The war in the air

Some time ago, I told you about Louis Brennan’s remarkable gyroscopic monorail car. His 1907 model is at the National Railway Museum in York. Brennan used it to convey somewhat reluctant family members across his garden on a stretched wire.

Louis Brennan's gyrocar prototype (Science Museum)

Louis Brennan's gyrocar prototype (Science Museum)

He went on to make a full-sized version, capable of carrying ten tons…

Louis Brennans gyroscopic monorail car, c.1910 (Science Museum)

Louis Brennan's gyroscopic monorail car, c.1910 (Science Museum)

… which was displayed in 1910 at the Japan-British Exhibition at London’s White City.

Japan-British Exhibition catalogue, 1910 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Japan-British Exhibition catalogue, 1910 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

By then, his invention had become well-known. H. G. Wells, in his 1908 book ‘The War in the Air’, describes a remarkable near-future in which Brennan’s monorail was used to connect countries and span seas. Here’s Wells’s vision:

Presently the English Channel was bridged, 1908 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

'Presently the English Channel was bridged', 1908 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Wells wrote, ’Brennan sprang his gyroscopic mono-rail car upon the Royal Society. It was the leading sensation of the 1907 soiree … the great inventor expounded his discovery, and sent his obedient little model of the trains of the future up gradients, round curves and across a sagging wire.’

It seems certain Wells had seen Brennan’s device in the flesh. He went on, ‘It ran along its single rail, on its single wheels, simple and sufficient; it stopped, reversed, stood still, balancing perfectly. It maintained its astounding equilibrium amidst a thunder of applause.’

Yet Wells hit on the human factor that would prevent the gyrocar ever taking off. ‘The audience dispersed at last, discussing how far they would enjoy crossing an abyss on a wire cable. “Suppose the gyroscope stopped!”‘

The War in the Air is a remarkable book. More about it – and gyroscopic monorails – in future posts.

One thought on “The war in the air

  1. Pingback: The House Husband » Blog Archive » Gyros

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