Dave Essel – A Train Wreck as a Prophet

Uncle Volodya says, "Since light travels faster than sound, Dave Essel appears bright until you hear him speak"

Hi, Dave – yeah, this is your ass calling. Good, I’m doing good; how was your summer? Anyway, I was wondering if you could take your head out of me. Seriously, it’s getting uncomfortable. What? You’re doing research? Well, like, how long you gonna be, do you think?

Maybe you don’t remember – God knows there’s enough amazing foolishness in the world to distract you – but a little while ago we did a bit of a rip job on one of Dave Essel’s translations at La Russophobe. Remember his mocking, sarcastic piece on Russia’s high-speed train? He had a great time yukking it up about how it wasn’t really very fast, it was ridiculously expensive, the company that makes it (Siemens of Germany) is corrupt, it’s unsafe, the Russian people hate it and throw stones at it, and on and on and on.

We pointed out (by we, I mean you and I, not that “team blog” stuff) that the train was expensive because it was designed to compete with domestic air routes (as high-speed trains have already done with great success in Europe), that it had in fact achieved very respectable speeds in tests and that some of its commercial route still takes it over unmodified track, which is what slowed it down. We demonstrated that Amtrak had caused many more deaths than SAPSAN – although, to be fair, Amtrak has been operating for a great deal longer. Finally, we speculated that Siemens was stoked about its Russian high-speed rail project because it was hoping to get a contract to replace America’s  critically panned, creaky Amtrak.

And now, it has.

The Russian Flag, flying over a leader in high-speed rail

This is the very same train as SAPSAN, the Siemens Velaro. It will start in Florida and, if as successful as the company confidence suggests, likely replace the USA’s entire passenger train network. It’s expected to achieve speeds of 200 mph (Wow, Dave!!) , although it has already achieved operating speeds of 217 mph. In Russia, where it’s already in service. In fact, just about the time the Velaro (although it’ll probably be called the Freedom Something or the Liberty Rocket, or maybe the George W. Bush Bullet) makes its first passenger run in America, the Russian ones should be rotating in for their first maintenance overhaul.

Dave did have one good point – the Russian contract is just a contract; Russia pays money, Germany delivers trains. The American Velaros will be mostly built in America, and provide jobs for Americans. Russia could have struck a better deal there – but their purchase so far is relatively small. However, they appear to have learned their lesson, and some of the construction of the 54 commuter trains planned for Sochi 2014 will likely go to Russia. Also, the USA has an advantage in that there is a Siemens USA and not a Siemens Russia, at least not a division that builds trains. Not yet.

The way I see it, everybody wins. Siemens wins, because the eventual American order (contingent on success in Florida) is likely to be huge. Germany wins, because Siemens is a German company, and all that money helps Germany tighten its grip on worldwide high-speed rail technology. America wins, because the project should generate a lot of badly-needed jobs, and the resulting rail network should be an orders-of-magnitude improvement over the current one. Russia wins, because it gets to show America the way, simultaneously showing the world what a fool Dave Essel is.

Well, okay. Not everybody wins. Everybody except Dave Essel.

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6 Responses to Dave Essel – A Train Wreck as a Prophet

  1. Natalie says:

    To be honest, I’ve not been enthralled with good old Dave’s translation skills. I had a number of issues with his translation of Путин. Итоги. 10 лет (Putin. Results. 10 years), the document that I believe was dubbed by Anatoly as “the Boris Bombshell”.

    And I like your conclusion, that we all win, except Dave Essel🙂

    • I don’t remember which one, but one of David Essel’s translations had a mistake that could only have come from having a machine (like Google Translate) do the translation and then tidying up the English.

      In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if that is what Dave does with all of his “translations”.

      • marknesop says:

        I’m afraid I couldn’t say, as I don’t read Russian very well – certainly not as well as you and many other leading lights of the Russia-watchers community. I mostly disagree with his tone and his conclusions, which are uniformly as rude as he can make them and customarily unsupported by fact. But he gets away with a lot of it because he’s presumed to be an intellectual. I imagine La Russophobe herself could carry a translation using Google Translate, so her Russian must be weak indeed if she prefers to rely on Essel. The guy is also almost invisible outside the bit of translation work he does; I’ve only seen translation work on one other site that was his.

    • marknesop says:

      I probably wouldn’t single him out for ridicule, as I’m normally quite polite, were it not for his smug, patronizing ignorance.

    • Yalensis says:

      Natalie, your translations are way better than his. Keep up the good work!

  2. Sacul200 says:

    This blog is getting popular, wow.. im a fan

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