On July 23rd, 1966, the residents of Western Ohio watched in awe as New York Central train, powered by jet engines roared by streaking to an American Land Speed Record for a locomotive of 183.85 mph! a record that still stands to this day. Driven by Don Wetzel, who was wearing a one-off white helmet painted with the New York Central Railroad logo, this amazing feat has all but disappeared from the history books.
Wetzel and his crew adapted two General Electric J-47-19 jet engines, which had been originally designed as boosters for the Convair B-36 intercontinental bomber. These were mounted just above the engineer’s cab at the front of the train, designated M-497. Wetzel’s original design had the jet engines at the rear, but this changed after his wife drew some sketches on a dinner napkin and convinced him that the locomotive would look better with the engines mounted up front. This switch also helped keep the nose of the locomotive on the tracks. The Cleveland shop fashioned a black streamlined cowling for the front of the engine which earned it the nickname of "The Black Beetle". Later, Wetzel and his team reused the jet engines for another research project, a high-powered snow blower for opening winter tracks!
Russia also designed a similar jet Train prototype in 1970. It had engines from a Yak-40 passenger jet plane and could go as fast as 249 km/h (only a little slower than an M-497). It remained only a prototype, possibly because of the condition of Russian railroads at the time!