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Railroads are one of best methods of moving materials over landscapes. In the short run they are expensive to build yet over the long run the prove to be very valuable. Your other options are to go over the rough or paved surface in a vehicle or to mix your material with a liquid or gas and send it through a pipe.

Lunar Environment

The Lunar Soil consists of extremely fine crushed rock. This acts like abrasive powder and will electrostatically adhere to anything in contact with it. Vehicles travelling over the open surface will experience wear at an accelerated rate. Paving a road with dust free materials does not solve the problem because the sunlight will cause the dust to climb up and over structures to about a meter in height.

One solution to this problem is an elevated railroad supported above what the dust can reach. The cost of building such a structure compared to earth is greatly reduced due to the 1/6 Gravity and firmly compacted water free soils. Rust and weathering is not a factor. Electrifying the rails is quite easy as there is no corrosion of even calcium to consider. If you build it you pretty much can count on it performing even under heavy load for decades if not hundreds of years.


With such a thin atmosphere and no oxygen, Mars has essentially the same dynamics as the moon only with more gravity (better cornering).


All asteroid like objects have a gravitational force insufficient for traditional railways. The modifications necessary are two fold. An upper tract must be added like roller coaster to be able to go a reasonable speed without jumping the track. All materials must be securely fastened with either lids or binding clamps.

Types of Railways


In the soil of the moon there is elemental nickel iron that can be easily collected and thus a strategic resource. At a concentration of only a few kilograms per cubic meter, it makes sense to build a railway to open up new regions once the local soil has been processed. This need not be a major railway as the amount of material that can be passed over even a model guage can be hundreds of tons a day. The rails are easy to make from the iron so the real cost is in electrically powering the system.


Once you have a sizable base and need higher volumes of material, you simply leverage the existing facilities to build a larger railway. Railroads are exceptional for automated delivery and could conceivably be launched like carrier pidgeons to far off secondary bases. A lunar railway of about a meter wide would be able to transport virtually any freight.


For passengers and large more fragile freight, you will need protection from radiation as well as the extremes of the solar insolation. A railway with tracks several meters apart (wider than on earth) should have the desired characteristics of fast travel in secure accomodations. Once you have a developed network of railways the need for vehicles to drive on the surface is reduced to a local level. Railways are far less to maintain and last significantly longer.

Design Issues

Thermal expansion issue
Switching issue
Derailment avoidance issue
Vestibulation issue

Motive power

Solar electric network
Polar power tower network
Fuel cell
Lunar fuels

Right of way

Real estate grants
Siding-based starter settlements

See Also

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