Dewi's Trains,
Trams & Trolleys

The George Bennie Railplane/Monorail

Comments/corrections to: Dewi Williams

Date/Time: November, 1950.

These photos show the proof-of-concept test track that was built in 1930 for the George Bennie Railplane at Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, Scotland. The Railplane was almost a monorail, with the car being suspended from one rail while wheels underneath ran on a stabilizer rail to prevent the car from oscillating from side to side. [5] The full title of the system was "The George Bennie Airspeed Railway" (GBAR).

The propulsion method was what differentiated it from other monorails: at each end of the car was a four-bladed propellor, driven by an electric motor.

The Railplane was intended to combine the advantages of aircraft and railway technology. Most of my knowledge of it came from "Railway Wonders of the World", a two-volume railway encyclopedia that was published in parts, in 1935. It's possible that my remarks may malign the inventor, George Bennie, and that I should have blamed the author of the article. (Of course, it's just faintly possible that my memory is at fault; after all, it was a borrowed copy of "Railway Wonders" and I had to return it in 1953).

The system was intended to achieve speeds in excess of 100mph: but 30 years earlier, Siemens had already achieved 131mph on a standard-gauge railway test track using 3-phase electric motors. Admittedly that track had been dead straight: but so was the Milngavie track.

The article remarked that the propellors didn't even need to be stopped when the car was brought to a standstill: they could be left churning, and as soon as the brakes were released the car would surge forward. But since the propellors were of fixed pitch, they'd still be applying full forward force, and it would be like pressing on the gas pedal and the brake pedals at the same time!

With a propellor at each end, coupling cars into a train would be difficult, but the inventor was said to have come up with a flexible coupling that would link the propellor shafts together. No mention was made of control cables: I suppose that they would have to go through the centre of hollow prop shafts.

In 1950 I visited the test track, about 20 years after the line was built. While staying with my aunt, I asked whether the name of the town was pronounced “Milngavie” with a short “a”, or pronounced as “Milngaaaavie”. When she stopped laughing, she said "The name sounds like ‘Muhl-guy’”.When I took these photos, the site appeared abandoned: no gates, no locks, no security: I just walked up the steps as though to board a train.


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This page last updated 2006-01-20