- UAC TurboTrain
The UAC TurboTrain was an early high-speed train manufactured by United Aircraft Corporation that operated in
Canadabetween 1968 and 1982 and in the United States between 1968 and 1976 (though they were not disposed of by Amtrak until 1980). It was one of the first gas turbinepowered trains enter service for passenger traffic, and was also one of the first tilting trains to enter service.
The design had origins in studies done by the
Chesapeake and Ohio Railwayin the 1950s. [US patent|2859705, Motor Train Power Unit, Passageway, and Cab Structure, Alan R Cripe] These early studies did not include turbine power, but included a number of innovative design features for high-speed passenger service, including guided-axle tilting suspension, power cars at both ends, and the clamshell nose doors for combining locomotives to form longer trains.
The tilting mechanism was based on the passenger cars being suspended at their ends from wishbone (A-frame) suspension arms. As the train rounded a corner, the cars would swing outward to level the car floor in relation to the apparent "down". TurboTrain cars are 2 ½ feet (75 cm) lower than conventional cars, to lower the
center of gravityin relation to the swinging point at the top of the arms. The arms included air springs to smooth out the motion, although it still felt "odd" while the train navigated short turns in switchyards and stations.
The suspension arms for each neighboring pair of cars were attached to a common bogie between them, as opposed to having a pair separate bogies for each car. The bogies rode the common curve between the two cars, centered by traction springs that centered the axle between adjoining car bodies. [US patent|3424105, Articulated Car Single Axle Truck, Alan R Cripe.] As the cars shared a single suspension, the train as a whole was a fixed length, requiring major work to add or remove passenger cars. This was the purpose of the doors at the ends of the power cars, which allowed two such trains to be "combined" end-to-end into a single longer train with a walkway between them protected by a flexible connector.
The patents were later implemented by United Aircraft to satisfy requirements of the Department of Transportation's Northeast Corridor Demonstration Project. Most of the original design survived, but UA added turbine power in place of the original diesel. The engines were a modified version of the famous
Pratt & Whitney PT-6, built by UAC and known as the ST-6 (apparently for "stationary turbine"). The engine delivered 4,000 or 5,000 horsepower and drove an alternator though a hydraulic transmission system with gear reducers. A 3rd rail pickup assembly (a friction guide slipping on a third track) allowed the train to operate in the tunnels leading to Grand Central Station(and later Penn Station) in New York Citywith the engines turned off.
The engine was so much smaller and lighter (300 pounds (135 kg) with accessories) than the diesels they replaced that the power cars would have ended up being relatively small in comparison to the passenger cars. This "extra space" was utilized by extending the locomotives out to be somewhat longer than the passenger cars, placing the engines under a dome containing the driving controls and additional seating. The rear area of the resulting "Power Dome Cars" was similar to one-half of the normal passenger cars.
Production and use
In May 1966
Canadian National Railwaysordered five TurboTrains of seven cars each for the Montreal-Toronto service. The Canadian trains were built by Montreal Locomotive Works, with their ST-6 engines supplied by UAC's Canadian division (now Pratt & Whitney Canada) in Longueuil, Québec on Montréal's southshore. They originally planned to operate the trains in tandem, connecting two trains together into a larger fourteen-car arrangement with a total capacity of 644 passengers. While the trains were being built they changed their plans, and in 1971 a rebuild program was put into effect, converting the five seven-car sets to three nine-car sets. The leftover power and passenger cars were sold to Amtrak as two 4-car sets. One of those sets sideswiped a freight train on a test run in 1973 and burned up before delivery.
The Turbo's first demonstration run in December 1968 with Conductor James.A. (Jim) Abbey of Toronto, Ontario in command, included a large press and electronic media contingent. Unfortunately, the Turbo hit a truck at a level crossing outside of Kingston during the trip. Despite concerns to the contrary, the train remained upright and on the rails. Later on, technical problems including brake systems freezing up because of cold Canadian winters, resulted in a suspension of service in early January 1969 which questioned the train's reliability.
The three 9-car sets entered service for CN in late 1973. In CN's marketing literature, this train was referred to simply as the Turbo, although it remained the full TurboTrain name in CN's own documentation and communication with UAC. CN ran the Turbos from Toronto-Montreal-Toronto with stops at Dorval (Quebec), Kingston (Ontario) and Guildwood (Ontario) on the
Quebec City-Windsor Corridor.
Original train numbers were Train 62 which left Toronto at 12:45 p.m. and arrived in Montréal at 4:44 p.m. Train 63 left Montréal at 12:45 p.m. and arrived in Toronto at 4:44 p.m. (Both were daily trains.) Train 68 left Toronto at 6:10 p.m. and arrived in Montréal at 10:14 p.m., while Train 69 left Montréal at 6:10 p.m. and arrived in Toronto at 10:14 p.m. (The evening trains did not run on Saturdays.) The trip took 3 hours and 59 minutes downtown-to-downtown on trains 62 and 63, while the evening trains were slightly slower, taking four hours and four minutes to complete the run. Turbo service was about a full hour faster than CN's previous express trains, the "Rapido".
CN operated the Turbos until 1978, when their passenger operations were taken over by
VIA Rail, who continued the service. The Turbo's final run was on October 31, 1982, when they were replaced by LRC trainsets from Bombardier Transportation, which employed conventional diesel-electric locomotives. According to CN's records, the rebuilt TurboTrains had an availability rate of over 97% for the their careers with CN and VIA.
The TurboTrain also entered service for the Department of Transportation in the USA in 1968. It was operated by first by the
New Haven Railroad, later by the Penn Centraland finally by Amtrakfor the route between Bostonand New York. The American TurboTrain was built in a 3-car configuration but this was expanded to 5 cars in 1972. They achieved speeds as high as 100 mph (160 km/h) in regular service.
In terms of records, the three-car TurboTrain achieved the world speed record for gas turbine-powered rail vehicles with 170.8 mph (275 km/h) on the DOT's high speed test track on
Penn Central's main-line between Trenton and New Brunswick, New Jerseyon December 20, 1967. [ [http://ewh.ieee.org/cmte/asmeltc/hsr_plaque.htm „Dedication of plaque commemorating high speed rail in America“] on the National Capital Land Transportation Committee's website] This is still the North American speed record for the fastest production train, despite the attempts of Acelato unseat it. Fact|date=June 2007 On April 22, 1976, a Canadian record was set at the speed of 140.6 MPH (226 km/h).
In the early 2000s, some of the ideas behind the Turbo reappeared when VIA and Bombardier Transportation proposed upgrading the same routes to use Bombardier's experimental
JetTrain, a new turbine-powered tilting train capable of cruising speeds in the range of 150 mph (240 km/h) and TGVlike top speeds of 185 mph (300 km/h), developed in France from the former French Alsthom Turbo-Train. There is currently an HO scalemodel of the train, with optional add-on cars, made by Rapido trains.
Gas turbine-electric locomotive
*Canadian National system time table October 27, 1968 to April 26, 1969.
last = Shron
first = Jason
title = TurboTrain: A Journey
publisher = Rapido Trains Inc.
year = 2008
isbn = 978-0978361105
* [http://www.sikorskyarchives.com/train.html TurboTrain] - A brochure by
Sikorsky Aircraftannouncing the TurboTrain before it entered service.
* [http://www.rapidotrains.com/turbo01.html Scale models of the United Aircraft Turbo]
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