Louis E. Swinney, Inventor

From the time of the discovery of the gyroscope by the French physicist Jean Foucault, in 1832, many imaginative people have dreamed of creating a railway system in which the cars are held in perfect balance by a gyro mechanism that would enable the cars to run on a single rail. Several entrepreneurs, including an Irish inventor Louis Brennen, demonstrated a full scale rail car running on a single rail in 1903. In 1915, a Russian inventor, Peter Schilovsky, exhibited a similar vehicle. The U.S. Patent office has issued patents to several other inventors all of whom hoped that they had discovered the practical design to fulfill the dream of safe, smooth, fast and economical passenger rail service.

In each of these previous designs unstabilizing forces were resisted by the gyros resulting in precessional movement of the gyros. The precessional movement in turn activated mechanisms which accelerated the precession causing the cars to lean in a direction opposite to these forces until the cars were brought into a balanced condition. The cars remained in this leaning condition while moving along the rail. Each time the forces tending to unbalance the car changed, the leaning position changed. Each of the cars previously exhibited the center of gravity oscillated through a line directly above the center of support.

In 1962, a gyro-stabilized car was exhibited in Kansas City, Kansas, based upon a patent issued to Louis Swinney. This was the first gyro-stabilized car ever built that does not lean when subjected to unbalancing forces. It remains fixed in the exact vertical position. This is accomplished by the automatic adjustment of the weight distribution by using a secondary counter weight which moves laterally within the framework of the car. The car remains in the precise upright condition, never deviating.

In 1972, a second car was exhibited by the gyro-dynamics organization. In this vehicle the gyro-stabilization mechanism is automatically positioned laterally in the underframe whenever uneven loading occurs. The gyros prevent any deviation from the exact vertical orientation of the car. Sensors react to all unbalancing forces and the mechanisms instantly make the adjustments necessary to keep the car erect and steady. With the gyro spinning the car does not deviate from the precise vertical position while the vehicle is standing still or moving in a straight line. While watching a demonstration of this car one observer remarked, " it seems like the car is being held in a giant invisible vise". When the car moves into a curve, the same mechanisms cause the car to lean inwardly of the curve to the exact balanced condition. The degree to which the vehicle leans inwardly is the mean position between centrifugal force and gravity. All of the forces are equalized as occurs when a motorcyclist leans inwardly as a result of innate equilibrium. The amount of lean is a result of the radius of the curve and the speed of the car. Cars stopped on a curved section of rail automatically assume the vertical position. The orientation of the car is not dependent on the rails or guideway as is the case with conventional transit cars.

The test cars are equipped with an auxiliary support system which engages the guideway to keep the cars upright when out of service. They automatically retract from the guideway when the gyros are spinning. Gyro-stabilized rail cars can be operated on an elevated guideway having a single rail mounted on top. The guideway can be modified to any shape or form which can provide maximum strength at a minimum cost and structure dimensions. The suspension system as proposed consists of a highly simplified 2 wheel bogey at each end of the car instead of the 4 wheel bogeys of conventional design.

Flywheel energy storage systems have been proposed for many types of transportation including buses and locomotives as well as transit cars. In these proposals the weight as well as the cost would be added to the cost and weight of these cars. Even so the additional cost and weight factors appear to be justified because of the need to conserve energy which is now wasted.

Locomotives now use dynamic braking primarily to save wear on the brake shoes. The energy generated is presently being dissipated into the atmosphere. In the gyro/flywheel proposal the cost and weight are defrayed by the lighter and lower cost running gear, leaving the overall cost and weight of the cars about the same for the monorail as for conventional transit cars. Certain estimates indicate that the dollar value of the energy saved would defray the cost of the entire vehicle in 5 to 10 years of normal use.

Many physicists who have made extensive studies regarding the operation of railway cars at very high speeds have used the term dynamic instability to describe the ultimate barrier to high speed rail operations.

Conventional railway vehicles have a tendency to oscillate as the flanges of the wheels guide the cars along the rails. Lateral clearances between the flanges and the rail cause the cars to guided alternately by the wheel-rail contact from one side to the other. The oscillations cause the rocking effect in which the cushioning of the suspension system magnifies the intensity of the movement from side to side causing side-sway to occur. Certain physicists have concluded this dynamic instability will prevent trains of conventional design from achieving speeds in excess of 200 m.p.h. regardless of the condition of the wheels and rail. The factors which create dynamic instability also cause passenger discomfort.

In the monorail vehicles, flanges on both sides of the wheels minimize lateral oscillation and the dynamic forces of the gyros prevent side-sway, thereby counter acting the barrier to ultra high speed rail operations. The controlled orientation of the cars enable them to travel around curves at higher speeds.

In all other rail and fixed guideway systems the orientation of the cars is controlled by the guideway which is not adjustable. The cars are in proper balance at only one speed while moving around curves.

In summation, the benefits to be derived from the gyro/flywheel concept sets it apart from all other proposals. It has the potential to meet all the criteria of a rapid transit system and a high speed rail alternative.

During the past several decades, transportation officials in many major cities have conducted studies aimed at the construction of new rapid transit systems and elaborate plans have been made in attempts to provide these needed services, only to find that the costs were too high for the wanted systems and those which were economically feasible could not meet the criteria for acceptance.

It is reasonable to assume that if the required technologies were to be found in concepts previously developed to the stage of full scale demonstrations, the proposed projects could have been completed It is also reasonable to assume that, since none of the available concepts could meet the necessary criteria, new concepts must be developed to the stage of full scale prototype operation and fully evaluated until a system is created that meets all of the criteria necessary to assure an operating system. The logical approach to achieve this end is to determine in advance before vast sums are expended, that the proposed design, when fully developed, will meet the criteria that has previously been established.

The proposed gyro/flywheel monorail concept should be fully developed. To this end our organization is seeking interested parties who would participate in this project.

Anyone interested in more details should contact James Roberts , Director of Public Relations, Swinney-Ferreira Gyro Dynamics, Inc., 16119 Cloverdale Lane, Cerritos, California 90703-1915. Telephone (562) 926-9285.


Last modified: April 15, 1998