WHEN Ian Hutcheson was a boy, he and his friends got wind of something unusual happening on the outskirts of Glasgow.

“Nowadays, you would simply look it up on Google, of course, but we had to set out on an expedition to find out what was going on,” he smiles.

“We had heard of the Bennie Railplane, and wondered what it was all about. We cycled out beyond Anniesland Cross, over the city boundary on to the fairground ride of the Switchback, ending in a final dip down to the wide circle of the roundabout at Canniesburn to take the Milngavie road.

“There, we found a high, shed-like construction.

“A path ran alongside the building leading to a rickety stairway. We climbed up on to the platform, and there was what looked like an abandoned spaceship, the famous railplane, and a short length of track….”

Glasgow Times:

Recently in Times Past, we told you all about George Bennie, the Glasgow-born engineer who came up with an idea he believed would revolutionise public transport, and it sparked a few memories for Ian.

Bennie’s ‘railplane’ would be built above existing railway 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:

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.

The launch was a fantastic event – 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.”

Unfortunately, no-one wanted to invest 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, (later, it would be sold for scrap) and this is where Ian and his friends discovered it.

READ MORE: Glasgow politician behind city's free libraries - and his connection to Hitler

“We peered in the windows, but in its dilapidated condition there was not much to see, so our young active imaginations created visions of how the railplane would have ‘flown’ on its track over the nation’s rooftops to destinations far and wide,” smiles Ian.

“Although it had become an industrial relic, its sleek aeronautical lines evoked comparison with space ships: it looked like a failed attempt to escape to the future.”

He adds: “All the structures are long demolished now, but the railplane made an unexpected appearance recently on Antiques Roadshow when a gentleman from a town in the south of England, a relation of George Bennie showed the team artist’s impressions which had been prepared as publicity for the project.

“The pictures still held a sense of enterprise, ambition and hope – but alas, passengers at Milngavie Station were never to hear the tannoy announcement, ‘the Railplane for London is now boarding….’