The author of this project was a young engineer Nikolai Grigorievich Yarmolchuk. After serving in the army and participating in the Civil War, he got a job as a fitter at the Kursk railway, where he worked for several years. Working on the railway, Yarmolchuk learned various features of this type of transport, and eventually came to the conclusion that it was necessary to create a new class of such systems. In those days, one of the main issues addressed by various specialists was the increase in train speed. Yarmolchuk, having studied the existing railways and rolling stock, came to the conclusion that it was impossible to apply existing solutions and the need to develop a completely new transport.
In his letters, Yarmolchuk pointed out that a number of factors were hindering a significant increase in speed, including the design of the railway tracks and wheels. During the movement, the engineer noted, the pair of wheels is held on rails only by the ribs. At the same time, the pair can move along its axis, beats on the rail and other unpleasant phenomena. With a simple increase in the speed of movement, the beats should have increased, increasing the load on the train chassis and increasing the risk of its destruction. To eliminate these phenomena, the tracks and the undercarriage of a completely new design were required.
Experienced SHAL-train. Winter 1932-33 Wikimedia Commons Photos
Already in 1924 year N.G. Yarmolchuk proposed a new version of the track and the chassis of the train, which, in his opinion, allowed to significantly increase the speed of movement, as well as get rid of the associated problems. According to the author of the project, instead of a rail track, it was necessary to use a round-shaped gutter-tray. On such a tray should move the ball of the appropriate sizes. When driving at high speed, the spherical wheel was not subject to beats, and could also self-orient depending on the trajectory of movement.
In the first version of the promising project, the author suggested using cars of a completely new design. The car body should have a spherical shape and contain all the necessary units, including the power plant and the passenger cabin. The outer surface of the case was supposed to perform the functions of the supporting surface and contact with the tray. With such a design, the car could move around the tray at high speed, while maintaining optimal tilt due to the timely tilt when entering the turns. To save space and achieve the best possible performance, it was proposed to equip the new transport with electric motors.
The prospective system is called "Sharoelektrolotkovy transport" or abbreviated as SHELT. Under this designation the Yarmolchuk project remained in history. In addition, some sources mention the name “ball train”. Both designations were equivalent and were used in parallel.
Over the next few years, Yarmolchuk graduated from Moscow State Technical University and MPEI, which allowed him to gain the knowledge and experience necessary for the implementation of his project. At the same time, the young engineer tried to interest decision-makers with his invention. In numerous letters to various authorities, he described the advantages of his SHELT system. In his opinion, it allowed to significantly increase the speed of trains and thereby reduce travel time. In this case, the ball-electric transport could even compete with aviationwhile having the advantage of greater cargo and passenger capacity.
Nikolai Grigorievich Yarmolchuk during testing. A shot from the newsreel
Another advantage of his project N.G. Yarmolchuk considered saving some materials and simplifying the construction of roads. A tray for a promising train was proposed to be made of reinforced concrete, which made it possible to drastically reduce metal consumption. In addition, it could be assembled from prefabricated sections, thereby reducing the time to install a new track. It should be noted that at the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties there was no special technique for laying rails, due to which most of the operations for laying railways were carried out by workers manually. Thus, the project SHELT received another advantage over existing systems.
However, up to a certain time, Yarmolchuk’s proposals did not interest anyone. Such a reaction of officials was due to several factors. The new project needed to be checked, and the construction of new lines for promising SHEL trains was too expensive. For this reason, until the end of the twenties, the Yarmolchuk project remained only on paper.
Having received engineering education, the inventor continued to develop the project and made significant changes to it. So, he decided to abandon spherical cars and use the rolling stock of a less bold and unusual appearance. Now it was planned to use a classic-style carriage, equipped with the original chassis. The metal car had to have two large wheels located in its front and rear parts. With such a layout of the car, it was possible to retain all the positive qualities inherent in the SHELT system, as well as to increase the volume to accommodate the payload.
The perspective train had to move with the help of two wheels in the form of a “sharoid” - spheres with cut off side parts, on the place of which the axis and suspension elements were located. Sharoids were proposed to be made of metal and coated with rubber. Inside the casing of such a wheel there should have been an electric motor of appropriate power. The axis of the wheel was connected to the design of the car, and the torque had to be transmitted from the engine to the spherical body using a friction or gear mechanism. A characteristic feature of the proposed wheels was the placement of their center of gravity below the axis of rotation: the engine was suspended under the axis. With this arrangement it was possible to maintain the optimum position in space during maneuvering.
Demonstration of wheel stability. After tilting, it should return to its normal upright position. Kartr from the newsreel
According to the calculations of the author, a modified version of the ball train could reach speeds of the order of 300 km / h and carry up to 110 passengers. Thus, from Moscow to Leningrad it was possible to get literally in a couple of hours, and the journey from the capital to Irkutsk would take a little more than a day, and not a week, as on the existing trains. The updated version of the project had a significant advantage over the "classic" trains in speed and exceeded passenger aircraft in terms of payload.
Active work on the project SHELT, supported by government agencies, began in 1929 year. It happened after N.G. Yarmolchuk with the assistance of specialists from the Moscow Institute of Transportation Engineers built a model of a promising system. A groove car on the "sharoids" rather quickly moved along the tray standing right on the laboratory floor. The model of the train was shown to representatives of the People’s Commissariat of Communications, and this show made a strong impression on them. The road to the project was open.
A few months after testing the layout, the People's Commissariat of Communications established the Bureau for the experimental construction of ultrafast transport for the development and implementation of the invention of N. Yarmolchuk (BOSST). The task of this organization was to create a full-fledged project with the subsequent construction of a reduced prototype of the SHELT system. Then, with the successful completion of these works, it was possible to count on the construction of full-fledged transport systems of a new type.
Design work continued until the beginning of spring 1931. Then the documentation on the SHELT project was demonstrated to the government, and soon the People's Commissariat for Communications ordered the construction of a prototype model of a promising train. To this end, funding in the amount of 1 million rubles was allocated, as well as a section near the Northernerin station of the Yaroslavl Railway (now the territory of Moscow).
89 specialists were involved in the construction of an experienced flume track and a large-scale model of the train. Due to the specific food situation in the area provided, the specialists had to build not only a prototype of a new type of road, but also to break a garden. On 15 hectares planted various vegetables, which allowed specialists to solve tasks, without being distracted by various third-party problems. Thus, the allocated areas were used with the greatest possible efficiency.
Internal wheel units: the frame and the electric motor suspended under it. A shot from the newsreel
In the spring of 31, Yarmolchuk received support not only from the People's Commissariat of Communications, but also from the press. Domestic newspapers and magazines began to write about the new project SHELT and praise it, paying attention to the expected advantages over the existing technology. It was noted that passenger sharoelektrolotkovye trains will be able to travel five to six times faster than the "classic", and in the case of freight trains, even a twentyfold increase in speed is possible. The capacity of the new roads could be at least twice as high as the existing ones.
Naturally, there were also critical opinions. Quite a few experts talked about the excessive complexity of the project, the high cost of its implementation and some other problems. Nevertheless, the responsible persons decided to continue the construction of the experienced ShAL train and test Yarmolchuk's proposal in practice, identifying all the advantages and disadvantages.
During 1931, the BOSST team was engaged in the construction of an experienced tray path. To save time and money, a smaller version of such a road was built of wood. At a small height above the ground on a wooden frame disposed concave flooring, assembled from boards. U-shaped supports supporting the electricity transmission system were located along the way. Instead of traditional wires for modern electric vehicles, pipes were used. During the tests, two configurations of the electricity supply system were used. In the first, one of the pipes hung almost under the crossbar itself, the other two below. The second configuration implied the location of all three pipes on the same level.
An experienced wooden trail had a length of about 3 km. Next to it was a small electrical substation, which was supposed to supply the pipes with the required parameters. According to some reports, the construction of the route was completed by the end of 1931 or at the beginning of 32. Soon the assembly of the first experimental car ended.
Wheel mounts in the housing. A shot from the newsreel
The assembly of the first SHAL car was completed in April 1932 of the year. It was a structure with a length of about 6 m with a diameter of 80 cm. A conical fairing was provided in the front of the car. The car, as it was intended by the project, was equipped with two wheels-sharoids, in the head and tail parts. The diameter of the wheels exceeded 1 m. They significantly protruded from the hull and could create a tangible gyroscopic effect, keeping the car in the right position. The power plant in the form of two three-phase electric motors located inside the wheels. The cars had a sufficiently large free volume that could be used to transport test cargoes or even passengers. Also, the car had windows and small doors for access inside the case. For the transfer of electricity, the car received a trolley attached to the contact line and connected to the roof with a cable and cables.
