The Dodos We Made: 26 Propeller-Driven Machines That Cannot Fly

So you think the airscrew is strictly for planes? Guess again. Look at these mighty prop-driven machines created by some of the most talented engineers and designers the world 'round. Sure, they can't fly, but their twisted blades help them wade through water, ice, snow, mud, glide on rails and rule the road.

Top picture: alaskafilmarchives

Joseph Fawkes built this experimental monorail, the Aerial Swallow, in Burbank in 1910.

Picture: Westlake Publishing

1911: A motor car at Brooklands race track which has been fitted with a propeller for extra speed, and three random buddies for extra company.

Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This motor sleigh driven by aeroplane propellers is the type that Irish explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton used on his Antarctic explorations.

Picture: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The Aerowagon (or aeromotowagon) was an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction invented by Russian engineer Valerian Abakovsky. The Aerowagon derailed at high speed its second time out, killing everyone — including Abakovsky himself — on board.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons/lord_k/Infodon

September 1922: Experimental 'hydro-glider' Oak Leaf II, which is basically a motorboat propelled by a type of aircraft propeller.

Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The German experimental locomotive Schienenzeppelin (The Railway Zeppelin) was developed by the German aircraft engineer Franz Kruckenberg in 1929.

Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This is the Eisbär, Alfred Wegener's propeller-driven German snow scooter, around 1930.

Picture: Alfred-Wegener-Institut

The Bennie railplane — named for inventor George Bennie — being demonstrated at Glasgow, Scotland in the 1930s. It consists of self-propelled passenger cars driven by air screws, suspended from a steel girder.

Picture: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The 1932 Helicron in the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee. It is currently equipped with a Citroen GS engine with the propeller coupled directly to the crankshaft. The Helicron passed the French safety inspection in 2000 and is approved for use on their roads.

Picture: Brent Moore

A blow-up motorised canoe, powered by an air-propeller, being tested by its inventor in 1935.

Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Argentinian Aerocar (powered by a Chevrolet six-cylinder engine) was considered for mass-production in California in 1955.

Picture: federico-kirbus.blogspot

Tupolev, the famous Soviet aircraft designer, built this all-metal snowmobile — the ANT-4 — in 1924.

Picture: Russiane Engineering

Another Tupolev masterpiece, the A-3 airsleigh, a part boat, part sled, part ground-effect vehicle.


Another awesome photo of the retrofuturistic Tupolev A-3.


Another remarkable Soviet snowmobile: the Sever-2, built upon Pobeda cars.


The NKL-26 was an armoured aerosan introduced by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.


The 1938 Schlörwagen was built on the chassis of the rear-engine Mercedes 170H. The Russians took the Schlörwagen as war booty and conducted tests as a propeller-driven vehicle.

Picture: DLR

A Ka-30 snowmobile dashing through the snow in Soviet Russia.


The Aérotrain I80 was a hovertrain developed in France from 1965 to 1977. The lead engineer was Jean Bertin.


The 270-tonne, Super 4 BHC Hovercraft, 'The Princess Margaret' travelling near London Bridge on May 9, 1979.

Picture: Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images

This Arctic Airboat PE350 is made by Arctic Airboats, Helsinki, Finland

Picture: Arctic Airboats/Facebook

The Arctic Ant hydrocopter can move on water, ice, snow and land. These kind of vehicles are very common in the coastal regions of Finland.

Picture: Arctic Ant

The Tupolev company created the AS-2 amphibious snowmobile too.


Patrol: an amphibious snowmobile-glider by Torex in Saratov, Russia.


The Khivus-10 is a light amphibious air-cushion boat from Russia

Picture: Glazyrin Sergey/Wikimedia Commons

Lotus built this propeller-driven biofuel vehicle for the Moon Regan Trans Antarctic Expedition in 2008.

Picture: Moon Regan Trans Antarctic Expedition

A landing craft air cushion (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 exits the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3).

Picture: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher/US Navy

Any favourites that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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