Retrotechtacular: Railroads In The Jet Age

The front of the Soviet jet train on a monument in Tver, Russia. By Eskimozzz [PD], via Wikimedia Commons.
The front of the Soviet jet train on a monument in Tver, Russia. By Eskimozzz [PD], via Wikimedia Commons.
It started with one of those odd links that pop up from time to time on Hacker News: “The strange and now sadly abandoned Soviet Jet Train from the 1970s“. Pictures of a dilapidated railcar with a pair of jet engines in nacelles above its cab, forlorn in a rusty siding in the Russian winter. Reading a little further on the subject revealed a forgotten facet of the rivalry between Russians and Americans at the height of the Cold War, and became an engrossing trawl through Wikipedia entries, rail enthusiast websites, and YouTube videos.

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You Might Be Cool, But You’re Not Gas Turbine Motorcycle Cool

For the last four and a half years, [Anders] has been working on a motorcycle project. This isn’t just any old Harley covering a garage floor with oil – this is a gas turbine powered bike built to break the land speed record at Bonneville.

The engine inside [Anders]’s bike is a gas turbine – not a jet engine. There’s really not much difference in the design of these engines, except for the fact that a turbine dumps all the energy into a drive shaft, while a true jet dumps all the energy into the front bumper of the car behind this bike. [Anders] built this engine from scratch, documented entirely on a massive 120 page forum thread. Just about everything is machined by him, bolted to a frame designed and fabricated by him, and with any luck, will break the land speed record of 349 km/h (216mph) on the salt flats of Bonneville.

As with all jet and turbine builds, this one must be heard to be believed. There are a few videos of the turbine in action below, including one where the turbine drives the rear wheel.

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(Please Don’t) Build a Jet Engine from a Toilet Paper Holder

Turbo charger Jet Engines have long been considered one of the holy grails of backyard engineering. This is with good reason – they’re hard to build, and even harder to run. Many a turbo has met an untimely end from a hot start or oil starvation. [Colin Furze] however, makes it look easy. [Colin] is a proponent of crazy hacks – we’ve featured him before for his land speed record holding baby carriage, and his pulse jet powered tea kettle.

In his latest video set, [Colin] takes a toilet brush holder, a toilet paper roll holder, a few plumbing fittings, and of course a small turbocharger from the scrap yard. Somehow he converts all of this into a working jet engine. The notable thing here is that there is no welding. Some of the joints are held together with nothing more than duct tape.

Calling this a working jet engine is not really an overstatement. As every backyard jet jockey knows, the first goal of DIY jets (aside from not hurting yourself) is self-sustaining. Turbines are spun up with air hoses, vacuums, or leaf blowers. The trick is to turn the fuel on, remove the air source, and have the turbine continue spinning under its own power. Once this happens, your engine is performing the same “Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow” combustion process an F-18 or a 747 uses.

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