SVL: the Very Fast Soviet jet-propelled Train of 1970
Before high speed, which today we consider a service almost obvious, railway companies around the world were looking for different tricks to make their convoys fast and able to travel huge distances in a short time. During the 1960’s, Americans, followed by the Soviets, experimented with turbojet trains. The idea was that, like a jet aircraft, the train is propelled by the jet thrust of the engines, rather than by its wheels.
From Russia, in 1970, a futuristic project arrived that today appears to be decidedly vintage, a piece of industrial and railway archeology of rare beauty. The prototype train was called SVL (High-speed Laboratory Railcar), and with a mass of 54.4 tonnes (including 7.4 tonnes of fuel) and a length of 28 metres, it was able to reach the remarkable speed of 250 kilometers per hour. The project involved the theoretical speed of 360 kilometers per hour, but the Soviet technicians felt confident in pushing the vehicle only up to 250, for risks related to the safety of the train itself. To build the prototype, they added two Yakovlev Yak-40 turbine engines to the front, and took the test in the railroad from Golutvin to Ozery.
The design of the vehicle was abandoned due to the high running costs of the train, which would have consumed huge amounts of fuel by the standards of the time. The only built model, starting from the base of the ER22 train and modified to resemble the Japanese Shinkansen, has been abandoned to itself and today represents a residue of engineering archeology of rare beauty.
The first attempt to use the turbine engines to move a train was made on the other side of the Cold War deployment, from the New York Central Railroad in 1966. Their M-497 railcar was able to reach the remarkable speed of 296 kilometers hours, and was not developed beyond just the current corporate circumstances.