Flying trains

Well, not literally… But this is about aircraft tech inspired train experiments. With the announcement of Chinese scientists adding wings to high speed trains to improve performance, here’s a quick look at the history of aircraft tech being used on railways.

Starting briefly with the George Bennie Railplane, a test track was built north of Glasgow, which you can read about in my earlier blog post on the project.

An earlier experiment was the 1917 Aeromotowagon (Russian: Аэроваго́н, аэродрези́на) invented by Valerian Abakovsky, which could reach 87mph. On a test in 1921 it derailed and crashed, killing 7 passengers.

German engineer Otto Steinitz also had the idea of a propellor powered train & built a prototype that achieved 97mph during testing in 1918/19. Limited interest was shown in his invention, but other propellor driven trains did get built in Germany, the most famous being the “Rail Zeppelin”

Franz Kruckenberg designed the Schienenzeppelin (Rail Zeppelin) in 1929 & tested it at over 200kph (120 mph). It still holds the world speed record for petrol powered rail vehicles. It had several issues, including its inability to pull extra carriages, and the propellors proximity to station platforms. It never reached further developmen stages and was stored til 1939 & then used for parts and materials for Germany’s war effort.

Moving into the jet age now, with the New York Central Railroads M-497 Black Beetle in 1966. Tested at 183mph, but not considered viable, the engines were eventually reused for a snow blower.

Over in the USSR, the SVL turbojet was built 1970, and tested at up to 155mph, but once again this project was abandoned, this time due to noise levels & fuel economy. The prototype allegedly survives, rusting away in the rail car factory near Doroshikha

This is the factory in question on GoogleMaps, I’ve had a quick look but it’s not obvious, even with those jet engines stuck on top:

In 2011 Japanese researchers started development of the Aero Train, using ground effect tech with small wings to provide lift in a U shaped channel, its entire body floating on air A short film of the prototype in action:

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