Wednesday, June 11, 2008

General Motors (EMD) "Aerotrain"

The Aerotrain was a streamlined trainset introduced by General Motors Electro-Motive Division in the mid-1950s. Like all of GM's great body designs of this mid-century era, this futuristic train was first brought to life in GM's Styling Section. Chuck Jordan was in charge of designing the Aero Train as Chief Designer of Special Projects.

GM advertisement from a December 1955 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

GM's "lightweight with a heavyweight future" was introduced at a time when U.S. passenger train revenues were steadily declining due to competition from airlines and private automobile travel. Although it featured an eye-catching, streamlined design, the Aerotrain failed to capture the imagination of the American public.

The cars, based on GM bus designs and using an air cushioning system, were rough riding and not very comfortable for the passengers. The design of the underpowered experimental EMD LWT12 locomotive section rendered even routine maintenance extremely difficult and time-consuming. Eventually the three trainsets that were manufactured were retired after only a decade's use in 1966.

1956 New York Central Railroad "Aerotrain" advertisement.

GM's Electro-Motive LWT12 locomotive pulling the Rock Island Line Talgo Jet Rocket train in 1956.

New York Central, NYC 1001 Aerotrain in Elkhart, Indiana - April 8, 1957.

GM's Aerotrain, in service as the "City of Las Vegas", makes a station stop enroute to LA in 1957.

GM's Aerotrain, the "City of Las Vegas" at LA Union Station in 1957.

Pictured in 2005 the preserved Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (Rock Island Line), GM Aerotrain at the National Transportation Museum in St Louis, Missouri.

And of course this post would not be complete if we did not show a picture of the Disneyland Viewliner as it prepares to depart the Tommorowland Station in 1957, with Walt Disney at the controls. As you can see, the Viewliner's design was inspired by the Aerotrain.


The Blue Parrot said...

The rear view of the observation end of the Aerotrain is on the platform at the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. Not sure what track # it is.

Love that SP heavyweight Harriman Railway Post Office off to the left of that view.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

What a beautiful machine! As soon as I saw it I thought "Viewliner"! Too bad it was a failure (rare for GM in 1955!) Thanks so much for the vintage photos! Do any of these machines remain? WOW the back of the train is amazing!!!

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, NEAT! I am happy to find out that at least one of the Aerotrain's still exist. Those pictures from the 50's are amazing, I thought that they were contemporary.

Richard Harrison said...

Simply stunning and thanks for bringing it home to the DL Viewliner for me!

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Thanks Blue. I had the LA station caption on the post when I was working on it. But it did not show up. It's all fixed now... including the enlarged version of the DL Viewliner picture. Appreciate the info on the SP PO car.

Anonymous said...

As a very young child I remember seeing one of these parked on a siding in the Chicago area. I am guessing that the year was about 1962. Thanks for the story behind my childhood memory.

Belgian Chris said...

Beautiful !! Taken in 1957 !! 35 years before TGV/Eurostar/Thalys and all those European look-a-likes......