• NEW BOOK: Flight of the M-497 (jet-powered RDC)

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Otto Vondrak
It is my pleasure to announce the release of a new book regarding the well-known high-speed tests performed by the New York Central with their jet-powered RDC. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with writer Hank Morris and design engineer Don Wetzel to produce this book. Don was instrumental in not only designing the jet-powered experiment, but operating the car during its record-setting speed trials. It is packed with many never seen before photos from Don Wetzel's personal collection. His memories and personal experiences help round out this excellent book.

"The search for high-speed passenger service began when the New York Central made history with the famous run of Engine 999. On May 10, 1893, the Empire State Express set the U.S. speed record of 112.45 mph. With these roots, it is no surprise that the railroad continued to be interested in providing its riders with high-speed, high-quality passenger service. On July 23, 1966, the New York Central conducted another experiment to discover those qualities of track and roadbed that would allow it to provide improved higher speed service. This time, they put a pair of surplus jet engines on top of a self-propelled railcar. The result of the experiment was a new U.S. rail speed record that has yet to be broken. Hank Morris and M-497 pilot Don Wetzel bring us the exciting true story of those historic speed trials."

Get it now: http://stores.lulu.com/m497

  by Otto Vondrak
About the Authors:

Don Wetzel has been involved in railroading for most of his professional career. He worked for the New York Central for 17 years (1950-1967), the Norfolk & Western Railway for three years (1967-1970), and then started Quest Corporation, which he ran until he retired in 1992. Quest is now owned by his son, Kurt, and produces engineered-to-specification force measuring electronic systems (scales) and railroad equipment. Don says, “I’m quite proud of the fact that I invented, patented, and marketed the pulsing locomotive ‘ditch lights’ now used by CSX, Norfolk Southern, and many other U.S. railroads.” Don and Ruth now live in Strongsville, Ohio. Don’s other hobbies include boating—he owns a twin-engine boat—and he also owns and rides a vintage 1970 Harley-Davidson FLH motorcycle. Don also has a commercial pilot’s license with instrument, multi-engine, and bomber ratings.

Hank Morris retired after 20-1/2 years as an editor on the staff of Control Engineering magazine (published by Reed Business Information). He has written over 200 published feature articles on various topics of technology. Hank was the editor of the National Railway Bulletin, (published by the National Railway Historical Society) until illness forced him to step down. He is presently the Publications Director for the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. Prior to becoming an editor, Hank was a designer/engineer at Zenith Electronics for 9 years where he was responsible for the mechanical engineering of Zenith’s line of tape recorders. Hank and his wife, Carol, reside in Chicago, Illinois.
  by Otto Vondrak
Some other people talking about the jet-powered RDC experiment:

http://jalopnik.com/359202/new-york-cen ... ered-train
We have no idea how this didn't pop up when researching France's Aérotrain but during the 1960's, New York Central was up to its own gee-whiz tricks in the form of the M-497 experimental. Searching for ways to attract passengers in the post-freeway era of dwindling train ridership, Central was investing in several projects, including high speed rail. One of the questions that hung over the prospect was the whether or not the existing rails could handle high speeds. To answer that question, they built a high speed train - on the cheap.

  by Otto Vondrak
Hi Otto

As soon as I got the word that there was a LuLu edition out on the "Flight Of The M-497," by Hank Morris and Don Wetzel I put the order in. It came in Friday's delivery. I must tell you that this book is EXCELLENT. The photos and the text are fantastic, and I enjoyed reading it for about the third time.

As you probably know, two of the most outstanding photos of the M-497 were in my book, FOCUS-The Railroad In Transition. Through the cooperation of the NYCRR Public Relations Department, they were contributed for the book, and they are on pages 239-240 along with text that they supplied. Since FOCUS was published in 1968 or thereabouts, these were bell-ringers on where we thought the passenger train might be headed. As you also have read in the book, the mock-ups and early models of Metroliner on the Pennsy and later on, the PCRR became the fastest trains we had, even though NECIP had a ways to go before completion. Even at that, the M-497 still held the record for speed, even though it would not see revenue service. NECIP and Acela still would not exceed the M-497's 183.85 miles per hour in North America.

Your work on putting together "Flight of the M-497" is a knockout. The book is absolutely beautiful, and if literary critics still operate, this book should definitely rate five stars. There are a few nice surprises in the book. I did not know that AEP was the co-pilot on the record setting run of the M-497, but there it is, plain as plain can be. It even mentioned he ordered ham sandwiches, a clear violation of Rule G (Jewish dietary laws for religious fanatics).

The typesetter for the book scored mightily. If one looks at the Table of Contents and all the page numbers, a trained NYCRR follower such as myself will recognize that the numbers have been set in NYC style typeface. This is EXACTLY the numbering used on the cabs of all locomotives and some later day rolling stock. This is a real nice touch to a very commendable book.


Bob Carper