The Soviet Union vs US Jet Train Race

jettrain-fight.jpg Ah, the good old times of the Cold War: Space race! Arms race! Spy race! Trains race? While astronauts were floating in their tinfoil suits, the real action was happening down on rails: The Soviet Union and the US were in a race to get the fastest and spiffiest train ever. The story and a full giant gallery after the jump.


Back in 1966 the New York Central retrofitted one of their Rail Diesel Cars with a pair of General Electric J47-19 turbojet engines from a Convair B-36D—a variation of the first intercontinental range bomber at the US Air Force. The modded RDC, which also had an extra nose to modify the aerodynamics of the brick-shaped RDC, set the US speed record for a train, traveling at 184mph (286km/h) while on course to Ohio. According to Wikipedia, it was considered to be a publicity stunt at the time, but it worked.

The publicity stunt worked too: Three years later, the Russian train maker Kalininsky formed the Speed Wagon Laboratory. Following the New Yorker's example, the modified the chassis of one of their ER22 head engines to look more or less like a rough version of a Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train which was already working in 1964 at 130 mph (210km/h).

They added two turbojet engines on the front as well: two turbojets from a Yakovlev YAK-40. Their first test was in 1971 on the line joining Golutvin with Ozery. They achieved a low 116mph (187km/h). However, they kept increasing the speed until they got up to 154mph (249km/h).

While all this was happening, the European TGV and the amazing Japan projects completely stole the show with less wacky, but more effective, jet-less designs.

Like New York Central's RDC, the modified ER22 was trashed. A tragedy, if you ask me. I like the design, even if it's probably extremely inefficient. However, it's just bad that two of the biggest powers in the world didn't invest more in high speed train technology, as it is one of the best transports ever. [ - in Russian]

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