The forgotten plan to link Edinburgh and Glasgow by high-speed monorail

In January 1902 it was reported in the Glasgow Evening Citizen that a plan was being discussed to deliver a special railway linking Scotland’s two largest cities using “the monorail principle”.

According to the newspaper, the promoters of the program intended to run their trains at speeds of up to 187 km/h.

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At these incredible speeds, passengers would be transported the 49 miles between Scotland’s capital and the Empire’s second city in just 25 minutes.

Plans were said to have been prepared and even a route mapped out for the ambitious project, which would aim to run daily trains between the two towns every ten minutes.

It would be an express service, without intermediate stops, and capable of transporting a hundred passengers.

The idea of ​​adopting the monorail system had probably been inspired by the German Wuppertaler Schwebebahn (Wuppertal Suspension Railway), which had been launched the previous year.

The Wuppertal Elevated Railway photographed in 2010. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A vision of the future, the Wuppertal Monorail entered the history books as the world’s first elevated electric railway – however, while eyebrows were most certainly raised, the idea fell short to make its way.

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Here in Scotland, news that a monorail project was planned to link Edinburgh and Glasgow was taken with a pinch of salt and ultimately the proposals would be scrapped.

The Edinburgh-Glasgow proposals were reported to be the brainchild of engineer Fritz Bernard Behr, who had built an experimental monorail line in 1886 at Westminster and in 1901 proposed linking Liverpool and Manchester using technology .

However, within days of the fanciful story appearing in the press, the Board of Trade and the Light Railway Commissioners denied any knowledge of what had been reported in the Glasgow newspapers.

A prominent civil engineer says the technology to run trains at such phenomenal speeds without compromising track integrity does not yet exist and that even a train traveling at 80 miles per hour would prove dangerous .

While the feasibility of introducing monorail services in the UK was indeed under consideration, it became apparent that such systems would need to be short-lived and low-speed, operating solely for entertainment purposes.

George Bennie Railplane

The idea of ​​building a similar Edinburgh-Glasgow link using Behr’s monorail principle was resurrected in the 1930s by inventor George Bennie, who designed a ‘rail plane’ capable – it was hoped – of reach speeds of 120 mph.

The railway plane
The ‘Bennie’ rail plane (Image: Getty)

A prototype of the George Bennie Railplane was launched at Milngavie in July 1930, however, a lack of funding eventually saw the project abandoned.

Behr’s 1902 plan to build a monorail link from Edinburgh to Glasgow would never come to fruition, with 25-minute journey times between the two cities remaining a dream to this day – unless you were planning to exceed the speed limit legal on the M8.

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