CZ/SK verze

Unleashing Speed: The Thrilling Saga of the 1966 Jet Train - America's Fastest!

Unleashing Speed: The Thrilling Saga of the 1966 Jet Train - America's Fastest!
photo: Speed: The Thrilling Saga of the 1966 Jet Train - America's Fastest!
09 / 06 / 2023

In the mid-1960s, New York Central Railroad engineer Don Wetzel explored ways to make trains not only safer but cheaper and faster. Wetzel thought the most logical solution was to mount a pair of redundant jet engines from the US Air Force on the roof of a prototype high-speed locomotive.

The first, but surprisingly not the last, experimental jet-powered M-497 Black Beetle locomotive was built by the New York Central Railroad in 1966. The Black Beetle utilized the existing Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDC-3) but with the difference of adding a simplified front cowling to cover the conventionally blunted nose of the RDC-3, along with a pair of used General Electric J47-19 jet engines. These had previously been used as auxiliary engines for the Convair B-36 intercontinental bomber, which Wetzel had acquired from the US Air Force.

According to Wetzel, these were "the cheapest 5,000 horsepower engines we could get." They were also, he said, "the most reliable and easily adapted to burn diesel fuel, which, unlike jet fuel, was much more suitable for use in the Black Beetle." The original design had the jet engines at the car's rear, but they were changed to the front. "My wife, who did the locomotive design, said the cars look much better with the engines up front. Old pilot legend has it that if a plane looks good, it usually flies well. We felt that if a jet train looked good, it would run well," Wetzel told GE Reports.

On July 23, 1966, the all-time American railroad record fell to a whopping nearly 300 mph. The record was achieved after a series of speed trials between the Ohio towns of Stryker, Butler and Indiana.

Although the record is still standing today, the idea of this "turbo train" never caught on. Despite the collection of vast amounts of technical data on high-speed rail traffic and the associated wear and tear on the line, the project was considered more of a publicity stunt than serious research. After the test runs were completed, the nozzles were removed from the Black Beetle and the RDC-3 was returned to regular service, with the RDC-3 itself being scrapped in 1984.

Source:;; GE Reports