As a vision of the future it is a little underwhelming. A battered shipping container sits on top of a black platform that straddles a 130m (400ft) raised track. As I climb into the metal box, I note there are no seats and very little to hold on to.
I am still excited though, as I am about to ride the only magnetic levitation, or Maglev, train in the United States, owned and operated by General Atomic.
A red light flashes, there is a jolt and then a sense that we are floating...because we are. The platform beneath the cargo container I am in is being buoyed up and moved along by powerful electromagnets, allowing the train to move with low friction and no moving parts. As we move off, there is hardly any sound. A gentle whine is the only indication of the current flowing through the track below, and the main noise we can hear is trucks on the nearby freeway. As the shipping container gathers speed, the wind blows through the open doors and the ride is smooth and effortless. Just 20 seconds later we are at a standstill, but it is enough to help me understand why proponents believe Maglev systems are the future of trains and high-speed, long-distance travel.