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SVL: Electricity-Free, Yet Soaring at 250 km/h—The Soviet Train Marvel

SVL: Electricity-Free, Yet Soaring at 250 km/h—The Soviet Train Marvel
foto: Wikimedia Commons/SVL: Electricity-Free, Yet Soaring at 250 km/h—The Soviet Train Marvel
18 / 09 / 2023

Throughout history, we've seen that people have constantly sought to enhance and improve transportation methods. This drive for innovation is evident in the 1971 Soviet Union experiment with a jet-powered train that could reach speeds of up to 250 km/h.

In 1971, the Russians unveiled a train that looked as if it had been transported from the future. Its design was reminiscent of those seen in legendary TV programs, like the iconic "Bond 007" series, or "Fantomas," starring the incredible Louis de Funès. It was so futuristic that one might question if such an extraordinary machine truly existed and if it could actually transport passengers. The Russian engineers named this jet-powered marvel the SVL.

At its core was the aerodynamically-enhanced ER22 locomotive, bearing a resemblance to the Japanese Shinkansen. The most striking and dominant features of the locomotive were the two massive Ivchenko AI-25 jet engines mounted atop the train. The entire unit weighed in at 54.4 tons.

Interestingly, the SVL project was shelved in 1972. It's believed that the train wasn't intended to become a mainstream mode of transportation. Instead, the insights and knowledge gained from its development were earmarked to inform the construction of future trains. A significant advantage of this incredible train was its independence from electricity. This was particularly crucial during the Cold War era; it meant the train could operate wherever there were tracks, even if power plants were compromised, offering significant strategic value.

This Russian concept wasn't entirely new. It followed on the heels of the 1966 New York Central Company's M-497 Black Beetle project. This slightly modified vehicle, equipped with two jet engines on its roof, set a light rail transport speed record of 295.60 km/h—a record that remains unbroken. Today, while passengers commonly travel on trains that can reach speeds of 300 km/h, these trains still require electric lines alongside the rails.