M-497 Black Beetle

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M-497 Black Beetle
In service New York Central Railroad
Constructed 1966
Scrapped 1984
Number built 1
Operator(s) New York Central Railroad
Car body construction stainless steel
Maximum speed 183.681MPH
Weight 51.3 t (50.5 long tons; 56.5 short tons)
Prime mover(s) General Electric J47-19
Engine type aircraft engine
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The M-497 (nicknamed Black Beetle by the press[1]) was an experimental jet-powered locomotive test bed of the New York Central Railroad (NYC) corporation, developed and tested in 1966 in the United States of America. Two second-hand General Electric J47-19 jet engines (designed as boosters for the Convair B-36 Peacemaker intercontinental bomber) were mounted atop an existing Budd Rail Diesel Car (an RDC-3, part coach, part baggage and mail configuration) body which had received a streamlined front cowling. The construct was then successfully sent on test runs over the existing tracks between Butler, Indiana and Stryker, Ohio. (The line was chosen for its arrow-straight layout and good condition, but otherwise unmodified track.) The car reached a speed of 183.68 mph (295.60 km/h), still the light-rail speed record for the United States.[2][3][4]

Even with this spectacular performance (and even though it had been built relatively cheaply, using existing parts), the project was not considered viable commercially. The railroad gathered valuable test data regarding the stresses of high-speed rail travel on conventional equipment and tracks then existing in America. The data was largely ignored, as the NYC was headed for merger with its arch rival Pennsylvania Railroad. The PRR was already heavily involved in the Metroliner project, funded by the United States Department of Transportation.

After jet engine removal, the rail car returned to normal service and was scrapped in 1984.[2][3] Engines were re-used as X29493, an experimental snow blower.[5] Like most similar jet engine blowers, it was effective at clearing snow and ice but also tended to dislodge the ballast.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morris Wetzel, pp. 10,20.
  2. ^ a b "It's a Jet! It's a Train! It's M-497". Dark Roasted Blend: Weird and Wonderful Things. 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  3. ^ a b Wojdyla, Ben (2008-02-21). "Retro: New York Central's M-497 Jet Powered Train". Jalopnik.com. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  4. ^ Truscott, Tim (2010). "Some Earlier High Speed Rail Accomplishments". The ESPA Express (The Empire State Passengers Association) 34 (4): 8. 
  5. ^ Morris, Hank; Wetzel, Don. "The flight of the M-497" (PDF). pp. 15,17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-28. 

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