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'Atlas Shrugged' pushing high-speed rail?

Trailer for 'Part I' shows trains very similar to proposed U.S. high-speed rail trains, in contrast to Rand's original railroad track and bridge update plot.

Contemporary high-speed rail seems to have gotten the nod as a plan worthy of pursuit from the makers of the long-awaited film version of "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's controversial Objectivist novel in which the railroad industry plays a key role.

Production company The Strike released its first trailer for "Atlas Shrugged, Part I" last week. Due out April 15th, the film was directed by Paul Johansson, actor/director of "One Tree Hill" fame.

Dialogue in the trailer signals that the book's ideas promoting the value of capitalism, rational self-interest, the intellectually elite, and minimal government interference in society still hold. However, as one might expect, some aspects of the original story appear to have been tweaked for the film version.

Train that appears in the "Atlas Shrugged, Part I" trailer (left) alongside train in an artist's rendering of the proposed California high-speed rail line.
Train that appears in the "Atlas Shrugged, Part I" trailer (left) alongside train in an artist's rendering of the proposed California high-speed rail line. Screenshots by Edward Moyer/CNET

Judging from the trailer, the movie seems to be set in present-day America (the book never specified a year, but it alluded to Depression-era conditions while including 1950s technology). Perhaps the most interesting change, however, is what appears to be a subtle difference in the plot.

Rand's book had protagonist Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive, championing train tracks and a bridge made with "Rearden Metal," an alloy invented by steel magnate Hank Rearden that's supposedly so innovative it's bound to make steel and aluminum obsolete. In planning the construction of a new rail line, Taggart decides to use a diesel locomotive capable of 100 mph for the inaugural trip. But the trailer for the movie seems to have Taggart championing high-speed rail trains of the sort currently in service around the world.

The trailer includes footage of old train locomotives breaking down and getting into accidents, and shots of Taggart and Rearden driving what is clearly a new high-speed rail train (see the second video here for a look at real-life examples).

"Atlas Shrugged, Part I" could only be more relevant to today's rail situation in the U.S. if the Rearden Metal was not actually metal at all, but something akin to the Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) developed by Axion and Rutgers University.

Axion announced recently that its RSC is going to be used to make railroad ties for several U.S. sets of tracks. Like the fictional Rearden Metal in "Atlas Shrugged," RSC was also initially met with skepticism and scrutiny regarding its strength and durability. A now famous photo of a U.S. military tank crossing a military bridge made from the recycled plastics material, and several military contracts won by Axion, seems to have eased public skepticism of the material's worth.

The real-life U.S. high-speed rail project is backed by a combination of federal, state, and private funding. But one could safely assume that the fictional high-speed rail project of "Atlas Shrugged, Part I" is privately funded, in keeping with Rand's original plot and her personal belief that "the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off."

Adding a high-speed rail angle to the film might, actually, be the greatest tribute the filmmakers pay to the book's original intent. Its inclusion could result in a film that's of interest to all sides of the political spectrum, and, therefore, maximize its profit potential.