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MLX01 maglev train at Yamanashi test track
MLX01 maglev train Superconducting magnet bogie
Levitation and guidance coils

The SCMaglev (Superconducting Maglev)[1][2] is a magnetic levitation train system developed by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) and the Railway Technical Research Institute (association of Japan Railways Group). The system was previously referred to as "MLU", after the names of several test vehicles and for having a U-shaped maglev track.[3] The MLX01 (X meaning experimental) is one of the latest designs of a series of Maglev trains in development in Japan since the 1970s. In December 2003, a three-car train reached a maximum speed of 581 km/h (361 mph) (world speed record for rail vehicles) in a manned vehicle run.[4]


The SCMaglev system uses an electrodynamic suspension (EDS) system. Installed in the trains' bogies are superconducting magnets, and the guideways contain two sets of metal coils.

The current levitation system utilizes a series of coils wound into a "figure 8" along both walls of the guideway. These coils are also cross-connected underneath the track.[3]

Levitation System
Levitation system
Guidance System
Guidance system
Propulsion System
Propulsion system

As the train accelerates, the magnetic fields of its superconducting magnets induce a current into these coils due to the magnetic field induction effect. If the train were centered with the coils, the electrical potential would be balanced and no currents would be induced. However, as the train runs on rubber wheels at relatively low speeds, the magnetic fields are positioned below the center of the coils, causing the electrical potential to no longer be balanced. This creates a reactive magnetic field opposing the superconducting magnet's pole (in accordance with Lenz's law), and a pole above that attracts it. Once the train reaches 150 km/h (93 mph), there is sufficient current flowing to lift the train 100 mm (4 in) above the guideway.[3]

These coils also generate guiding and stabilizing forces. Because they are cross-connected underneath the guideway, if the train moves off-center, currents are induced into the connections that correct its positioning.[3]

SCMaglev also utilizes a linear synchronous motor (LSM) propulsion system, which powers a second set of coils in the guideway.


Japanese National Railways (JNR) began research on a linear propulsion railway system in 1962, with the ultimate goal of developing a system capable of linking Tokyo and Osaka in one hour. Shortly after the concept of superconducting magnetic levitation was patented in the United States by Brookhaven National Laboratory Researchers in 1969, JNR announced development of the Superconducting Maglev (SCMaglev) system. The first successful levitation run of this system was achieved at a short track at JNR's Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) in 1972.[5]

Miyazaki Test Track[edit]

In 1977, testing of the SCMaglev system moved to a new 7 km test track in Hyūga, Miyazaki. By 1980, the track was modified from a "reverse-T" shape to the "U" shape used today. In 1987, JNR was privatized and development of the SCMaglev was handed over to the newly formed JR Central. In 1989, JR Central made the decision to construct a more comprehensive testing facility containing tunnels, steeper gradients and curves.[5] After maglev tests were moved to this new facility, RTRI began to allow the test of ground effect trains based on wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) at the Miyazaki Test Track in 1999.[6]

Yamanashi Maglev Test Line[edit]

Construction of the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line began in 1990 and concluded with the opening of the 18.4 km (11.4 mi) "priority section" in Tsuru, Yamanashi in 1997. Testing of the MLX01 vehicles was carried out from 1997 to the fall of 2011, when the facility was temporarily closed while the line was extended to 42.8 km (26.6 mi) and upgraded to commercial specifications.[7] Testing resumed in June 2013, earlier than the originally scheduled September date, utilizing 5 of the 14 pre-production L0 Series Shinkansen vehicles constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JR Central subsidiary Nippon Sharyo.[8][9] The five-car trainset is scheduled to be tested at speeds up to 500 km/h by the end of July 2013.[9]

Commercial use[edit]

In 2009, the Maglev Technological Practicality Evaluation Committee (MTPEC) under the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) deemed the SCMaglev system ready for commercial operation. In 2011, MLIT granted JR Central permission to operate the SCMaglev system on their planned Chūō Shinkansen linking Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027, and to Osaka by 2045. Environmental impact assessments are currently underway.[7]

Since 2010, JR Central has also been promoting the SCMaglev system in international markets with a focus on the Northeast Corridor of the United States.[1] In 2013, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe offered the SCMaglev system to President Barack Obama as a symbol of Japan-U.S. cooperation.[10]


