America's Failed High Speed Tilting Train – The UAC Turbotrain


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America's Failed High Speed Tilting Train - The UAC Turbotrain



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It was supposed to lead the US and Canada into a new high speed railway future but the UAC Turbotrain ended up being scrapped after just years in the US and in both countries they failed to deliver the speeds they were designed to run at and unlike other countries it showed you need more than just fast trains to have a high speed rail service.

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Written, Researched and Presented by Paul Shillito
Images and Footage : UAC, Sikorsky, George E.O. Lilley, Virginia Crouse, Amtrack,
Canadian National Railwaways.

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29 Comments

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  1. Hang on, I thought that the TGV 001 prototype, which was also running on gas turbines reached 280 kph on his 20th of July 1972 trials… And reached up to 318 kph on the 5th of December of the same year…
    France also made the RTGs, the intercity turbotrains that were very reliable and that were sold to Iran later on. Amtrack even aquired some of them for testing if memory serves.

  2. Excellent video. In Canada the Turbo train sets were replaced with a more conventional diesel electric tilting train made by Bombardier called the LRC. Many of the LRC carriages (without the LRC locomotives or tilting systems active) are still in service today with VIA until they’re replaced with new sets in the next few years with their new HFR program (Dedicated tracks finally!!) and Siemens built locomotives. Cheers!

  3. I always thought the Turbo's in Canada were cool shiznitz back in the day. Albeit, their technology failed on a number of levels. The rolling stock 'wheel trucks' were connected at the coupling, which required a time-consuming process to uncouple and therefore the trains almost always were continuously connected to the same engines. The gas turbine motors were frequently left running even when out-of-service (and parked) which often lead to fires within the train stations in Montreal and Toronto. The service was limited to the Toronto-Montreal corridor, not exactly a commuter run back in the 70s. I sincerely believe the Turbo design could have a new life in the 21st century, with electrification (overhead), independent wheel trucks on each car and engine, and an extension of service between Windsor and Quebec City.

  4. Great video. Learned a lot. I rode Canada from Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto in 2018. As well as France, Japan, China and others over the years. What it taught me was you don't have to have highspeed to have reliable useful rail traffic. It is is more about running 60 – 80 mph consistently and station access that is located in the middle of town/ where people need to go. In other words, there nothing high speed about high speed rail. Sure faster is better, but cost effective? Historical example, Pennsylvania rr electric lines on north east corridor.

  5. I think curious droid and others should identify these loser programs, that either don’t work at all or that are subsidized by taxpayers money as government boondoggles. For instants high speed rail is a subsidy for rich people born by the rest of us that can’t afford high speed rail

  6. Not well remembered, but one of these sets was used near the beginning of Amtrak's existence to placate the Chairman of the U. S. House Surface Transportation Subcommittee, Harley Staggers (D-WV), to operate service over the B&O between Washington, DC and Parkersburg, WV on an every-other-day basis, with a conventional train covering the schedule the other days. For much of the distance between Parkersburg and Cumberland, MD, the train ambled along at a leisurely 40 mph. I rode the train from Parkersburg to Grafton, WV in April of 1972 with other fans in the "dome" section of the power car, behind the operator's compartment. Inside the train, with the exhausts coming up through that section, it sounded like one was riding inside a vacuum cleaner. We returned on a conventional late-B&O passenger era train, powered by a C&O E-Unit, in which I got my first cab ride for a little while, walking through the engine compartment, past the twin 567 prime movers to get to and from the head end..

  7. Trains that mess up in the cold in Canada are nothing new. Still to this day GO trains have switches that freeze in the cold. I don’t know if you if you build something that needs to work all year round outside in Canada you might just want it to work in the cold, I know what a crazy idea.

  8. Around 1990 we tested the 'tilt train' in Australia, where vast track lengths have led to even our remaining tracks being very poor tracks due to sheer cost. So, we thought the 'tilt train' might speed things up. Spoiler: it didn't. The tracks here are so bad that the tilt of the train in the [many] bad corners made it seem like it was tilting for no reason. Because at 50kmh, it was. I think we improved speeds by around 10kmh, but also caused nausea due to the mismatched tilt, so no 'tilt trains' were ordered.

  9. I remember this train being advertised in the station when I was little. I was enthralled, and wanted so much to see it. But, being on the Toronto – Windsor section of the corridor, never got the chance. Being older and wiser now, I realize the impracticality of turbine engines on rail vehicles. If you want to save weight, then electrification is the best route. And yes, you have to have to have a dedicated track.

    We’re now forty years behind in our infrastructure, and the cost to develop is huge. But the “401” corridor for passenger cars is almost at its max, and the corridor now needs the high speed train more than ever.

  10. Raw layed out wood & rail beam tracks on a moist soils, being a horiffic traffic senario of accidents, the worst part, was going faster in this insane manner, the very tilting logic had leveage of pure stupidity, instead of the tracks being on a default tilt position and the cart bodies tilting to gravity or versus g-force by speed, they just kept the rail flat and made the carts dance like bloody gangster rap spinwheel jumping cars. It would continue like this in rail history.

  11. I'm surprised that the Americans and Canadians didn't kibosh these trains on paper due to the blindingly obvious lack of feasibility of these trains running on regular tracks.

  12. Fascinating! I had been unaware of the existence of these trains. Powering the wheels from a turbine without a transmission (usually electric) is terribly inefficient. If they had built them as proper gas turbine electrics to begin with, they would have been considerably more efficient, and it would have been very easy to incrementally electrify the lines they ran on, as desired by adding pantographs to the roof. They were almost there by having traction motors for use in NY! Steam trains used to routinely top 100 mph in the US, but I suppose there were fewer crossing with less traffic at each one back then.

  13. Perhaps you could talk to China's rail administration to find out a bit more about their high speed solutions? Seems they're doing a great job? Good to see your review.

  14. I used to pick up my Dad when he took the Turbo Train from NY to Boston. Real cool looking. I was too young to drive so my Mom and I would pick up my Dad. Brings back good memories.

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