated automatically. Delivery of parcels, groceries etc., as well as removal of garbage can easily be automatized.

A really two-dimensional residential area can be covered by means of beams that can be moved sideways.

The terrain needn't be so flat, because when a cabin has been lowered to the desired height, support legs can be lowered to the ground. Cabins on legs will also be more flood resistant. If a flood destroys the terrain, cabins can simply be lifted up and perhaps moved away.

Private cabins and public train cabins can share a common system for cabin movement (by beam or boat), data communication, power supply, water supply, toilet emptying, garbage disposal, external cabin washing, cabin repair etc..

When cabins are placed from above, they can be placed upon sockets which give connection to electric power, water and sewage.


When the economy of passenger transport forms are evaluated, the crucial point is how far people will want to commute daily with the transport in question. About 40 minutes each way is commonly accepted. But an important point is: Will it be possible to work with e.g. a laptop computer en route? In this respect, the train is commonly regarded as superior in comparison with the bus. Trains may have office compartments, and this seems to be unfeasible in buses. This may be due to the limited passenger area available behind a bus driver.

The beamway will in this respect have the train's advantages, as it can have much passenger space without requiring more (driver) manpower. Office wagons may be attached at the front or rear of an ordinary beamway train, as they are used by few passengers taking not so short trips. Or special commuter trains may be used – for special subscribers managing without staff help. Wagons with office space may be useful for airport trains, but it is much more difficult to extend a conventional train track out to an airport.

Commuters often go to and from cities. At city stations, conventional trains usually have to move slowly through complex track systems, whereas a beamway train quite rapidly can get up to full speed – perhaps 200 km/h. The acceptable commuting distance should thus exceed 100 km.

The miserable weight adaptation of conventional rail will be really blatant when the extra lightly loaded office wagons are used.

The Disabled

This is about a suspended monorail with an elevator, so that passengers walk – or drive a wheelchair – onto a floor about 5-10 cm above the ground level. The floor could be a few centimeters thinner at the door, and a threshold ramp can be pushed out there, so that wheelchairs can easily roll in and out. And this applies to stops on any level ground, so that special platforms will not be needed. At some locations, or at some times, the traffic schedules could be so flexible that stops (with elevator use) could be improvised at rather random places. (Sending home people at night, or children/disabled.)

The competing ground traffic vehicle types are car, bus, tram, light rail and train. They all have the floor above a chassis causing a height difference of at least 20 cm. This is much. A train as much as 5 meters above the ground will reduce the height difference to 0 cm thanks to its elevator.

Wheelchairs will need special platforms for accessing the top of a chassis, and this implies designated stations, adapted to certain wagon shapes. It is certainly possible to make special wagons where parts of the floor can be lowered towards the ground through the chassis, but such facilities are likely to remain quite rare.

Also motorized wheelchairs will be able to drive into the elevator. But some of these are quite large and heavy, so their prospects for being admitted will depend on circumstances, necessitating a call to the transport company when such a trip is planned.

Beamway wagons could near the elevator have a seat-free area, perhaps two meters long – for bikes, wheelchairs and large items. Such a weight spreading suits the beamway well. Compact transport is not of interest here, but rather long wagons in short and cheap trains.

Long trips will normally entail a combination of short-distance transportation (like bus) and long-distance transportation (like train). The beamway is quite unique, being suitable for both local and long-distance lines. When these two are combined, they can and should be properly integrated, so that the local lines not merely give connection with distant long-distance lines, but are really useful as local lines. When the two meet, wagons or cabins may be transferred. But even under technically simple conditions, the transfer is simple for the passengers: Go (or roll a wheelchair) between the elevators of the two trains – something like 3-50 meters.

By having a conductor at the entrance in the elevator, the beamway train can give special service also for the disabled.

The Environment

If uneven terrain has to be levelled as required by conventional railway, there will be much dynamiting and landfilling in some meters' width throughout the landscape. And the railway line constitutes a barrier almost all the way (and/or it often kills many animals in its way). The beamway, however, takes just a fraction of a square meter for a single or double pole, and this with 30-40 meter intervals. Several meters of terrain height variations are compensated for through pole length variations. This amounts to a 99% reduction of both terrain razing and barrier formation. If the beam is carried by movable racks standing upon the ground, there may not be noticable traces remaining if the whole line is later removed or moved.

