What is an air train and why did it lose a TGV?

In September 1975, it was officially announced that the TGV project wins a tender for the construction of high-speed rail lines in France, its creators received a grant and in 1976 began construction of the first line. And in December of the same, 1975, the heart of Jean Bertin was broken. He was only 58 years old.

He was a talented engineer. He worked at Snecma, a company known for its aerospace developments, and since 1955 he independently worked on the development of high-speed boats powered by a propeller, that is, airboats. And in the early 1960s, when the French government announced a competitive development of high-speed railways - in response to the Japanese Shinkansen, Bertin thought that the principle of the airboat is not so difficult to transfer to the railway. Moreover, such experiments have already been carried out - Abakovsky’s air carriage, Kruckenberg’s “Zeppelin Rail”, Benny cableway. All those projects ended in failure, but Bertin believed in himself. And he built A? rotrain

Bertin and his team have been developing airplanes using the ground effect since 1957. Their most successful development was the Terraplane BC4 universal glider created in 1962 by army order. Pictured is the Naviplane N300, the first of these Bertin machines.

In order to make the train shape as similar as possible to that used on water, Bertin suggested building a monorail - this solved all the problems with lateral flow around, plus it allowed to correctly distribute the incoming flow. In 1963, the layout of the first “Air Train” was demonstrated to the then Prime Minister of France, Georges Pompidou.

The latter warmly approved Bertin's project - and in every possible way supported it and provided an influx of finances both during his premiership and during the presidential term. To some extent, due to the death of Pompidou in 1974, funding for Project A? rotrain has been discontinued. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

By the end of 1965, a test section of the monorail road was built on the basis of the old Paris-Gallardon-Chartres railway line abandoned after the war. The test center is located in the town of Gomets-la-Ville, and a 6.7-km test site went from it to the Limur viaduct in one direction and to Gomets-le-Chatel in the other.

For the inspection of the ways, a suspension booth was invented.

It was here that on February 21, 1966, the prototype A was officially presented to the public. rotrain n ° 1.

In essence, the Bertin monorail used the same effect as the hovercraft. It was the letter P, mounted on the inverted letter T, and a certain pressure was created inside the rubber "skirt" to facilitate movement. A? rotrain n ° 1 was a valid layout in? full size.

It was driven by an ordinary aircraft engine with a power of 250 hp, which rotated a no less ordinary aircraft propeller. Air was pumped under the skirt with two more small engines of 50 hp. everyone.

On December 29, 1965, the first experimental Aeropoezd drove for the first time along an unfinished highway. After the construction was completed and the car was presented to the public, it reached a speed of 200 km / h. At this moment, Bertin dawned: if you can put a propeller on Aeropoezd, why not put a turbine? No sooner said than done. December 23, 1966 A? rotrain n ° 1, equipped with a jet engine, accelerated to 303 km / h, which for the train was completely unthinkable at that time. And with an even more powerful turbine (from the French training aircraft Fouga CM.170 Magister), which replaced the first, in November 1967 it showed a speed of 345 km / h!

The length of the first train was 10 meters, it weighed 2.6 tons, it accommodated six people - two drivers and four passengers. For emergency braking, it was equipped with two parachutes. Naturally, there was an option and normal braking. In the picture - the Rhode Island Senator Claireburn-Pell poses with the "Train".

It was a success. A? rotrain n ° 1 was publicly tested every day - drove along the highway, reaching insane speeds. People from all over France came to watch him - onlookers, journalists, investors, ministers. Newspapers trumpeted Bertin's successes: his idea worked and fully paid off. "Shinkansen" with its "miserable" 220 km / h was left far behind. Minister of Transport Edgar Pisani instructed the construction of the first line of the Aeroezdozda, 86 kilometers long; True, his zeal did not find a response, since they planned to build the line for the 1968 Winter Olympics - and obviously did not have time. Nevertheless, a new 10-kilometer section was built by December 1968 in the direction Paris - Orleans (it was assumed that later it would become part of the existing line). Later it was expanded to 18 kilometers. A wonderful shot from the construction: a section of the line breaks off the crane and falls on one of the trailers for transportation. No harm done.

In March 1967, Bertin built the second prototype A? rotrain n ° 2. It was a two-seater car, reminiscent of a road car, light and driven by a Pratt & Whitney JT12 turbine. Weighed the second prototype 1250 kg. At the first test, the second model reached a speed of 300 km / h, and in January 1969 set a record - 422 km / h.

Nevertheless, talk continued about the speed line Paris - Orleans. Bertin was no longer demanding a demo prototype, but a full-fledged train that could take passengers along a certain section of the road. Bertin was not embarrassed and soon presented two models at once - for various purposes.

