Retired Chatteris draftsman John Davis remembers the experimental hovercraft train that was tested in the Fens and still has drawings he made for the project

John Davis with the drawing of the passenger version of the hover train that he drew just before the

John Davis with the drawing of the passenger version of the hover train that he drew just before the company folded. - Credit: Archant

The sudden end to high speed hover train experiments in the Fens in 1973 was a ‘devastating blow’ to the team working on creating public transport for the future.

John Davis' drawing of the passenger version of the hover train that he drew just before the compan

John Davis' drawing of the passenger version of the hover train that he drew just before the company folded. This is a cross section showing the five seats. - Credit: Archant

John Davis, a retired graphic artist from Chatteris, was one of those working on the high speed hover train experiments carried out in the 1960s and 70s.

He was working on drawings of the latest concept - a passenger version of the train - when the government suddenly pulled the funding plug in 1973 ending the trials.

Memories of those days have been brought to mind for John and several other readers after last week’s story highlighting a new film ‘The Train that Floats in the Sky’ which has been produced by the University of Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

The film tells the story of the almost forgotten trials carried out along a specially created concrete monorail along the Old Bedford River between Earith and Sutton Gault.

John Davis watching the video of the Train that Floats in the Sky. He worked as a graphic designer a

John Davis watching the video of the Train that Floats in the Sky. He worked as a graphic designer and drew images for the passenger version of the train. - Credit: Archant


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John said: “The experiments were very successful. I have no doubt that had we kept going we would have these trains now. But there was a lot of politics going on in the background. British Rail was working on its own version of high speed trains - the tilting train - and in the end the government decided to back them rather than our project.

“We had one or two set backs including the collapse of part of the monorail caused by the soft Fen soil. But we had managed to get the train to run up to 107mph.

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“I had just completed drawings of the passenger train the week before the project ended. The hover train would have been quicker, quieter and cheaper to run. The concept was not a failure, we were ahead of the Japanese and the Germans who were working on their own version, but we had to stop. The Japanese now have these trains.”

The team dispersed world wide and John went on to work for other companies as a design draftsmen including Bosch.

“Seeing the film has brought back all kinds of memories. It was a fantastic project and it showed just how advanced we were and what we were capable of all those years ago,” said John, who still has some of the drawings he made, including one of the passenger train completed just a week before the project closed.

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