Meet 5 Weirdest, Fastest and Most Experimental Trains Ever Made.

Trains, after all, just take what excite us about cars—complex, mechanical things steeped in performance, technology, and luxury. Interest in one should translate into at least a mild enthusiasm for the other.

Franz Kruckenberg's Schienenzeppelin.

Franz Kruckenberg's Schienenzeppelin.

Wrapped in a streamlined aluminum body and pushed along by a gigantic propeller, Franz Kruckenberg's Schienenzeppelin (or rail zeppelin) was an early attempt at high-speed rail combining both locomotive and passenger cabin that, for obvious reasons, didn't get very far. Though it achieved 230km/hin June 1931, setting a railed vehicle record that wasn't surpassed for 23 years, insurmountable design flaws prevented the Schienenzeppelin from maturing past the prototype stage.

Franz Kruckenberg's Schienenzeppelin.

Powered by a 12-cylinder BMW aircraft engine that ran on conventional gas, it struggled to climb hills, pull train cars, and most importantly, it was a danger to any pedestrians during operation. Hitting a developmental dead end in 1934, Kruckenberg sold the prototype to the Deutsche Reichsbahn, which took the machine apart in 1939 for war materials.

Franz Kruckenberg's Schienenzeppelin.

Deutsches Bundesbahn Schi-Stra-Bus.

Schi-Stra-Bus.

Built in postwar Germany, the Schi-Stra-Bus (whose name translates as rail-street-bus) was a hi-rail-style vehicle designed to travel on both the autobahn and existing rail infrastructure. Powered by a 118-horsepower Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz diesel, the Schi-Stra-Bus could propel 77 passengers up to 80km/h on the road, or after being lowered onto standalone rail trucks, 120km/h on a rail track.

Schi-Stra-Bus.

Union Pacific Big Boy.

Union Pacific Big Boy.

If one locomotive deserves to symbolize the might of mid-century American rail, it's the Union Pacific Big Boy. It was designed to solo-haul 3,600-ton loads, an unknown ALCO employee is said to put "Big Boy" on the front.

Union Pacific Big Boy.

And it's a right name for a locomotive that, its tender included, weighs in at 567 tonnes, or more than three Boeing 747-400s, making it the heaviest steam locomotive ever operated. Even more impressive is that these leviathans were designed to operate at a sustained speed of 96km/h.

United Aircraft Corporation TurboTrain.

United Aircraft Corporation TurboTrain.

The TurboTrain demonstrated in December 1967, when it reached 248km/h, setting a record for a fuel-mechanical-driven train that stands to this day.

United Aircraft Corporation TurboTrain.

But during a press demo run in 1968, a collision with a truck proved threat to the TurboTrain's service life, which it began the following year. The crash and poor crossing infrastructure in rural Canada limited regular service top speed to 153km/h.

United Aircraft Corporation TurboTrain.

Over time, accidents claimed multiple trainsets, and between poor reliability, complex maintenance, and loud, uncomfortable operation, the TurboTrain proved unpopular with railroads.After 1982, the TurboTrain was replaced by then conven-tional diesel-electrics.

Japan Rail Central L0 Series.

Japan Rail Central L0 Series.

Currently in development in Japan is a maglev called the L0 series which, on April 21, 2015, carried 49 JR Central employees to 603km/h, cracking the record for the fastest manned maglev in the world. Designed to ferry passengers at a more cautious, yet still blistering 305km/h, the L0 is intended to operate automatically with no engineers aboard, though there are cameras for emergency remote operation.

Despite a 3-month development freeze due to COVID-19, an updated prototype entered trials in August, 2020 reaching 550km/h, and making the program's passenger service entry target in 2027.