• Whatever happened to the jet-powered RDC (M-497)?

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by jmp883
I remember back in the 60's the NYC tested an RDC with 2 jet engines mounted on the roof. The engines were from a Boeing B-47 Stratojet, right down to the nacelles.

Anyway, what happened to the RDC after the testing? Was it preserved or were the engines removed and the car returned to normal service?

Joe P :D
Long Live The EL!

  by Urban D Kaye
The M-497 set the speed record back in 1966...over 180 mph.

After the test, the jets and nose faring were removed and the diesel engine reinstalled. The car returned to regular service, tho I don't know if she was preserved. I'd heard the jets were later used for snow-blower development...no joke.

For a pic, go to...

  by DutchRailnut
The car ended its days in Hudson Commuter service out of Harmon New York, in 1983 the car was still sitting in Deadline at Croton Harmon. it was scrapped in early 84
  by jmp883
Thanks guys.....appreciate the information. I'm just kind of surprised that NYC didn't think to save a piece like that. I know that their financial situation wasn't all the best and that saving things for posterity probably wasn't high on their list of priorities. Would've been neat to see it in a museum, though!

Thanks again!

Joe P :D
Long Live The EL

  by clehman
I've heard the NYC didn't save a single thing - the two Mohawks still in existance were not preserved due to NYC efforts, but by some other means! I was told NYC management received numerous letters requesting a Hudson, Mohawk, or Niagara for display in various towns along the line, but all were turned down flat!!! I remember seeing a NYC Niagara going into the steel mill a mile from our house (Peoria, IL) when I was quite little - even before I began taking b&W prints on a Brownie camera at age 12 (1956)! It was cut up for scrap and melted down in the steel mill. What a shame. I know it was a Niagara because I asked my Dad about all the wheels under the tender and he said a lot of NYC locos had those huge tenders.
  by Jim Fitzgerald
For those of you who belong to the NYCSHS, the Third Quarter 2003 Central Headlight has been published. On the back cover is a photo of M-497, taken at Croton, NY in 1978, numbered Penn Central 98.

  by Dieter
If I remember correctly, I think I read somewhere that the jets on top of that historic RDC were the same kind used on B-52 bombers. If you look at a picture, the two engines are in a single housing.

I wonder whatever happened to those jet engines?

Without an air spoiler, how did that thing manage to stay on the track at speed? It's amazing it didn't fly off into a field, like a Lionel onto the carpet!


  by Leo_Ames
I believe they were General Electric J47s (Which is what was used on B-47 Stratojets), not Pratt & Whitney J57s (That were used on B-52 Stratofortresses).

  by Ramcat
The jet engines came from obsolete B-36 bombers. They were J-47 engines that were put into spare parts stock for the snow blowers that were developed by the New York Central at Collinwood.

The wing tip pods on the B-36 aircraft contained two engines.

The support structure for these engines on the M-497 was designed so that a downward componet of the thrust pushed down onto the rails.

  by Otto Vondrak
The interesting story was getting M-497 back into regular service!

When M-497 was prepped for the high-speed tests, the face of the RDC was removed, and that fiberglass nose was added. Also, the two diesel engines were removed (which is why the Geep had to tow the RDC back to the starting point for each test).

Ok, so the test is over. Now what?

The car was towed to Beech Grove where the shop forces there were told to "fix it" and get it ready for service again. Well, Beech Grove was primarily a car shop, not a mechanical force... but they tried the best they could anyway. First the face had to be replaced. When the orginal face was removed, the metal was all discarded. A few calls to neighbor RDG and B&O turned up some extra face pieces that were used in the restoration. Next, the engines had to be reconnected. Well, try as they might, they couldn't find anything that resembled an engine on those things. Turns out the two engines had been removed and crated up and sent to Harmon for use as standby's or replacements for other RDCs. I think the engines were sent back to Beech Grove, and reunited with the M-497. Only then did the Pride of The Central return to active duty.

I may not have all the details correct, this was related to me second hand from one of our Rochester NRHS chapter members who was the mechnical guy in charge of getting M-497 back on the road.

Too bad the preservation movement was not as strong and it is now... I would love to see M-497 today! (without the nose and jet engines, thank you)

  by DWetzel
My name is Donald C. Wetzel and I was a Project Engineer and also the Engineer/Pilot of the M-497 during the high speed runs. This is a test posting to check out my skills with the forum. If this works out, I'll post some details about the M-497 project.

  by clehman
Your test post came out fine. I look forward to reading further posts about your experience with the jet powered M-497. Don't keep us waiting too long.
  by Dieter

I'm sure we're all excited to hear your side of this historic event in the history of our favorite railroad! I was watching the video of your record breaking run in April on a DVD and wondering to myself ;"Gee, where's that guy now??".

  by DWetzel
Sorry for delay in writing this- small computer problem. Will attempt tp do this in the order of the postings.
The two jet engines were General Electric J-47-19's as removed from a ten engine Convair B-36-H USAF intercontinental bomber. After the runs, the static tests at the Collinwood Back Shop and the press show in New york, the M-497 was taken to Beech Grove where it was "restored" to stock and placed into service in New York. The jet engines were placed into stores for snow blower service. I was also the project engineer on the development of the jet snow blowers.
The two Detroit Diesel propulsion engines engines were always kept in place to provide electrical power for the car and compressed air for braking. The drive shafts connecting the engines to the trucks were removed, however.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago requested the donation of the Budd for their collection. The NYC management turned down the request. NYC management had an unwritten policy about donationing equipment. They felt they would sell a given piece for the fair market value but to give it away would be against the best interests of the stockholders.
Relative to "flying off of the tracks"- a number of individual with no direct or technical knowledge of the project made some claims that we were "airborne" over road crossings. Patently false. The jet pod, housing the engines, was intentionally canted down 5 degrees to load the front truck of the car.
At Beech grove the streamlining was removed and scrapped. None of the Budd'd structure had been modified- the stremlining was installed on the existing structure. The streamlining was fabricated from sheet steel. As an aside, my wife, Ruth, a commercial artist, designed the streamlining.
Since I was the corporate pilot and a promoted locomotive engineer (off of the Big Four), I was the logical choice to run the M-497 during the tests. I also was the project engineer for the powerplants and controls.
Someone asked if my family had any worries- yes, indeed. They also asked about how it felt. Frankly, I was too busy keeping track of what was going on and keeping things under control to be consciously frightened. The engineers at the data stations were the people with courage because all they could do was sit and monitor the various readouts with a very limited view of what was happening outside. The crew cut off the horn rope off after the tests, inscribed it, and gave it to me because "you never let go of it during the whole run."
We did reach 196 MPH and were decelerating when we went through the timing traps. If I had known that management had decided to forgo going for the world record, 202 MPH. I would have let it run and broke the record. Being the second fastest (at that time) was alright, however. When you have the President of the railroad sitting next to you instucting you as to how fast you should go, it's hard to ignore his words.
I've tried to answer the questions- if anymore information is desired, please advise.
Don Wetzel

  by clehman
Fantastic!!! I really enjoy reading first-hand accounts by train service folks such as yourself. Especially when you take part - in this case a BIG part - in a famous run. You should send your account in to the NYCSHS so they can print it in their "Central Headlight" magazine that goes to all members four times a year. Thanks very much.