WHOA. Yeah. Its a gleaming chrome-skinned hover train from the future-past, called the Aerotrain, that was designed and built in France in the 1960s and 70s as an alternative to maglev technology [Photo: Wikipedia]. I stumbled upon this gem while researching “the worlds longest bridges and things.” The Aerotrain traveled on elevated monorail tracks – one of these test tracks, at 18 km long, merits inclusion on Wikipedia’s longest bridges list. Even though the Aerotrain/Hovertrain concept was abandoned in the mid-seventies, the test track survives to this day, abandoned and overgrown:
Here’s the prototype from the shot above in action, and below, a later version in action on what looks to be the long test track:
Now, check this out: someone, relatively recently, <i>turned it on</i>:
[Photo: aerotrain.fr - lots, and lots, and lots of pictures there]
So apparently, the prototype is still intact and functional enough to fire up the ol’ turbines and generate an ass-load of smoke.
The Aerotrain, it seems, was rather successful…
In 1976 after testing rocket engines the Aérotrain hovercraft’s final version used a modified liner induction engine which showed exceptional performance in test runs, exceeding speeds of 245 miles per hour. The Aérotrain set a new rail speed record with each test run. With less up front cost and virtuly no track maintenance involved it was less expensive to build, operate and maintain than its contemporary alternatives.[IllianaRoad.com]
…but died on the vine nonetheless due to a lack of political will, funding, and the death of its lead engineer. Eventually, France committed to the TGV high-speed rail infrastructure that it uses today, and that was that. It got far enough along that the government of France wanted to start getting children comfortable with the concept, though:
Now – lest you think that was the end of the line for the Aerotrain – fear not! Tune in next time for the long, convoluted, equally paleofuture-cool “Aerotrain comes to America!” Teaser: you can visit the American hovertrain experiment in Pueblo, Colorado (below: holy crap, there it is!). More to come!