When asked, most people will tell you the first bullet train came out of Japan in the 1950s. This isn’t exactly true.
Between 1930 to 1939, the Schienenzeppelin, or rail zeppelin, could be seen in Germany. A high-speed train, the Schienenzeppelin could reach speeds of up to 210 kilometers per hour.
The Schienenzeppelin was developed in 1929 by Franz Kruchenberg, who had previously designed Zeppelins. To create the Schienenzeppelin, Kruchenberg empowered a bullet train with an aircraft propeller.
The Schienenzeppelin was just over 85 feet long, just over nine feet tall, weighed over 40,000 pounds, had a steel frame with a fabric and wood exterior, was powered by a BMW aircraft motor of 600 hp via wooden propeller. This bullet train held 24 passengers.
However, because additional train cars couldn’t be added to the base model, the BMW engine failed at upward gradients, the Schienenzeppelin couldn’t be started by propeller alone and because the train couldn’t function at high speeds over a significant period of time, only one Schienenzeppelin was ever ordered and used.