«High-speed Railway»
Рус / Eng


In 2008, Spanish manufacturer Talgo shocked the world when it announced that it was developing a train called Avril with a top speed of 236 mph. If the company fulfills that objective by next year as currently planned, it could play a major role in the world high-speed rail market, especially in the United States, where it already has a small foothold. For now, however, Talgo remains a marginal player whose fast train products operate in Spain alone.



Though Talgo’s involvement in high-speed vehicles is a relatively recent phenomenon, it has been constructing trains since 1942, when it was founded by Alejandro Goicoechea and José Luis Oriol. The company’s earliest products, constructed in association with the American Car and Foundry Company, served U. S.  customers in the Midwest and Northeast, as well as routes in Spain and Portugal.

High-speed Talgo, 1942

In the late 1960s, Talgo pioneered variable gauge axle technology that allowed its trains to run directly between Spain and France, whose tracks are of different widths. At the border, trains pass through gauge changers at slow speeds and telescope their wheels in and out automatically depending on direction of travel. The November 1968 journey between Madrid and Paris on a Talgo train was the first ever not requiring a customer transfer.

Talgo also made a name for itself because of its development of tilting technology, which allowed its trains to speed around curves at fast speeds. Unlike more modern tilting vehicles, such as the Italian Pendolino or the German ICE-T, which use computers to regulate train tilting, Talgo takes advantage of natural inertial forces to smooth the ride — trains simply lean into curves.

Speeding around a curve with a titling

With the introduction of the Talgo Pendular in 1980, that technology became standard throughout the company’s product line. Talgo marketed to the Northwest United States, where the trains were novel enough to encourage the states of Oregon and Washington to buy several examples for their Cascades service. Though the trains, which travel between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are capable of up to 125 mph, they’re limited to 79 mph because of track deficiencies and Federal Railroad Administration requirements.

Talgo Pendular system


The advanced technologies Talgo has developed over the years have primed it for serious competition in the world rail market, but it came late to the high-speed game. The company began designing its Talgo 350 trainset in 1994, but didn’t get it onto the tracks between Madrid and Barcelona-as part of Spain’s much envied AVE high-speed intercity rail service-until 2007.

Talgo 350

Despite its distinctive nose, designed to reduce noise pollution — Spaniards have nicknamed the 350 “pato,” which means duck — and it has become a mainstay on the country’s ever-expanding rail network, traveling up to 205 mph. Yet no other country has yet purchased one of the company’s high-speed products.

This despite the fact that Talgo offers a 160 mph diesel train called the XXI and an equally quick gauge-changing vehicle referred to as the Talgo 250.

But there is potential in the lower-speed market for the short-term. For places like the United States, where track isn’t yet up to par, Series VIII railcars can be attached to conventional locomotives and upgraded to faster service in the future. This last offering recently got the support of Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, a rail advocate who has purchased two trainsets for the Chicago-Milwaukee route. Talgo plans to set up a manufacturing plant in the state to assemble the vehicles.

Talgo XXI

That new facility could be expanded if and when Talgo scores more U. S.  contracts. With the the 236 mph Avril train likely to attract more customers, that seems likely. After all, if reality meets expectations, Avril will be the fastest operating conventional train in the world and Talgo claims that it will offer higher capacity and lower operations costs than Alstom’s new AGV or Bombardier’s Zefiro, both of which will be appealing alternatives.

Talgo’s presence on the North American market with a manufacturing plant coming to Wisconsin and intercity trains already on the ground in the Northwest gives it a leg up in the race for train purchases in the U. S.  If Avril’s promise comes to fruition, the company will have no problem securing vehicle orders.