Germany’s 1930 Schienenzeppelin was a propeller-driven train that could pull forty passengers at speeds faster than 200 kilometres per hour.
The gorgeous streamlined character pictured above is the train known as the Schienenzeppelin. Several nations in the early 20th century attempted to develop high-speed trains through the use of propellers, but this prototype was the most successful. The Schienenzeppelin toured Germany to show off its clean lines, enormous rear propeller, and impressive speed – at one point getting as fast as 230 kilometres per hour. Its aluminium shell was reminiscent of a zeppelin, hence the name.
This train never got beyond that one working demonstration model: it couldn’t reverse, it couldn’t pull other carriages, and having an open giant wooden propeller in a train station right next to passengers was deemed a bit of a risk to public safety. It’s still impressive compared to the Russian attempt of 1917, the Aerowagon, which derailed in 1921 and killed seven people:
Or the Scottish propeller train the Bennie Railplane, which also got to the prototype stage but only on one custom-built monorail, and that ended up rotting away in a field: