Long before there were bullet trains and high-speed light rail systems, people experimented with creating super-streamlined trains that could whisk people across the country in Googie splendor. In some alternate universe, these streamlined trains of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are still in service.
The German Schienenzeppelin (means Rail Zeppelin), the prop-driven V12 locomotive with a 46-liter BMW engine, developed by Franz Kruckenberg in 1929. In the summer of 1931 it reached the speed of 143 mph (230.2 kmh) in the summer of 1931.
Only one prototype was built, which was dismantled in 1939.
The Bennie Railway, a propeller-powered monorail, would have linked London to Paris. A prototype ran over a 390 ft (120 m) line at Milngavie, Scotland during the 1930s, but George Bennie, the inventor, went bankrupt in 1937 and the line was demolished in the 1950s.
Scottish inventor George Bennie had a dream. Where trains couldn't link destinations separated by water, grand railways would stretch through the skies, guiding propeller-powered planes from city to city. Technically, the Bennie Railplane isn't actually a monorail; to the contrary, it requires both a top and bottom rail to guide its propeller-powered planes. But like a monorail, the Railplane was meant to be a transit system deliberately separated from the ground-based one. Feeling that carrying freight and passengers along the same rails was inefficient, Bennie proposed these suspended rails that would carry passenger-only planes. He also thought it would be a brilliant way to carry passengers across the English Channel, making commutes from London to Paris fast and easy.
(via io9 and J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The Commodore Vanderbilt, designed by Carl F. Cantola, converted from another locomotive, named NYC Hudson No. 5344, built in 1934
The Union Pacific M-10000, the first American streamlined express passenger train with internal combustion engine, designed by Martin P. Blomberg and A. H. Fetters, 1934
The first French full-streamlined locomotive named 221B, used on the Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée Railway (PLM), converted from the retired Class 221A Atlantics.
(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images and kitchener.lord)
The Comet, built for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Company in 1935. The only example was scrapped in 1951.
The Rexall (United Drug Company) Train, a promotional 12-car streamlined and air-conditioned train, 1936
"The front half of the train was planned for public exhibition. To that end, four Pullman cars were outfitted with displays of virtually every product Rexall offered. The hottest products lent their names to the cars of the train. Kantleek, Firstaid, Ad-Vantages, Research, Bisma-Rex, Cara Nome, and six other star-product names adorned on the sides of the cars." – according to Theme Trains.
Mercury trains, used by the New York Central Railroad, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, operated between 1936 and 1959.
LMS Coronation Class locomotives, introduced in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. These streamlined trains were designed by W. A. Stanier.
(Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images and Ingy The Wingy)
The Aeolus, the first stainless-steel streamlined steam locomotive, 1937, operated by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.
The Richard Dreyfuss-designed generation of 20th Century Limited trains, operated by the New York Central Railroad between 1938 and the end of WWII
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images and Photos of War)