The Train that Floats in the Sky - memories, and a new video, of the high speed hover experiment of the 60s and 70s in the Fens

PUBLISHED: 09:44 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:25 20 February 2017

A new film about Cambridgeshire’s remarkable high-speed hovertrain experiment of the 1960s and ‘70s. PHOTO: Courtesy of Department of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge

A new film about Cambridgeshire’s remarkable high-speed hovertrain experiment of the 1960s and ‘70s. PHOTO: Courtesy of Department of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge

Archant

The forgotten story of the remarkable high-speed hover train experiment of the 1960s and ‘70s, trialled in the Fens, has been made into a film.

The Train that Floats in the Sky tells the story of a trial that is rarely acknowledged but shows how this area played an important role in the world’s history of high-speed transport.

Marcus Brittain, the film coordinator, said: “Memories of a grand experiment to develop a magnetic hover train tells an intriguing story of innovation and a utopian vision that should have transformed the landscape, but of which today there is little trace.”

After lengthy negotiations a scheme was launched in 1967 with government funding of £5.25 million.

Tracked Hovercraft Ltd was formed and, with the company’s offices based in Cambridge, a full scale test track was built.

Work building the gigantic concrete monorail began in 1969 along the Old Bedford River between Earith and Sutton Gault.

It was the “long, straight and flat character of the Bedford Level that attracted many forms of scientific experiment” that today are the subject of an “Archaeology of the Great Straight.

In spite of the experiment’s progress it was beset with problems, many caused by the soft Fenland ground, and in 1973 the funding was cut and, with considerable emotion for those invested, the project was ended.

As part of ongoing investigations into ‘Fenland utopias’ by the University of Cambridge archaeological unit (CAU), the story of Cambridgeshire’s hover train has been produced for a short film.

It has been made in partnership with Railworld in Peterborough as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership.

Created by motion graphic designer Nick Edwards, the 14-minute film features original period footage and interviews with local researcher Eddy Edwards, Railworld trustee Brian Pearce and CAU director Chris Evans.

It captures the moment of discovery of a lost hover train archive.

The hover train project was a significant British research and development scheme that combined Sir Christopher Cockerell’s hovercraft invention with Sir Eric Laithwaite’s work on linear induction motors.

“The ultimate aim,” explained Mr Brittain, “was high-performance transport technology using environmentally sensitive motors, and to achieve this before France’s ‘Aerotrain’ project.”

The film explores the local and physical legacy of the Tracked Hovercraft project, and a near-forgotten Fenland vision of the future.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ely Standard visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ely Standard staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ely Standard account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More news stories

12:06

Traffic was stopped in Ely yesterday as ambulance crew lined up to pay their respects to a popular paramedic who died within weeks of a cancer diagnosis.

14:09

Cambridgeshire police used guns as part of an arrest six times over a three month period earlier this year, police statistics have revealed.

14:09

Do you recognise this man? Police officers investigating a theft of more than £300 worth of Nicorette products would like to speak to him.

15:17

Four young men were assaulted and left in need of hospital treatment after a violent attack on Monday.

Most read stories

Most commented stories

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Ely Standard e-edition E-edition
HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter