The Schienenzeppelin was a 1931 German attempt to build a super-fast train. The experimental train was powered by an airplane engine connected to a huge propeller in the back. Streamlined and lightweight, this train reached a record speed of 225 kilometers per hour (140 mph) during tests. This record remained unbroken for 23 years.
The Schienenzeppelin never went past the prototype stage because of fears that its propellers could seriously injure or even kill people who stood close to the tracks at train stations. The position of the propellers prevented the train from reversing direction, pulling other coaches, or maintaining the momentum to climb hills.
There were also doubts as to whether the railroad tracks of the day could cope with the stress of this train. The Schienenzeppelin was destroyed during World War II when Germany stripped its aluminum to build airplanes.
Powered by electricity, The Brennan monorail was invented by Louis Brennan in the early 20th century. We might call it the motorcycle of the train world because it had a single set of wheels and ran on a single track.
It did not tip over even when it stopped. Two gyroscopes stabilized the train to such a degree that the train would probably remain upright and continue moving on the ground if it derailed.
In fact, Brennan invented the monorail to replace regular trains that often derailed whenever they tried to take curves at high speed. But that’s true only if the gyroscopes worked correctly.
Unfortunately for Brennan, his monorail never replaced regular trains because the failure of even one gyroscope would cause the train to derail and crash violently. In addition, the train was not cost-effective because it could not pull other coaches.
Brennan's monorail, a system invented by Louis Philip Brennan CB, patented in 1903.
After two small demonstration models, (a 2ft 6 in by 12 inch one in 1903 and a 6 ft by 1 ft 6 in one in the next year) Brennan built the first working railcar in 1909, that could carry 32 people around the factory. The model had a 20 hp petrol engine and could reach the speed of 22 mph (35 kmh). It used a pneumatic servo and electric transmission. The system was used on the Japan-British Exhibition in London, 1910 where it carried 50 people at a time around a track.
The General Motors Aerotrain was made by the auto company in the 1950s. It was sponsored by several railway operators who wanted a faster train to win back former customers who had switched to other means of transportation.
The Aerotrain was nothing new. General Motors simply joined several of their buses and put them on a train chassis. Nevertheless, the Aerotrain was light and fast, with less than half the weight of regular steam trains when fully loaded.
General Motors made two prototypes which they gave to several railway operators to test. All the operators complained about the train’s engines, which were so underpowered that they couldn’t reach their maximum speed or climb uphill. In addition, the train was so light that passengers compared the experience to the rough ride of a truck.
Gisborne Airport Train
Strange trains in New Zealand
Airplane waiting for a train to cross the runway at Gisborne Airport, New Zealand. Source: Youtube
Routing a railway line through the middle of a busy street is one thing, but what about through an airport? On the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island is Gisborne Airport. It is an undersized airport and covers 160 hectares. It has one major claim to fame as a train line runs right across the main runway. Not many trains have to get permission from Air Traffic Controllers in order to continue on their journey, but the Palmerston North - Gisborne Railway Line does. The airport only operates between 6:30 am and 8:30 pm and outside of these times, trains can travel as they see fit.
Gisborne Airport Train
General Motors Aerotrain
The Brennan monorail
Strange Trains, to us they may be "strange" but to the inventors at the time they were radical , new, cutting edge towards the future. My congratulations to the pioneers of creative thought, these people who think outside the box, to approach problems with a new persective, there should be more of them!
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Built in the 1960s, the M-497 was an experimental train powered by jet engines. Its introduction was an attempt at bringing back the commuters who abandoned New York Central Railroad’s slower trains, the organization which sponsored the construction of the ‘Black Beetle’. The latter was a regular passenger train with a record speed of 185 mph (295 kilometers). This world record remained unbroken for 40 years.
Resulting as an invention of George Bennie, Bennie Railplane was a dedicated endeavor at replacing coal-powered steam engines. The train ran on special tracks built above regular railroad tracks and looked similar to a modern day cable car. Wheels on top of the train maintained its movement along its overhead tracks. Unable to solicit funds for his invention, Benny ultimately sold his rail track at fire-price.
'Fowler's Ghost' was an unusual- and disastrously unsuccessful- broad-gauge locomotive built to run on the Metropolitan Railway in London. This line was and is just below street level, much of it being built by "cut and cover", but some of it is in open air.
There was concern about steam and smoke emissions from the locomotives, and Sir John Fowler, the Metropolitan's Engineer, ordered an experimental locomotive designed to not produce smoke while in the tunnel sections.
It was built by Robert Stephenson & Co of Newcastle-on-Tyne, in 1861, two years before the Metropolitan rails were ready, and cost 4500 pounds, which for the time seems like a great deal of money. It was tried on a few test runs, and was never seen again.
According to Sir Benjamin Baker, who revealed some of the secrets in a paper presented to the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1885, the Ghost was a 2-4-0 design, with cylinders 15 x 24in and 6-foot driving wheels. The leading wheels were 4ft in diameter. The gauge was the broad gauge of the Great Western, 7ft 1/4 inch. The Ghost weighed 32 tons in working order, and pulled a tender carrying 1400 gallons of water, weighing another 14 tons. However, the heating surface was only 570 ft2 and the grate area 13.25 ft2. There were 189 boiler tubes of 2in diameter, but they were only 2ft 7in long. The Ghost carried a jet condenser with associated air-pump to maintain a good vacuum. Heat was stored in a massive array of fire-bricks contained in a long "combustion chamber" between the firebox and the boiler tubes.
On the 10th of October 1861, the 'Ghost' was given an initial trial on the Great Western main line, in the area of Hanwell station. It turned out to be a disastrous foray of about 7.5 miles. The boiler pressure fell rapidly and there was much difficulty in getting the locomotive back home. The condenser would not condense, but the real cause for alarm was the jamming of the boiler feed-pumps; this threatened that the boiler would overheat and as a result possibly burst. The standard action to be taken in this situation with a conventional steam locomotive was to drop the fire into the roadway as quickly as possible, a few charred sleepers being infinitely preferable to a boiler explosion. The driver of the Ghost, however, found to his horror that no provision had been made for summarily discharging several tons of incandescent bricks onto the track. In the event an explosion was avoided, and the engine got home somehow.
Another attempted trial, on home territory between King's Cross and Edgware Road, is also on record, (in The Engineer for 16 August 1895) but seems to have gone no better.
This is the only know image of the Fowlers Ghost
Jean Bertin’s Aerotrain
This train came into existence as a replacement for the conventional trains. Funded by the French Government, the train was light, quiet and fast with a speed as lofty as 420 kilometers (260 mph). However, later, the government denied its introduction followed by the view of safeguarding the state-sponsored railway system.