Cool Road-Rail Vehicles


From highway to railroad... and into the sky

Often referred to as "Hy-Rail", or "Hi-Rail", these dual purpose vehicles (able to travel on rails, as well as highways) can be fascinating to both train geeks and car collectors. The liberating idea of putting your car to rails, when the road ends or ceases to be an option, is good news to any off-road enthusiast. What's more, the cool looks of some extremely rare vintage conversions may stir some childhood memories and maybe prompt you to spot the surviving ones and restore them.

Road-Rail Vehicles use a combination of standard and flanged wheels (which could be raised or lowered), and are widely used by railroad companies to inspect the tracks, or drop off workers and equipment.

Modern Hi-Rail Trucks

The conversion is done with rail gear (such as manufactured by Mitchell Equipment), available for many types of light rail vehicles:

(image credit: railway-technology)

A 2005 Ford F-250 with Fairmont 0307 Hy-Rail Gear on the Indiana Transportation Museum's railroad:

(image credit: BNSF: Chillicothe Subdivision)

European railways use UNIMOG U-400:

(image credit: Parovoz)

BNSF Hi-Rail Chevy:

(image credit: Robert W. Thomson)

Hi-rail Mack R-600 from 1979:

(image credit: Rick Dean)

Here is a heavy truck conversion:
A special hi-rail Western Star utility truck, Ontario, 2000.

(image credit: Dan Learn)

Mafsa IPV bi-modal truck:

(image credit: Mafsa brochure)


Vintage Hi-Rail Examples

Road-Rail vehicle idea occured to railroad engineers long, long time ago:

(image credit: mchenrytruck)

Railbus in Latvia, 1934:

(image credit: Parovoz)

Similar rail-buses were employed by County Donnegan Railways, in Ireland. See their interesting collection.

The RGS No. 2 Spruce Goose at the Colorado Rail Museum.
(photo by George Erhart)

(image credit:

Willys Jeep 1951, 4x4

(image credit: Willys America Museum)

(image credit:

"Warsaw" rail-car from Hungary, 1952:

(image credit: Parovoz)

1961 Checker Marathon Hy-Rail:

(image credit: coachbuilt)

An interesting one found by William Glover in Missouri:

(image credit: William Glover)

Black Caddy:

(image credit: 2inchesTooLow)

Thanks to JalopyJournal, here are a few more interesting ones:

The car, used by Mr. James Bond in "Octopussy", photographed on the Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough, in the UK. (photo by Paul Sharp)

(image credit:

and a very British Mini makes a very cute road-rail car:
(used on CN Rail)

(image credit: JalopyJournal)

Good old VW Van has been converted into million various things, including Hi-Rail version, of course:

Another nameless van:

Polish "Mitor" or "Twin Zuk":

(image credit: Tomasz Mleczek)

The Rail-Road Bus Experiment - Developed in the UK during the 70s, the Road-Rail Bus ran from Bishops Lydeard to Roebuck Gate Crossing in 13 August 1980:

(image credit: The Road Rail Bus)

In the 50s and 50s in Germany, a bus was shuttling between stations Montabaur and Siershahn:

(image credit:

A Pontiac station wagon inspection car, 1955:

(image credit: Leon Trice Photography, New Orleans)

1958 Pontiac Station Wagon Hyrail used on Canadian Railways.
More info here.

(image credit: Matt Cummins)

Black Chevy:

Vintage Hy-Rail in Duluth Depot train museum:

(image credit: Jim Kallinen)

The similar one was used for Road/Rail Cruising... yes, you heard right, and if you are an exploring nut like me, are probably jealous. The ultimate in vintage road-trip vacation:

This family used 1957 Pontiac Chieftain Safari Station Wagon Hy-rail car to make multiple treks across Canada:

(image credit: Niki Bitsko)

They rode the rails for 4 days in this hy-rail from Prince George all the way down to Vancouver, and criss-crossed Nova Scotia railways. One huge advantage is that you see parts of the country unavailable to motorists. Granted, the views behind the wheel are a little surreal:

(image credit: Niki Bitsko)

There is another way to engage in railway sight-seeing, without sacrificing any of the comforts of your... recreational vehicle.
The following fascinating picture shows occupied (!) RVs strapped onto flatbeds, cruising through the Mexico's Copper Canyon:

(image credit: iexplore)

We also have to mention "Back to the Future" car, which did very well on rails:

(image credit: jpustoys)

Russia is home to some of the most bizarre Road/Rail vehicles

Is it any surprise? Rare (and some fantastically ugly) mechanical dual-purpose monsters "grace" Soviet railways, as documented on this wonderful site. Here are some (shudder) examples:

This railroad marvel has DM62 locomotive engine set on top of ballistic rocket mobile wheeled base "Hurricane". It was built not too long ago, in 2002 by the students of VNIKTI institute in Bronnitsy, Russia.

BA-64 armored vehicle, conceived in 1942 at Gorkovski AutoZavod:

GAZ-51, combined with the snow-removal equipment:

ZIL truck, still running, after all these years:

Black Volga Gaz-24:

(image credit: Damir Z.)

Yellow Volga Gaz-24:

(image credit:

Gayvoron station in Ukraine has this rare ZIM railcar conversion:

(images credit: Serguei Trouchelle)

Hungarian conversion of a Russian-made "Tschaika" luxury car:

UAZ-450 light van in 1972:

Soviet Army enjoys the "URAL-4330" heavy truck:

Some wild ideas thankfully never made it into production:


Truly "Light Rail" Vehicles

photos by Vladimir Markovicz

Scooter on rails, pretty straight-forward concept. Looks fun, though. However, make sure you know the local train schedule before you bring your whole family to the tracks.

(image credit: The Scooter Scoop)

and, of course, the easiest vehicle to convert is a bicycle:

(original unknown)


More Rail Madness

Not satisfied with the speed of your hi-rail vehicle? How about the ultimate...
Rocket Sled on Rails:

(image credit: quadrofonic wingnut)

This is a training vehicle, used by US Air Force to test the limits of human endurance. To call it "extreme" would be an under-statement...

Using High-Voltage lines for Rail-Trucks in Siberia

We are trying to be open-minded about this new transportation concept from Russia, but still have hard time believing they really mean it. Yet, according to this respected source, "Wire"-balancing trucks could be soon a reality in Siberia, and the similar 3 kilometers system is already under construction in Kiev.

The Road/Rail converted trucks will travel between existing high-voltage towers high above the frozen landscape, avoiding the costs associated with building on permafrost and huge snow-removal expenses.

Eventually the wire-transport system will get their own custom-designed cars, capable of reaching the speeds of 500 km/h.

But for now the all-purpose Russian (indestructible) trucks are going to become airborne and roam above the trees, scaring local birds and occasional hikers.


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