The Schienenzeppelin, or rail zeppelin, was the product of an imaginitive – and possibly slightly insane – German aircraft engineer called Franz Kruckenberg. The Schienenzeppelin was built in 1929. It consisted of a specially made rail carrige – formed almost entirely from lightweight aluminium – into which was fitted two conjoined gasoline-fueled BMW 6-cylinder aircraft engines (later it was fitted with a single 12-cylinder aircraft engine). The engine(s) drove a propshaft which poked out through the rear of the train at an angle of 7 degrees, onto this shaft was fitted a massive propeller. Orignially it was a four-blader, later it used a two-bladed propeller.
On May 10 1931, the Schienezeppelin managed a speed in excess of 120 mph (200km/h). After this high-speed run the train was shown-off all over Germany – although it never operated as part of a normal service. In June of 1931 the Schienenzeppelin managed to break the world speed record for a train with a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). A record which stood until 1954. The Scheinenzepplin does still however hold the world record for the fastest gasoline powered train.
During its short lifespan, the Schienenzeppelin underwent several modifications. In 1932 Krukensberg replaced the entire front end and fitted it with a two-axle bogie, at the same time the transmission was upgraded to a hydraulic unit. Sadly it didn’t help much and the project continued to be plagued with problems. Not least of which was the fact it was only a single-carrige train capable of carrying a maximum of just 40 passengers, also it struggled to maintain momentum up hills. Add to that the massive open-air blender at the back, ready to inhale passengers off the platform and spray them across the tracks as it went past, and it really was clear this was a technological dead-end.
In the end the Schienenzeppelin was sold in 1934 to the German Imperial Railway service. Five years later it was dismantled and melted down as the aluminium was needed by the German military. A sad end to what was once such a remarkable machine.