By the fall, four more cars had been built, with the result that a whole train had already traveled along the experimental track. The construction of additional cars allowed not only to check the viability of the invention, but also to work out some issues related to the interaction of several units of rolling stock on the track.
Available engines allowed the experienced train to reach speeds of up to 70 km / h. The design of the wheel-sharoidov and other features of the new transport provided a stable behavior, regardless of the speed and features of the route. Sharopoezd confidently took turns, slightly leaning in the right direction, but not showing a desire to tip over. The gyroscopic effect that N.G. Yarmolchuk, led to the expected results.
Until the summer of 1933, the BOSST team of specialists was engaged in various tests of a promising transport system in a reduced version. At the same time, the design of the train was developing, as well as the elaboration of optimal options for the tracks. In particular, engineers had to wrestle with the design of the arrow for the tray way. The real operation of SHELT without arrows and other special equipment of the tracks was not possible, and their creation was associated with certain difficulties.
The first test trips were made by an experienced train without any load. Later, when the reliability of the system was determined and confirmed, trips with cargo began, including with passengers. The dimensions of the cars allowed two people to be transported, but they had to be in a lying position, for which mattresses were placed in improvised cabins. During the test, the site was visited by the journalist of the publication “Knowledge is Power” D. Lipnitsky, who was given a ride on an experienced SHAL train. Later he wrote that during the preparation for the trip he was afraid of a possible accident. The train could roll over, fly off the tray, etc. Nevertheless, the prototype car gently and quietly drove off and drove along the highway without problems and even without the “traditional” railway wheel restraint. On curved sections of the route, the train bent down and kept balance.
The body of an experienced ball train without a back wall. One can see the wheel and its suspension. A shot from the newsreel
The tests of the experimental train began in the fall of 1932, which is why during the test runs the experts encountered some problems. The work of SHAL-train interfered with snow and frost on a wooden track. Before the start of the test races, they had to be cleaned up, since the original chassis of the train could not cope with such irregularities, especially during high-speed traffic. At the testing stage, such a problem was considered to be an inevitable evil and put up with it, but later it became one of the factors that affected the fate of the entire project.
Upon completion of the inspections, the project documentation and test report were handed over to a special expert council, which was to decide the future fate of the SHELT system. A group of specialists led by S.A. Chaplygin reviewed the documentation and came to positive conclusions. According to experts, the project did not have serious problems that would prevent its full use, and also recommended to start the construction of full-fledged tracks for a ball-electron transport.
By the summer of 1933, the year N.G. Yarmolchuk and his colleagues developed two versions of full-fledged SHEL-trains in two dimensions, the so-called. normal and average. The "middle" train was intended for final tests, and could also be operated on real highways. In this configuration, the cars were equipped with sharoid wheels with a diameter of 2 m and could carry up to 82 passenger seats. The estimated speed of such vehicles reached 180 km / h. It was assumed that the cars of average size will be combined in compositions of three and in this form to carry passengers on suburban lines.
All early plans were supposed to be fully embodied in a “normal” car. In this case, the prospective transport had to get wheels with a diameter of 3,7 m and a body of the corresponding dimensions. The design speed reached 300 km / h, and at least 100-110 seats could be arranged inside the case. Due to the high speeds of movement, such a train had to be equipped not only with mechanical, but also with aerodynamic brakes. The latter consisted of a set of planes on the surface of the body, protruding across the oncoming air flow. According to some estimates of BOSST, the route with cars or trains of normal size could have enormous throughput: promising trains could transport the population of an entire city in just a few days. In this case, provided a significant superiority over the existing rail transport.
After the completion of the work of the council headed by Chaplygin, August 13 1933, the Council of People's Commissars decided on the future of the SHELT project. The People's Commissariat of Communications was instructed to build the first full-fledged chute track for trial operation. The new route could appear on the direction of Moscow-Noginsk or Moscow-Zvenigorod. After analyzing the existing situation and existing plans, it was decided to build a highway to Noginsk. At that time, construction began on a new industrial zone east of Moscow. It was assumed that in this direction passenger traffic could reach 5 million people per year, so there was a need for a new transport with relevant indicators. At the request of the Council of People's Commissars, the construction of the new route should have been completed by the autumn of 1934.
