7 Responses

  1. Lee says:

    As I understand it, the jet train was mostly a publicity stunt, not a serious plan to utilize jet propulsion. It was a one-time test only.

    For us railroad riders today, it’s sad that many of today’s passenger trains run slower than they did in the 1950s. Amtrak has had plans on the shelf for years to speed up service by fixing bottlenecks and improving track, but Congress won’t give it the money.

    • Emily says:

      Yeah, it was kinda a one time thing. Alas the record still stands, so foreign countries with their high speed rail systems can poke fun at us.

    • Doug vV says:


      If I recall correctly, a Trains Magazine artical in the 1970s had the background on this stunt (and it was a stunt).

      I hope I get it mostly correct – forgive me if there are errors.

      1) a Government official was talking to Perlman (then President of the New York Central?) and asking why 150 MPH trains had not yet been designed.

      2) Perlman said it could be done at that moment with off-the shelf parts.

      3) gov’t official – you don not need to upgrade the roadbed or add electrification?

      4) NYC – No. Perlman then authorized the expenditure for two jet engines, a search for the correct track and an RDC (Rail Diesel Car).

      The traction motors from the RDC were removed. The jet engines were placed on top of of the RDC and connected. A traditional diesel pulled the jet-RDC to the start of a 1-3 mile straight track and uncoupled. When the all-clear was given, the jets were turned on and the jet-RDC was traveling at something in the 150-180 MPH speed range with no electrification, no special hardwar, and no improvement tot he track structure.

      The jet-RDC could not move on its own for the test and the diesel came up to couple on. I think it was tried 3-4 times on the one day.

      Afterwards, the RDC was converted back to its original configuration and served as a standard RDC until it retired.

      This stunt proved that the technology for high speed was already in existance for the govenment official. The complexity of the ex-Pennsylvania Railroads North East Corridor with electrification and all were not absolutely required and tha the cost for Jet propelled passenger train passenger service would not be cost justified from ticket sales.

      Interesting footnote but nothing more.

      Doug vV

  2. Chasm says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Previously, my all time favorite engine was an F-unit with the SP Black Widow paint scheme. Now I have the M-497, which is like Hannibal Lector as a train… with jets! Plus I can die now knowing an engineer at some point was all, “hey, let put some mother****ing jets on a motherI****ing train!” Awesomesause with awesome and sauce left over.

  3. Excellent find of that nuclear locomotive. One looks like it’s riding on an Electro-Motive Division chassis, the other looks a little like the General Electric gas turbines for Union Pacific.

    New York Central put those jet engines on a Budd Car as a cheap way to conduct a speed test. They ran it on conventional jointed rail across the plains of Indiana and Ohio in order to get information about rail and wheel dynamics at higher speeds. (It stayed on the tracks, which more or less established that massive investments in track structure might not be required for faster passenger trains.)

    There’s also a Cold War twist: do some digging around and you’ll find a Soviet jet railcar (http://englishrussia.com/2007/08/23/soviet-jet-train-some-more-history/) and the front end appears to have been preserved in Tver. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbojet_train)

    If you want to see part of an Aerotrain, there’s a locomotive and two cars in Green Bay. I think another locomotive and some cars are in St. Louis.

  4. Backshophoss says:

    The final use of the Aerotrain was in commuter service,by the
    “fallen flag” Rock Island RR in Chicago, the cars were based on
    a General Motors bus design at the time.
    The Loco for the Aerotrain was built by EMD,their model
    LWT-12,also designed by GM as well.

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