Retired engineer builds giant and revolutionary train, in his backyard

My annual birthday-month fund-raising drive for Behind the Black is now on-going. Not only do your donations help pay my bills, they give me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


Please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

An evening pause: This story is not simply some cutsy human-interest tale about how some guy makes something cool in his backyard. Max Schlienger built this scale model prototype to demonstrate his concept for better and more efficient type of train.

Hat tip Cotour.



  • Steve C

    Interesting, but I don’t think it will scale up.

  • MDN

    It is an interesting concept. It strikes me as a modern cable car, enabling a centralized engine plant to drive trains around a metropolitan area. If the weight savings benefit really does enable steeper grades than are otherwise practical then that has some real merit for next generation subways.

    I remember riding one of the old Paris subway cars under the Seine back in the 1970s and how it accelerated like mad across the river bottom so that it had enough inertia to carry it up the grade and into the station on the far side.

    So i’m guessing that Elon is paying attention and his Boring Company is working on machines that can dig tunnels to exploit this advantage, and San Francisco and Boston 2100 will be better for it.

  • Col Beausabre

    Speaking as a rail enthusiast, I am not impressed. If you want power from a central location, electric traction is highly developed with locomotives having power ratings in the thousands of horses and individual cars, should you decide to replace locos with powered cars, in the hundreds. Already proven in high speed service in Asia and Europe. And unlike earlier electrifications which had to use oddball frequencies like 25 hertz, today’s railroads use “toaster current, 50 or 60 hz, depending on the country. That saves money as you can buy power off the grid and not have to build converter stations or dedicated power plants. And you can let the power companies use your right of way for their power lines…for a fee, of course. And if you can run at 150 mph plus, on the flats, hills tend to flatten out. “Making a run for the grade” goes back to the earliest days of railroading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *