Here in Ireland, trains are often the best or most relaxing way to commute to and from work in the cities (when they’ve not broken down, that is). Generally speaking there’s no stopping for red lights, no getting caught in traffic and there’s plenty of space to get up and stretch or move around – a very different experience to driving home in a car through Dublin or Cork city.
On the other hand, you can’t simply stop where you choose on a train, your luggage space is a lot more limited, and you have to share the rest of your booth or carriage with other people. And who wants that?
A one-off creation from Smart, however, has blended the two forms of travel in that greatest of desires that has driven humanity forward from a stone wheel to space-going rocket ships – to see if they could. The result of six months of engineering work and lots of CAD modelling has resulted in the Smart forrail, a modified Smart forfour designed to run along railway tracks.
Getting a car to run on a railway line isn’t as simple as removing the wheels and running on the rims, even if it worked for Roger Moore’s Mercedes-Benz 250 SE in Octopussy. The forrail isn’t the first road-going car to travel along a railway line, but other incarnations generally keep their rubber wheels, with additional steel wheels mounted to the front.
Designed by Interfleet, a Derby-based firm more accustomed to working on larger engines, engineers disconnected the forfour’s steering and installed four 22-inch solid steel wheels in place of the regular ones, each weighing 80kg, to provide the necessary traction. And, to avoid any nasty surprises along the line, aluminium supports were welded between the axles ensuring the steel wheels were locked into position.
Its first outing took place last weekend on the Bluebell Railway, a private heritage line running for 11 miles along the border between East and West Sussex, much to the surprise of some onlookers who had arrived for a model railway exhibition. Supervised by trained railway staff and with a licensed train driver present the whole time, the test was a success and the forrail managed to remain on the rails without an issue. The forrail was returned to its original road form shortly after, and is presumably still pottering around the UK’s roads, dreaming of what might have been.
Watch the forrail in action here. You probably shouldn’t try this at home.