by guest blogger Stan Thompson
Fifteen years ago the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy introduced the public to the hydrail future of the railway industry in an invited article, “The Mooresville Hydrail Initiative” (February 2004: volume 29, issue 4, page 438).
One main reason for the IJHE article was to establish a short, Internet-searchable name for hydrogen fuel cell railway traction technology so that developers, scholars and everyone else who could help bring it alive could find each other and collaborate.
We spread the hydrail name far and wide in the public domain as fast as we could so that no one would limit it by making the generic railway term a service mark. It was meant for everybody.
But no matter how hard we tried, many corporate communications types just didn’t get it. Some capitalized hydrail, making others reluctant to use it. Instead they inadvertently renamed it “hydrogen railway” or other generic descriptors—blinding search engines to its existence, rather like God frustrating the general contractor for the Tower of Babel project by taking away a shared language.
If a “thing” doesn’t have a name, for a lot of purposes it just doesn’t exist. In our time (since the Internet recreated the world) if the name isn’t searchable the reality it represents exists minimally, if at all.
It didn’t help that the Oxford English Dictionary was coy about whether to admit hydrail as a bona fide word. To this day my local library cannot tell me whether the OED has relented after thirteen International Hydrail Conferences at very prestigious universities (last year at the University of Rome II at Tor Vergata).
Thus this plea to PR, Corp Com types and journalists around the world. Hydrogen fuel cell railway traction has a name: hydrail (contracted from hydrogen railway).
If you feel a need to append a descriptor, thats fine; it actually helps: “Last year the first hydrail (hydrogen fuel cell railway) train went into service in Niedersachsen, Germany.” If you choke at that, it’s OK to say, ” “Last year the first hydrogen fuel cell railway (hydrail) train went into service in Niedersachsen, Germany.”
But please don’t capitalize hydrail or infer that it’s a nickname or some other alternative to the “real” designation. It is the real designation.
You wouldn’t write that “Norfolk Southern’s coal-fired boiled water (steam) locomotive pulled an excursion train from Salisbury to Asheville” or that “GE and Caterpillar supplied the fossil-fueled compression-ignition (diesel) locomotives.”
Hydrail (the word) debuted in print fifteen years ago. Hydrail (the reality) debuted on steel tracks for the ticket-buying public in China, as urban trams, in 2016 and as intercity passenger trains last year in Germany. So far, about twenty countries have deployed hydrail or announced that they intend to.
Hydrail’s a real word—and has been one for fifteen years.
Please use it freely.