Speed on steel wheels has fascinated engineers for nearly two centuries, and a string of stunning records in the last 25 years has pushed railway engineering towards new frontiers.
Japan—pioneer of high-speed train technology—set the precedent with its legendary bullet trains in 1964; since then a dozen countries have joined the high-speed revolution. Today, China is setting the pace as it crafts a nationwide network of super-railways, and Morocco and Saudi Arabia are on the cusp of launching trains that travel at 300km/h. The USA lags far behind, outpaced by Asia and Western Europe, where Eurostar links London to the international high-speed network—although a new-generation railway to northern England is still missing.
Here is the full story of high-speed trains, retold in a journey across countries and continents.