ML500 1979 world speed record holder of 517 km/h (321 mph) on display in National Transportation Museum in Osaka
MLX01-1 at Expo 2005
MLU001's superconducting magnet and a liquid helium tank on top of it
JR–Maglev MLX01-1 at SCMaglev and Railway Park, Nagoya, April 2013
  • 1972 – LSM200
  • 1972 – ML100
  • 1975 – ML100A
  • 1977 – ML500
  • 1979 – ML500R (remodeled ML500)
  • 1980 – MLU001
  • 1987 – MLU002
  • 1993 – MLU002N
  • 1995 – MLX01 (MLX01-1, 11, 2)
  • 1997 – MLX01 (MLX01-3, 21, 12, 4)
  • 2002 – MLX01 (MLX01-901, 22)
  • 2009 – MLX01 (MLX01-901A, 22A: remodeled 901 and 22)
  • 2013 – L0 Series Shinkansen
No. Type Note Built
MLX01-1 Kōfu-end car with double-cusp head Displayed at the SCMaglev and Railway Park 1995
MLX01-11 Standard intermediate car
MLX01-2 Tokyo-end car with aero-wedge head
MLX01-3 Kōfu-end car with aero-wedge head Displayed at the Railway Technical Research Institute 1997
MLX01-21 Long intermediate car
MLX01-12 Standard intermediate car
MLX01-4 Tokyo-end car with double-cusp head
MLX01-901A Kōfu-end car with long head Remodeled and renamed from MLX01-901 in 2009 2002
MLX01-22A long intermediate car Remodeled and renamed from MLX01-22 in 2009


Manned records[edit]

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
60 (37.3) ML100 Maglev RTRI of JNR 1972
400.8 (249.0) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1987 Two-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
394.3 (245.0) MLU002 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track November 1989 Single-car
411 (255.4) MLU002N Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1995 Single-car
531 (329.9) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, Japan 12 December 1997 Three-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
552 (343.0) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 14 April 1999 Five-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
581 (361.0) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 2 December 2003 Three-car train set. Current land speed record for rail vehicles. World speed record for all trains.

Unmanned records[edit]

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
504 (313.2) ML-500 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track 12 December 1979
517 (321.2) ML-500 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track 21 December 1979
352.4 (219.0) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track January 1986 Three-car train set
405.3 (251.8) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track January 1987 Two-car train set
431 (267.8) MLU002N Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1994 Single-car
550 (341.8) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 24 December 1997 Three-car train set
548 (340.5) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 18 March 1999 Five-car train set

Relative passing speed records[edit]

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
966 (600) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line December 1998 Former world relative passing speed record
1,003 (623) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line November 1999 Former world relative passing speed record
1,026 (638) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 16 November 2004 Current world relative passing speed record


  • Hood, Christopher P. (2006). Shinkansen – From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32052-6. 
  1. ^ a b "Test Ride of Superconducting Maglev by The US Secretary of Transportation, Mr. Ray LaHood". Central Japan Railway Company. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "Central Japan Railway Company Annual Report 2012". Central Japan Railway Company. pp. 23–25. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Study of Japanese Electrodynamic-Suspension Maglev Systems". Argonne National Laboratory, IL (United States). Energy Systems Div. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Railway Technology Avalanche No. 7, "Our Manned Maglev System Attains Maximum Speed Record of 581 km/h" (1 January 2005). Retrieved on 16 November 2008.
  5. ^ a b "History". U.S.-Japan MAGLEV. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "University professor proposes Aerotrain as more efficient alternative to maglev". Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Central Japan Railway Company | Data Book 2012". Central Japan Railway Company, p.24-25.
  8. ^ "リニア新車両は三菱重工と日本車輌製造に内定 JR東海社長" [Maglev vehicles to be built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Sharyo - JR Central President] (in Japanese). Japan: Sankei Shimbun. 21 December 2010. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b 7月中にも最高時速500キロに 新型車両「L0系」 [New L0 series trains to reach 500 km/h during July]. Chunichi Web (in Japanese). Japan: The Chunichi Shimbun. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "日本のリニア技術、米国に提供を表明…首相" [PM announces offer of Japanese maglev technology to the United States]" (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun, 2 February 2013

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°35′N 138°56′E / 35.583°N 138.933°E / 35.583; 138.933