Leaving on a Jet Train: How Don Wetzel Brought Train Travel into the Jet Age
In the summer of 1966, railroad engineer Don Wetzel bought a pair of GE jet engines from a surplus Air Force bomber, bolted them to the roof of a stock commuter car, and took the train to a straight section of Ohio track. On his second try, he zipped down the rails at 183 miles per hour, a new North American rail speed record.
The record still stands. Wetzel’s jet train, along with France’s TGV 001, also remains the world’s fastest self-propelled train. (Unlike electric trains, the jet train carried its own fuel). “Actually, our speed hit 196 miles per hour and we were decelerating when we went through the timing traps,” Wetzel says. “Everybody thought it was pretty funny that we set a world record when we were slowing down.”
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