The Bennie Railplane was created by George Bennie (1891 - 1957), born in Glasgow, but spent most of his life in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute. He took after his father, who was an engineer, and developed an interest in public transportation.
In 1921, he began development of The George Bennie Airspeed Railway, a high level monorail style system he believed capable of development to connect Edinburgh and Glasgow with a 20 minute journey, at speeds up to 150 mph. Gaining a patent for the design in 1923, but lacking formal engineering qualifications, Bennie employed a consultant engineer, Hugh Fraser, to undertake the technical design of the Railplane. This would be a propeller driven vehicle powered by an electric motor energised by an onboard engine, although there was also the option of deriving power from a live rail. Braking of the vehicle was achieved by reversing the drive propeller, and by brakes mounted in overhead bogies which supported the carriages. The system was designed to have its monorail track mounted over existing train lines, supported by metal frames. the carriages would be suspended from bogies running on the upper track, while a guide wheel running on a lower track would stabilise it. Construction was carried out at the Dalmuir works of William Beardmore & Co Ltd of Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, and drew on their airship experience, as manufacturers of the R34 airship.
Bennie failed to attract any early backing for the project, and attempted to generate interest by building a full-size, quarter mile demonstration track over an LNER siding near the Burnbrae Dyeworks at Milngavie. The demonstration carriage was luxuriously appointed to impress the potential backers, being fitted with plush carpeting, curtains, comfortable seating, tables and table-lights. Although this generated considerable interest, and proposals for lines between Blackpool and Southport, and others such as the south of France, nothing ever materialised, and Bennie was finally ousted from the board of the Railplane company in 1936, and had no further involvement in the system.
In a chicken and egg situation, it is unclear if the lack of investment was the reason for the project's failure, or if the innovative techniques were a step too far, and scared potential clients (the transport authorities) away. In either case, the result was the same.
In 1937, he was declared bankrupt, but recovered and went on to form two new companies; in 1946, George Bennie Airspeed Railway Ltd; and in 1951, George Bennie Airspeed Railway (Iraq) Ltd. These were intended to provide links between city centres and airports, combining their passenger services with desert irrigation systems between locations such as the River Nile, the Dead Sea, Baghdad and Damascus. Unfortunately, these proposals also failed to attract the required interest to make them realities.
In 1942, the Railplane site at Milngavie was acquired by another new company, Railplanes Ltd, a subsidiary of Henry Boot and Sons Ltd, the Sheffield construction company. For some reason, the structure survived World War II, and the call for scrap metal, but, together with the Railplane, was demolished for scrap in 1956.
Following the failure of any of his Railplane proposals to materialise as completed projects, Bennie is said to have opened a herbalist shop, where he worked until his death.
The Glasgow Museum of Transport, and Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, both have displays relating to the Bennie Railplane, and the transport museum has a film of the demonstration run on show in its cinema.
- Glasgow Museums, home page
- Dewi's Trains, Trams & Trolleys, The George Bennie Railplane/Monorail
- Bennie Railplane Dead link, June 20, 2010.
- Scottish Screen Archive - Full record for 'GEORGE BENNIE RAILPLANE SYSTEM OF TRANSPORT' 20 minute film Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- Dark Roasted Blend: One-Track Wonders: Early Monorails Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- Dark Roasted Blend: DRB Pic of the Day: Propeller-driven "The Bennie Railplane" Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- The REAL flying Scotsman: the 120mph propeller-driven 'Railplane' that left the inventor who dreamed of revolutionising commuting in 1930s Britain penniless | Mail Online Retrieved August 28, 2012.
This Crazy Propeller-Driven Hanging Monorail Was Once Considered the Future Of Commuting | Gizmodo UK Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- This propeller-powered monorail would have linked London to Paris Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- Scottish fact of the day: George Bennie Railplane - Heritage - Scotsman.com Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- The Bennie Railplane Monoplane - Gear Wheels Online Motoring Magazine Retrieved August 28, 2012.
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