Sometimes the craziest ideas become real that’s what happened to the turbojet train”Black beetle”.
In the 1960s, the number of train rides declined dramatically. People preferred to travel by car. The black beetle was one of the desperate attempts to attract passengers.
One of the more exotic experiments to come out during the end of the private passenger train era was New York Central's experimental M-497 turbojet train, also known by its nickname as the Black Beetle.
Don Wetzel came up with this idea in 1965. Don Wetzel was working for the New York Central Railroad as assistant director in the research department.
In the following year, turbojet train was presented to the future president of the new york central railroad, Alfred Perlman And he supported it. The project got an unlimited budget And only 30 days to finish it.
The Black beetle was built based on Budd Rail Diesel car. The cars blunt nose was covered with a streamlined front cowling. Two second-hand jet engines were attached. They’ve bought them for just $5,000.
Don Wetzel said "The original design had the jet engines on the rear end of the car but we changed it to the forward end, we felt that if the jet train looked good, it would run well”
Overall, the project cost around $30,000.On 23 July 1966, Don put the machine to the test on a flat stretch of railway between Butler, Indiana, and Stryker, Ohio. This long, straight, and level stretch of railway provided an ideal testing area for the jet train. The overall length of the track was 68 miles.
During its trial runs, the Black Beetle hit an astounding 183.681 mph, which still stands as the high-speed record for self-propelled light rail in the United States.
The designer of the train, Don Wetzel, drove it during the experiments himself. The black beetle completed four rides successfully with the maximum speed 183.68 mph(295 km/h).
The Black Beetle never went into production and remained an experimental one-off. But that day in 1966 proved conclusively that high-speed rail travel was possible using existing technology.
It was a record speed for the train in the USA for decades. Only the hyperloop beat the record: so far, its maximum is 284 mph (457 km/h) but the testing of the black beetle wasn’t fruitful.
The railroad engineers collected a huge amount of technical data on high-speed rail travel. When the testing was over, the jets were removed from the train and the locomotive was returned to its normal service.