This Goofy Railroad Design from 1894 Used Wind to Move

In their 1894 book The Coming Railroad, George Nation Chase and Henry William Kirchner wrote that America’s rail system was the most essential piece of technology to maintain modern life. But the rail system had reached the limits of its capacity for transportation. It was expensive and inefficient. In order to increase the carrying capacity of railroads to keep up with the demands of a growing population, the United States should switch to wind-powered locomotives.

The authors called their proposal the “The Chase-Kirchner aerodromic system of transportation.” In it, cars would rest on elevated tracks. Each car would have “banks of aeroplanes” between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet in area. These planes would catch the air and, supplemented by electric motors, provide movement.

-via Retronaut


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Jeff: I think you've misunderstood this design. If the wind vector has a sufficiently large component parallel to the track, then then it would create a propelling force, which in turn would cause the car to accelerate. It was mentioned that the wind power would be "supplemented by electric motors", so not necessarily the prime source of power. I think you are right that a sail would be more efficient than the vanes shown in the engravings, but although it may not have been a good design there was no charlatanism to the idea. Referring to the top figure, the vanes would redirect the airflow such that the resultant force would have a "lift" component and a forward component (to the left in this figure). The double tracks are necessary to prevent the car from lifting from the tracks. Its a bit goofy, but not stupid, and creative dreamers help

Also, I love the look of those engravings. Imagine the skill it took to create those!
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Ummm... wings provide lift, not forward acceleration/momentum. Who were these charlatans? At the very least, a sail-type design would be more along the lines of accomplishing what they were trying to do... and were destined to fail at in either case.
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