Photos from the domestic press. The prototype train transports the passenger. Photo Thermotex.rf
The first full bunker trail had to start in Izmailovo, thanks to which the workers could get to the station by tram or subway, and then transfer to the SHEL train and go to work. High-speed roomy transport could significantly change the logistics of Moscow and Moscow region, improving its basic parameters. In anticipation of a new transport with unique indicators, the domestic press once again began to praise the original project of N.G. Yarmolchuk.
However, the expectations of the press and citizens did not materialize. At the end of 1934, the new station did not open its doors to passengers, and the new ball-electric trains did not take them to work. Moreover, the track and the station did not even begin to build. Before the construction of the highway and related infrastructure began, the specialists again checked the promising project, and came to the conclusions that led to its abandonment.
The calculated speeds and capacity of the cars, as well as other advantages of the new transport looked attractive, but in the proposed form it had a lot of drawbacks. First of all, it was the complexity of the design of both the SHEL train itself and the tracks for it. For example, the use of reinforced concrete chute-route allowed to reduce the cost of metal, however, complicated the construction and required the deployment of additional production. Serial construction of new trains also required corresponding efforts and costs.
The analysis of the proposed projects of the ball-electric train also led to a pessimistic conclusion. The level of technology that existed at that time did not allow the construction of the required vehicle with acceptable characteristics. For example, a big question was caused by the resource of rubber covering of a wheel-sharoid when driving on concrete. Given the lack of rubber, such a nuance of the project could have serious negative consequences. In addition, the large and heavy SHEL-train had to be equipped with engines of appropriate power and other special equipment, which was either absent or was too expensive.
Even with the successful construction of the bunker track and ball trains for her operation would be associated with a number of serious problems. So, during the testing of an experimental train in the winter, BOTTS specialists had to regularly clean the wooden road from snow and ice. Such pollutants interfered with the normal course of the train, and at high speed it could even lead to a crash. Probably, in this context, experts recalled the wreckage of the Abakovsky aircar in 1921. Then, due to the poor quality of the railway, the high-speed car flew off the rails, which led to the death of several passengers. The aircar moved at a speed of about 80 km / h, and the Yarmolchuk project assumed many times higher speeds and, as a result, the train was at even higher risk.
Article from Modern Mechanix magazine, February 1934. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
In addition to technical problems there were also economic ones. The project of building a single track of the length of the order of 50 km was too expensive, and its prospects became the subject of controversy. Having advantages over the existing transport, the SHAL-train did not look expedient. Some savings in travel time or the ability to transport a slightly larger number of passengers could not justify extremely high costs.
The combination of technical, technological, operational and economic features and problems led to the closure of the project, which several months earlier was considered not only promising, but also capable of fundamentally changing the face of transportation. The construction of the first Moscow-Noginsk highway was curtailed shortly after the start, not later than the first weeks of 1934. Because of this, the employees of the enterprises of the new industrial zone subsequently used only existing types of transport, which, however, did not prevent the implementation of plans for the industrialization of the Moscow region.
After the decision was made to abandon the construction of the ball-and-electromotive line, the press stopped publishing rave articles. Over time, the once promising project was forgotten. Experienced route near the station Northerner soon dismantled as useless. The only experimental train of five cars, probably soon was disposed of due to the closure of the project. It cannot be ruled out that for some time it was kept in one of the organizations associated with the SHELT project, but there is no exact information on this account. It is only known that after 1934, the experienced cars were not mentioned anywhere.
The author of the project sharoelektrolotkovogo transport, N.G. Yarmolchuk, despite the failure, continued to work on promising modes of transport and their individual components. Some of his development in the future, even used on serial equipment of various classes.
As far as we know, Yarmolchuk did not stop work on SHAL-transport, however all further developments in this area were carried out by him in an initiative manner. The last mention of this project dates back to the early seventies. During this period, the designer again tried to offer his design to the country's leadership and even tried to get an appointment with A.N. Kosygin. An audience was denied. N.G. Yarmolchuk died in the 1978 year, and after that, all the work on the ballistic transport stopped. For more than four decades after the decision to cease construction, the project was developed by only one designer. After his death, no one wanted to engage in a project that was once considered a revolution in the field of transport.
On the materials of the sites:
Chernenko G. Sharopoezd - triumph and ruin // Technique - to youth, 2009. No.5