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This Jet-Engined Mini Rail Kart Belongs on a Roller Coaster Right Now

We asked you to find a more terrifying mode of transportation than a moped-powered chair on rails—and you delivered.

Last week we shared a photo of a mysterious, moped-powered office chair on rails that wouldn’t have looked out of place at an Eastern European amusement park, so we laid down the gauntlet by challenging you readers to find a more dangerous vehicle. Digging up something hairier, however, was no challenge for British engineer Scott Bradley, who only needed to turn to his shop to snap photos of something far more frightening than some silly motorized chair. It’s called the Speedbird, and Bradley hopes to ride it to a Guinness World Record later this year.

Speedbird, Scott Bradley

A mechanical engineer for Britain’s mainline railways by trade, Bradley is no stranger to trains and has personally built close to a dozen small, high-speed railed vehicles. His fastest thus far is a trolley powered by a Yamaha motorcycle engine named Amelie, which hit a GPS speedometer-verified 59 mph back in 2011—not bad for a scratch-built vehicle, let alone one running on an overgrown, long-abandoned section of Britain’s rail network.

Bradley’s an ambitious lad though and has his sights set on a goal far loftier than running at two-digit speeds on neglected sidings. His goal for the Speedbird is to demolish the record for the fastest narrow-gauge prototype railway vehicle, set by some bizarre, tilting diesel locomotives at 109 mph. Bradley aims to raise that bar all the way to 120 mph, and to accomplish that, he’s equipping the Speedbird with a novel form of propulsion for a locomotive: a jet turbine.

Constructed from a huge Holset HX-55 turbocharger found on many heavy-duty truck engines, this jet engine runs at an estimated 70,000 rpm on pure kerosene, just inches from the operator’s head. It makes a monumental amount of noise, and it’ll make still more when Bradley completes the custom afterburner that’ll give him the kick to crack three-digit speeds.

There’s no telling, however, when the Speedbird will take its first proverbial flight. Like most people, Bradley has had to postpone the vehicle’s first test runs for the same reason almost everything else we enjoy has been put on hold.

“Unfortunately, this is all on hold due to the COVID-19 situation,” Bradley told The Drive. “There are so many challenges with running something like this at the best of times—from insurers and regulators in the rail industry to even finding a railway brave enough to let you do 100-plus miles per hour on their track! It’s simply impossible right now to get it on the tracks, so it’s currently sat under a blanket in dry storage waiting for the big day!”

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