The station leader in his pretty uniform warns politely but definitely to hurry. Immediately the express from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead comes in full steam. So, ladies and gentlemen, all on board 1 board this funny little loco. The Bluebell Railway in the western county of Surrey is one of many private initiatives that lovingly nurtures the golden age of the railways. But on this day she has a special guest on her track to visit: the Smart Forrail. However, interested customers will look in vain for this variant in the brochures. Because this typical representative of the new four-door generation is not on standard road tires, but on tailor-made railway wheels.
When German Engineering meets British whimsy, sometimes a completely unexpected variety of mobility is created. Together with Smart, the specialists at Interfleet, a British railroad engineering company, have come up with an idea on how to turn a Smart into a fully functional and government-sanctioned train. Typically, the Interfleet engineers are dealing with diesel locomotives that weigh 70 tons and whose engines draw power from 16 liters of displacement. By contrast, the Smart Forfour, with its almost 1.000 cubic and a ton of weight, is almost a rail fleece.
The parent company of Smart had already gained experience with such a stunt. In “Octopussy” (1983) James Bond switched from road to rail in a Mercedes-Benz 250 SE while chasing a super villain. “Actually, that would not have been possible,” explains the engineer. "With normal steering, the car would have jumped off the track immediately." So the steering was blocked on the Forfour, and struts were also welded to the axles to prevent any possible steering. It took six months for the inventors of the Forrail to develop a set of steel wheels for use on rails. With a diameter of 22 inches and a weight of 80 kilos per wheel, the Forrail also received additional weight for the unfamiliar underground.
The Horsted Keynes station looks like you have arrived in the twenties after traveling back in time. Wild roses bloom on the neat platform, vintage suitcases are waiting to be stowed away by the servant and advertising from that era is hanging on the walls. Fans of the British aristocratic series “Downton Abbey” would recognize Horsted Keynes “Downton”. And, the Station Master proudly explains, the Hogwarts Express also stopped here to bring Harry Potter to boarding school.
What the Forrail does, however, has less to do with magic than with technology that is allowed to live out its play instinct. You ignite, couple and - without steam and a whistle - the Forrail starts slowly. Swabian engineers would certainly have one or two suggestions for damping and chassis ready. But the Forrail is also a prototype, so to speak. Unfortunately, the next stop comes into view after a few hundred meters. Guests have to get off the rail smart at the level crossing, because the platform is almost as high as the car itself. The Forrail will probably not be available as a future model for future private transport or even for autonomous driving on rails. It will soon be made roadworthy again. But should a Harry Potter film be planned at some point, he couldn't take the train ... after all, he's now old enough to have a driver's license.
Author: Alexandra Felts / SP-X