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RAILWAYS AND WAR before 1918. EXPERIMENTS IN THE EARLY 20th CENTURY


RAILWAYS AND WAR before 1918. EXPERIMENTS IN THE EARLY 20th CENTURY


All army railway departments after the experiences of the British in South Africa recognised two major problems: military railways often needed to be laid quickly, over unprepared ground; and they needed to be as inconspicuous as possible to avoid unwelcome attention from an enemy. Almost simultaneously in Germany and Britain, men invented a gyroscopically balanced monorail and offered it to the military.

Brennan monorail car (U.K.)

First to demonstrate a workable vehicle —approximately two hours in front of his rival—was Mr Louis Brennan, C.B., who produced the vehicle shown and demonstrated it at Gillingham on 10 November 1909. It was a petrol/ electric machine using an 80 h.p. Wolseley engine driving two Siemens motors via a dynamo, and with a separate generator set for powering its two 'gyrostats'. It initially impressed both civil and military reporters by its steadiness and the ease with which track was laid but nothing came of it. In retrospect the basic problems of power and the difficulty of providing detachable trailers as opposed to fixed 'trains' seem to have outweighed the advantages.

Scheil gyro-car (Germany)

The same can undoubtedly be said for Brennan's competitor, Herr Scheil, who demonstrated his much smaller vehicle in the Berlin Zoo. At a mere 17 ft in length and with a capacity of only half-a-dozen people it was dismissed by the British press as 4a mere toy'; it disappeared into limbo like its competitor.

Wolseley-engined petrol tractor (U.K.)

More promising, eventually, than the various monorail experiments that took place between the wars, was the early development of petrol-engined tractors. Little is known in detail about this rather curious little Wolseley-engined machine but it was produced to War Office order and was apparently narrow gauge— almost certainly 1 ft 6 in. or 2 ft 6 in. gauge. The War Office was responsible for a number of experimental internal-combustion-engined machines at this period and, indeed, used them on various depot lines besides stockpiling some 2 ft 6 in. gauge versions in its Royal Engineers siege park.
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1918., 20th, century, early, experiments, railways


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