What do you get when you cross a jet plane with a train? The M-497 Black Beetle

Written by Cale Leiphart on Jan 02, 2011 in - 0 Comments

Alekander Stein brings us this weird and wonderful blast from the past. The New York Central's experimental M-497, the "Black Beetle".

NYC M-497

Flashback to the mid 1960's. Railroad passenger traffic is declining in America and the railroads are in competition with the interstate highways and the growing airline industry. To win back travelers many railroads began investigating high speed rail travel.  A New York Central research team was assigned a task to collect data on possible high-speed rail service and whether the New York Central's tracks could handle high-speed passenger traffic.

Two second-hand General Electric J47-19 jet engines (designed as boosters for the Convair B-36 intercontinental bomber) were mounted atop an existing Budd RDC-3 Rail Diesel Car. The car was given a black streamlined cowling for the front and was designated M-497. Workers called it the Black Beetle."

The Black Beetle

On a high speed test run between in 1966 between Butler, IN and Stryker, OH, the M-497 reached a top speed of 183.681 mph remaining to today the current high speed record for light rail in the United States. Even with this spectacular performance (and even though it had been built relatively cheaply, using existing parts), the project was not considered viable commercially and was only intended to test the impact of high speed rail travel on the New York Central's current infrastructure.While the NYC proved their rails were capable of high speed transit, the data gathered never bore fruit, as the NYC was headed for merger with its arch rival Pennsylvania Railroad soon afterward. The experimental was dismantled and the M497 returned to civilian duty as an NYC commuter car, running between Poughkeepsie and Harmon for Metro North where it lived until its sale to Conrail in May 1976. In an undignified end, the car was cannibalized for parts in Dec. 1977 and scrapped by Metro-North in 1984.

Test Run

While the real "Black Beetle" is no more Alekander Stein's model is delightfully accurate recreation of the historic experimental train. You can see more of his excellent MOC in Aleksander's Flickr Gallery.

M-497 Flickr Gallery



About the Author


Cale Leiphart lives in York Pennsylvania and is a veteran LEGO steam builder and founding member of the Pennsylvania LEGO Users Group. His main interest is modeling steam era railroads in the North Eastern US, in particular those local to his home town of York. Outside of LEGO and trains he enjoys video games, old cars, and collecting farm toys.


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