1 George Bennie was born in Auldhouse, a small district on the south side of Glasgow, in 1892, the son of a hydraulic engineer. He loved to invent things and in 1921 he came up with the idea of a ‘railplane’ which would revolutionise public transport. He gained a patent for the design in 1923. Lacking formal engineering qualifications, he employed a consultant engineer, Hugh Fraser, to undertake the technical design.

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2 Bennie’s railplane – looking for all the world like a spaceship – would be built above existing tracks, to allow slower freight trains to travel underneath, making the system as a whole more efficient and cost effective. Bennie built a 400-foot test track in 1929, at Burnbrae in Milngavie, above an existing railway branch line and in July 1930, he invited a select crowd of VIPs and invited guests to try it out.

Glasgow Times:

3 The car, built by Beardmores, was suspended from a 130-metre girder, while wheels underneath ran on a stabilizer rail to prevent it from oscillating from side to side. Powered by a large propeller at either end, it was said to be capable of travelling at 120mph. Inside, it was luxurious, fitted out with carpeted flooring and panelled ceilings.

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4 The launch was a fantastic event – Bennie’s mother hoisted the flag and she and Bennie’s sister were among the first passengers. One of the guests said that “the Railplane operated with perfect smoothness and passengers only knew the car was moving by gazing out of the window at the passing landscape. There was no bumping over rails, smoke or whistle shrieking.”

Glasgow Times:

5 Unfortunately, no-one wanted to invest in Bennie’s railplane and George ended up hugely out of pocket. He had ploughed £150,000 into the construction of the test track and by 1937, he was bankrupt. He died in 1957. The railplane remained at Burnbrae until 1956, when it was finally sold for scrap.