44 seater A? rotrain S44 was a small car for local, suburban traffic, driven by an environmentally friendly electric motor - that is, an asynchronous linear motor. The same is used, by the way, on the Moscow monorail. A? rotrain S44 accelerated to a maximum of 200 km / h, while cruising speed kept two times lower. However, more was needed for communication between, for example, a city and an airport. Therefore, we will not talk much about this car.

Salon S44:

But the second model was A? rotrain I80. A wagon measuring 25.6 x 3.2 x 3.3 meters weighing 11.25 tons could carry 80 passengers and their luggage.

In the first configuration (I80−250) it was equipped with a 2.3-meter seven-blade propeller with a variable configuration of the blades and two Turbom turbo engines ca Turmo III E3 1610 hp everyone.

Braking was carried out using the reverse start of the propeller and, in addition, friction brakes. July 7, 1969 I80 was shown to the public, and then went to a test base in Orleans, where an 18-kilometer line was already completed. On September 13 of the same year, he showed the planned speed of 250 km / h, and in November he drove the entire line with a full load - there were many journalists and dignitaries among the passengers, including the Minister of Transport.

The tests continued for another three years. During this time, more than 2900 passengers managed to ride the train. In 1973, Bertin made up his mind and converted the I80 into an I80 HV jet car. Instead of the propeller, a Pratt & Whitney JT8 D11 jet turbine was installed, and on March 5, 1974 A? rotrain I80 HV set a speed record for ground vehicles on an air cushion (according to the classification, it went just like that) - 430.4 km / h. Bertin considered 350 km / h as the cruising speed of passenger transportation - this is what the carriage was calculated for.

In view of the success, a network of lines was proposed for Aeropoezd: Paris - Orleans, Paris - Lyon, Orly - Etoile, Brussels - Geneva via Luxembourg and Basel, Calais - Furmier and so on. Two projects were developed entirely: the road connecting the airports of Orly and Roissy via Joinville and Pont (56 km in 20 minutes). The second project involved the connection of Orly with the center of Paris. To quickly move along the test track for the needs of engineers, another Tridim "under-train" was built for four people.

He is still gathering dust in a hangar.

On June 21, 1974, a contract was signed between company A? rotrain and the French government about laying the first of these two lines. Jean Bertin achieved his goal - it was a day of triumph.

July 17, 1974, just 26 days after signing, the French government withdrew the contract, terminating it unilaterally without explanation.

To some extent, this was understandable. Bertin with his idea was in many ways a protege of Pompidou. He showed his mercy on his own or through the Minister of Transport - but on April 2, 1974, Pompidou died of leukemia. For some time after this, the duties of the president were performed by Alain Poer, who did not really decide anything, and all decisions made by Pompidou remained in force. The new president was Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, who, having considered the question of building expressways in France, rolled back the "graces" of his predecessor. Objectively speaking, the TGV project developing in parallel was much better. Firstly, TGV trains could develop comparable to Aeropoezd high speed of about 300 km / h. Secondly, they could move along the usual public routes, that is, fit into the general train schedule, and for them it was not necessary to build complex super-technological T-shaped tracks. And - most importantly - the TGV was basically an ordinary train, which could be made up of many wagons, increasing passenger traffic. A? rotrain did not imply the possibility of adhesion - it was a motor car and nothing more. It would take a lot of similar motor cars to meet the needs of France.

Therefore, a year later, in September 1975, a conditional “tender” went to TGV. And on December 21, the 58-year-old engineer Jean Bertin lay in his bed and no longer woke up, because along with his idea, the meaning of his life disappeared forever.

What's left

Prototypes have survived to this day in fair condition. A? rotrain n ° 1 and A? rotrain n ° 2. The first is stored in a hangar, not restored.


Here is the second in 1987.

It was later restored, today it is stored in a museum.

The history of the second and third “Air Trains” is no less sad than the history of their creator. A? rotrain S44 burned down in 1991 during a fire in a hangar in the city of Gomez. Similar to A? rotrain I80 HV burned down in 1992 during a fire in a hangar in the city of Chevilly, where he stood in eternal storage in anticipation of better times. From the unique cars were two charred platforms.

However, the safety of both before the fire was not very. Here is the I80 salon at work (Bertin on the right).

Here is the hangar where it was stored and burned (1987 photo):

Here is the condition of the train shortly before the fire:

The company, founded in 1955 by Jean Bertin, still exists. He is engaged in various energy-saving technologies and so on. From the 18-kilometer section 10 years ago quite a lot remained.

Tanker booth roadside, one piece.

But in 2007 they were destroyed, as they prevented the construction of another route.

Today there are only mossy areas in overgrown areas.

Former S44 Model Platform:

A monument to the "Air Train" was erected in Chevilla. Because without a monument it would be completely somehow sad.

Lastly, a great video of what Bertin's “Train Train” was like.

An excellent selection of photos can be found on the site.


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