SCIENCE & TECH

LeTourneau TC-497, the train with no tracks

GarbageFire 🍆
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GarbageFire 🍆

"Four wheel drive" is the standard people usually refer to when describing the power of their trucks and other off-road vehicles. The LeTourneau TC-497 "land train" overshoots this by a considerable margin. It sports the world's only "54-wheel drive" configuration. 

LeTourneau TC-497, the train with no tracks

These giant materials-hauling beasts were designed for the United States government, which was seeking a reliable backup transport system for use if the nation's railways were destroyed. Like many other gargantuan projects, it comes to us from the cold war with Russia era. 

These truck-trains used electric motors on each axle, which were all driven via a giant diesel generator in the front unit.  Their testing was classified as part of "Project OTTER," which stands for "Overland Train Terrain Evaluation Research." Although the trains tested well, heavy-lift helicopters like the S-64 Skycrane quickly made the notion of an off-road train obsolete, and the project died. 

LeTourneau TC-497, the train with no tracks