Mag-lev, gyroscopes and flying saucers

by

Just imagine…

The UK Hovertrain

…an electric motor with no bearings to wear out or lubricate. Imagine a train that could travel at 300 mph without causing any appreciable wear and tear to the track. Imagine the basic concepts demonstrated and proved by a British engineer and all the key design rights and patents belonging to Great Britain. So the UK government backs the project to the hilt? Wrong! The UK government pulls out and leaves the Germans and Japanese to take over the revolutionary trains commercial development.

(photo UK Hovertrain at Sutton Gault)

The Hovertrain and its second incarnation the Mag-lev train was the brainchild of maverick British scientist and engineer, Professor Eric Laithwaite. In the 1940’s, Laithwaite demonstrated a working linear induction motor – the core technology behind both trains – at London’s Imperial College. By 1962 he had constructed a small linear induction propelled trolley running on a short test track – a conventional railway line with an aluminium reaction beam bolted down in a shed at Gorton. (Ironically the Great Central Railway – which was planned as a fast line for luxury trains running from Manchester and the Midlands to the continent – once had its Works at Gorton.)

gorton_4_11_1962.jpg

Gorton Works Great Central Railway

Linear induction trolley and Great Central Railway Works

While a B&W film of Eric riding back and forth on his trolley was shown, the TV newsreader commented cautiously that it might take as long as eight years to develop a commercial linear induction motor powered train.

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One Response to “Mag-lev, gyroscopes and flying saucers”

  1. Dave Topgood Says:

    Your information is correct upto a point, a full size track was set up in Earith near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, the RTV 31 photograph you have in the article is on that trackbed. When the project was cancelled by the Conservative Goverment having promised in the House of Commons and House of Lords, leading to accusations that both houses were misled, the RTV 31 vehicle and 1 piece of track were preserved, these are on display at Railworld in Peterborough.
    I hope this fills in a bit more of the story.

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