UAC Turbo

To reply to the comment (thanks for commenting by the way) from last week, yes, the TurboTrain.

The TurboTrain, a gas turbine powered, passive tilting, and articulated (use of Jacobs bogies, where two carriages rest on a single bogie in between, like on the Alstom TGV and AGV) trainset, designed in the 1960s by the United Aircraft Corporation of Hartford, Connecticut, was the first true high-speed train in North America and the only in Canada.  Instead of diesel engines, the TurboTrain uses a set of up to twelve (on both ends) Pratt & Whitney aeroderivative gas turbines to generate electricity for the traction motors.  Compared to diesel engines, gas turbines have a much higher power density (kilowatt per litre of engine displacement, i.e. they produce the same amount of power as diesel engines while weighing a lot less).  The passive-tilting passenger carriages of the TurboTrain used a design similar to the Spanish Talgo trains and were lower than conventional carriages.

TurboTrain in Via Rail livery

In Canada, the TurboTrain was used by the Canadian National Railway and later Via Rail Canada between 1968 and 1984 for services between Toronto and Montreal, where the train regularly hit 120 mph.  With stops at Dorval, Kingston, and Guildwood, the fastest scheduled Turbo (Train 62/63) only needed 3 hours and 59 minutes to travel between downtown Toronto and downtown Montreal with a start-stop average speed of 84 mph (the fastest Via Rail service today, Train 66/67, with a top speed of 100 mph, requires 4 hours and 32 minutes for the same journey while only stopping at Dorval and Oshawa).

The Turbo in its original Canadian National livery

Although suffered from technical problems in her early days, the rebuilt TurboTrains provided 11 years of reliable service to the CN and Via Rail with an availability rate of over 97% since 1973.  With a top speed of 170.8 mph (275 km/h) achieved between Trenton and New Brunswick, NJ, the TurboTrain is the fastest production train ever produced yet in North America.  If you are interested, please visit the YouTube channel of High Speed Rail Canada for some footages of the Turbo.  Please also visit Wikipedia for a more detailed article covering the TurboTrain.

The Turbo at Kingston Station (Princess St. in the background)

Next week, we can talk about a train which uses magnetic levitation (Maglev) that holds the absolute world speed record for trains.


R Espey said…
If the TurboTrain was so quick on service, why did they decommission her in the 80's? Mechanical? Other?

I think MagLev was one of the options discussed for the High-Speed rail service between Calgary and Edmonton, so I'm looking forward to next week's post!
Yi said…
It's a very good question. I haven't been able to find the exact answer, but I can throw a few guesses around. Cost might have been a factor. Gas turbines are precision machines that work under conditions that involve extremely high rpm, high temperature, and pressure. They require highly trained maintenance workers and are less efficient than reciprocating engines on idle. A gas turbine that's not properly maintained poses great danger to people around it. The replacement of the TurboTrain, the conventional Bombardier LRC, was supposed to operate at 125 mph as well, but the final product was overweight and was restricted to 100 mph only.
Anonymous said…
The UAC Turbo-Train has had two accidents between Montreal and Toronto due to the poor quality of the CN tracks. Moreover, there were complaints that the suspension was giving a rough ride displeasing the clients, but this would have been easy to solve. Anyway, these trains had top speed way above the HST levels and could have been the TGV before the French did since it could run at 270 km/h. Canada did not bring proper support to a very good idea and it still does not support proper rail transport. What a pity !
Anonymous said…
If you read Turbotrain A Journey you would find that it had no goverment support and CN/Via lacked vision on high speed rails lines. Only 7-11 changed Canadina out look on fast rail travel. I rode the Turbo and it was fast and ahead of it's time. It still holds the Canadain record for fastest train speed, even twenty years after taken out of service. The book is at
Alex said…
I have a plan to visit Canada next week. I would like to try having journey with TurboTrain when going to Canada. It is more effective than another train? What are the advantages of having journey with this kind of train.
Yi said…
Hi Alex, sorry for the late response... unfortunately all the TurboTrains have been decommissioned and scrapped since the 1980s. You may only find locomotive trailer trains in intercity service. The fastest trains run between Toronto and Montreal with a top speed of 100 mph and average speed in the 60s and 70s. Enjoy your visit!

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