Also the urban environment is improved if the light rail is really light, able to go "upstairs". No house must be removed, no road or street closed. Elevated traffic can use much higher speeds than on the crowded ground level. The car drivers will then discover they could reach their destination quicker by rail, so "Park and ride" could finally become popular.

No matter how fast the elevated traffic runs, children will be safe down on the ground, as they simply can't get at the elevated vehicles. If the elevated traffic should become too annoying, it is easy to put it under the ground.

If a road or railway line is already going in the right direction, it is easy to place a beamway line above it. Terrain levelling that has been done, will simplify the beamway construction. New rail bridges will not be needed, as the beamway goes along on old bridges.

Light-weight trains will naturally use less energy for overcoming gravity and friction, but the air resistance will be the same, as it is independent of the weight. The beamway's beam will, if it goes approximately in the east-west direction, be a fine carrier for solar cell panels. The beamway system has already the area, technical personell, cabling and now and then a local power consumer.

Standard railways use freely hanging overhead power lines emitting much electromagnetic pollution. The power line of the beamway, however, goes in the interior of a steel beam which blocks the electromagnetic fields quite efficiently.

Lots of people try to be environmentally conscious, but have an antitechnological attitude they believe is conducive to protecting the environment. These people tend to end up as supporters for the old heavy rail. This is a dumb attitude which does real environmental protection a serious disservice.

If the Beamway Fails to Perform

The greatest point of uncertainty is: Will a beam with the suggested dimensions (80 x 80 cm) be able to carry the weight of cabins big enough for bus/train use? If this turns out to be problematic, the distance between the poles may have to be reduced from the suggested 40 meters to perhaps less than 30. The savings in ground consumption/razing will then be reduced from 99 % to perhaps only 98 %.

But what if such problems are encountered after the beamway is built? The beam is symmetrical, so it can simply be turned upside-down if it sags. It is also feasible to simply bend the beam by pressing its middle part upwards. This is quite easy because the beam is split along its length, so that one half can be bent at a time.

Besides, the beam could be reinforced with wires going up to towers (extended poles), or the load on each meter of the beam must be reduced. We could start by assuming the passengers will be sitting 2+2 abreast like in a normal 2.5 meter wide bus, and with normal legroom. If the beam turns out to have less carrying ability, one may have to go down to 2+1 abreast, as well as far more legroom. And consequently the train departures may become twice as frequent.

The passengers may very well hope to get luxury transportation this way.

With this beam suspension method, it is (in cases of problematic beam sagging) easy to get a short distance between the suspension points, or to move them to the sagging beam parts.
The number of poles is also reduced, giving less disturbance of e.g. agricultural areas.
(The towers can have single pillars if needed.)
Large towers can be some hundred meters, perhaps a few kilometers apart.
Quite uneven terrain can be traversed in this manner.

Existing Beamways in Germany

Single-track beamway (the H-bahn) in Dortmund
The sign indicates the maximum height for vehicles on the road: 4.5 meters.

A double-tracked beamway in Düsseldorf
(the SkyTrain at the airport)

We fly through a forest in
The common line construction procedure is to raze and level the ground, so that a barrier is obtained – upon which trains will struggle with snow in the winter. The trains should be heavy and complicated, requiring skilled drivers.
The trains here are unmanned.

Both these SIPEM lines are computer controlled.

The rib structure on the outside of the beam serves to stiffen the sides, so that they will not be bent out by the weight load on the inside. According to the present proposal, full width wheel axles are avoided, and then a varying track width will be ok.

The Main Points

The beamway (a suspended monorail) can:

This was a listing of the advantages, and a corresponding listing of the problematic points may be expected. But the list is written by a problem solver, and this website contains material tantamount to a book about how the various problems can be solved. This is mainly in The Beamway – Technical details.

The main concern is adressed above in If the Beamway Fails to Perform.

Copyleft   Olav Næss 2006-13.