LaCroix wrote:How bad would the temperature difference during the day be for operation? I believe you could keep the overhead lines in tension using counterweights, and just minimal maintennance, but I guess the rails would be working thenselves loose rather fast.
One of the more heavily worked railroads by tonnage on earth is the Sishen–Saldanha narrow gauge iron ore railway in South Africa, with 50kv overhead electrification. The normal size of a train is 210 cars of 100 tons each, about 4km long, and they are individually the heaviest trains run on earth on a scheduled basis at over 21,000 tons. Absurdly impressive for 3ft 6in gauge. I don't think the track coming apart is going to be a problem if the South Africans can run trains like that through the edge of a big desert. The US also has couple of freight lines that run through the Arizona and Nevada deserts that take ~150 car trains of double stacked containers, and Australia runs non trivial trains through massive desert distances. If you use modern track construction methods the rails will hold together just fine. All rail joints are welded, and you hold the rails to the ties with clips rather then spikes. From time to time a rail joint will break from thermal expansion, but that's life on any railroad and can be countered by employing machines that electronically sound the rails for cracks as they move along. IIRC this can be done now at speeds over 40mph.
Out of interest - we know that this rail system would be very expensive to operate - how about the alternative I proposed in jest - digging a channel?
That would only work if it was also in Egypt, defeating a lot of the point, and it'd still be massively expensive, certainly far more then the few billion being talked about for a railroad. I suspect the best single option would be to make the existing canal a lot wider so ships could go faster without eroding the channel banks so badly. A double channel could only be justified by a massive increase in world shipping. You could snake a railway line around many of them and climb over the worst, a canal would have to blast through everything.
After all, you can do this right next to the Egyptian border, so you don't have to deal with having to cross it. The terrain isn't a huge granite slab, and mostly unused, except for the Gaza side, but even there, there isn't so much big stuff that you couldn't just move it. After all, you'd have to do the same as well if you were to build a harbour and train station.
We can move whole mountains if we want, that doesn't mean its cheap idea. A canal through Israel is a non starter given how many high ridges are in the way. This map suggests you have elevations up to 1,000m tall in the way of a canal across Israel by the shortest possible route into Gaza, and not less then 500-750m tall stuff if you took a longer route with turns. Lack of water means locks are not an option, you'd have to have a sea level canal with a 500m deep cutting 40km long! http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... graphy.png
In comparison the Gaillard Cutting at Panama involved a average depth of about 40m, and the highest summit of the ridge before the cut was made was only 59m above sea level. The distance was also much shorter then what would be involved for this, closer to 12km for the cutting.
After all, Rhine-Main-Danube channel
was built for about 2.3 billion €, over a part of the Alps and had 16 gates, levees, pumps, bridges and whatnot, and all the excavated material had to be dealt with instead of just being dumped in the general vicinity like you could do in the relatively flat Negev.
That's an irrigation ditch in comparison to this idea, and hell, I suspect Japan now has storm sewers with greater possible water flow. Those canal barges could go as deck cargo on the kind of freighters the world uses for ocean going trade now. In fact the only way you are going to get a trans Israeli canal at a remotely sane cost or price tag would be to blast a canal to the dead sea, flood the dead sea basin until it reaches sea level, and then blast a canal to connect it to the med in the far north. This would also flood non trivial areas of Jordan and wipe out all the prime farmland, but that is the PRICE OF PROGRESS!
Build such a channel, and use small container vessels to ship the cargo through. If the ground makes it easy to excavate deep , make it deep and wide enough that container vessels of mediterranian size could be put into the transfer routes, as well.
Small ships wouldn't change the need for a sea level canal (unless we build a railroad to move the ships, which was proposed as a dead serious alternative to Panama, Russia has a 3,000ton capacity ship lift semi railroad now), and frankly if you are going to make one at all it might as well be giant to have a greater chance of recouping the cost this century. The ground is solid rock past the first few feet of earth and sand on the surface, and maybe not even that in some areas. This would be the kind of project that explodes about 5,000 tons of explosives per day (they more or less do this in mountain top removal), for a few decades. But then on the plus side, Israel could dump all the spoil in the sea off Gaza and massively expand the land area of that place so people complain less.
As I said, it would also make any attempt of invasion (and smuggling) from Egypt much harder, so you could even finance it in part as a military project - "THE BIG MOAT"
It would work well for that, but then a concrete faced 300ft thick, 100 foot high anti tank wall with ramps for vehicles on the Israeli side and 'barbed wire' fields made out of battleship anchor chains and I beams to ensnare tanks would likely cost less.
"This cult of special forces is as sensible as to form a Royal Corps of Tree Climbers and say that no soldier who does not wear its green hat with a bunch of oak leaves stuck in it should be expected to climb a tree"
— Field Marshal William Slim 1956