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54 Wheel overland train

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  • 54 Wheel overland train

    Saw this on another forum - thought it'd go down well here..

    In the 1950s, the U.S. Army experimented with a 13-car, 600-foot-long wheeled train that could haul more than a hundred tons of supplies over sand or snow.

    But let's start from the beginning of it all...

    Originally conceived to assist logging in trackless wilderness, LeTourneau, a company specialising in heavy equipment, experimented with diesel-electric transmission. Famed for its earthmovers, they devised the first of theyr land trains. The VC-12 Tournatrain, in 1953-1954 with a lead cab and three trailers. A 500hp Cummins diesel powered a generator that then fed electric motors at each wheel, thus spreading the power application across 16 wheels to enhance traction. A later iteration of the Tournatrain added a second Cummins and four more trailers to put 32 drive wheels to the ground.

    Though pitched to the Army, LeTourneau never found a buyer for the VC-12.

    At this time the U.S. and Canada were in the process of developing the DEW Line, which was located in areas with no roads, few airbases, and in areas where the sea ice often prevented ships from accessing the sites. On 15 April 1954 the company demonstrated VC-12 to the US Army Transportation Research and Development Command, or TRADCOM, proposing that the system would be useful for logistics operations in the arctic if equipped with more wheels.

    TRADCOM offered funding to create the TC-264 Sno-Buggy, which had eight 120-inch (3.0 m) tires, arranged in pairs and driven by four motors powered by a single Allison V-1710 engine running on butane. The resulting vehicle had an enormous amount of tire area to vehicle weight, allowing it to float on the tundra and snow. First unveiled in June 1954, the Sno-Buggy was sent to Greenland for testing.

    Alaska Freight Lines, of Seattle, had contracted with Western Electric to provide 500 tons of equipment to the DEW stations being built in the Alaska sector. Hearing of the VC-12, on 5 January 1955 they signed a contract with LeTourneau for the construction of the VC-22 Sno-Freighter. The contract called for a single locomotive and six cars able to haul 150 tons, cross rivers up to 4 feet (1.2 m) deep, cut through snow drifts and operate at temperatures as low as -68 degrees F. The locomotive provided AC power from 400-hp Cummins NVH-12 engines, powering its own four wheels and the five four-wheeled trailers, forming a 274-foot-long (84 m) train.
    Since the VC-22 was based almost entirely on existing parts from their 6x6 vehicles, even the tires, the company was able to deliver it with surprising speed. It was completed on 17 February 1955, painted, and then sent to Alaska on the 21st. The vehicle served well throughout 1955, but when Alaska Freight Lines's contract with Western Electric ran out it was soon left to rot. Today it sits abandoned outside Fairbanks, Alaska near the Steese Highway.


    The Sno-Buggy impressed the Army during its trials so much, the Army decided to combine traits of the Sno-Buggy and the Tournatrain into what LeTourneau called the YS-1 Sno-Train, and what the Army called the LCC-1. It used a single 600hp Cummins and three trailers for a total capacity of 45 tons. Released in 1956, it served in Greenland for DEW resupply runs until 1962.

    Six years later, LeTourneau made one final stab at building the ultimate land train. Designed to traverse arctic conditions as well as sand and desert, the six-wheeled TC-497 Overland Train MkII used four 1,170-hp Solar 10MC (thatís 4,680hp) one in the "control car" and three others spread through the train. New power trailers could be added at any point along the train. To further reduce weight, most of the vehicle was built from welded aluminum.

    Steering such a train proved to be a serious problem. If the train rounded a corner, the trailers would normally want to even the angles between themselves, forming into a long arc. If there was an obstacle that the driver had avoided, the trailers might eventually hit it as they rounded a corner. To solve this problem, the new trailers were all equipped with steerable wheels. Steering commands were sent from the control cab to each set of wheels in turn, so they started turning at the same point where the driver had. This allowed the train to make sharp right-angle turns, for instance.

    The Mark II had a much larger six-wheeled cab that was over 30 feet (9.1 m) tall and was no longer articulated due to the ability for all the wheels to be steered. The turbine engine was much smaller than the diesel it replaced, allowing the interior to support a crew of six with sleeping quarters, toilets and a galley. It was even equipped with a radar. An additional two power cars and ten cargo cars were built for testing. In total the train now stretched over 570 feet (170 m). On flat ground it could carry 150 tons of cargo at about 20 mph. Range at full load was normally 350 to 400 miles (560 to 640 km), but additional fuel trailers could be added to extend it.

    The Army started testing the Overland Train in 1962, the same year Sikorsky introduced its large freight helicopters that rendered the land trains obsolete.

    The vehicle remained unused for a time, and was then put up for sale for $1.4 million in 1969. All that remains of the Mark II is the control cab which remains at Yuma, the rest was sold off to a local scrap dealer. The Mark II retains the record for the longest offroad vehicle in the world.

    The fates of the Tournatrain and the Sno-Buggy are uncertain. The Sno-Freighter, however, sits abandoned with at least three of its trailers outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, as does the LCC-1, with just one of its trailers.

    The Overland Train, minus all of its trailers, sits today at the Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center in Arizona.

    Most of theyr tyres have been salvaged for monster trucks, amongst them the famous 'Big Foot' trucks...

    Now you know where they got there tyres from.

    Sources: http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2...ains-to-shame/

    But behold - here are the pictures of the Overland Train. LIFE has published high resolution photos from the testing in Yuma, more can be found here: http://images.google.com/hosted/life...efa5dafbe87227

    And how it remains today.

    I hope you enjoyed reading about this madness on wheels as much as I did creating this post


  • #2
    Thank you for posting this. I love old forgotten about history like this. Russia has some serious machines which lay rotting within Russia before salvagers started dismantling them and weighing in the metal.
    Must have been great working on that.
    Oh Nana, what's my name?


    • #3
      Great stuff... good find

      Back in the day Baby