Today the term AutoRailer™ (note the capitalizations) appears to have become a trademarked name and is employed in reference to various sorts of trailer and van whose purpose is to transport cars from their point of origin to a dealership. However, before highway systems were as broadly and as well developed as they are today in the United States, Europe, etc. (and still in places where, for whatever reason, tracks are laid but few roads are paved), vehicles other than trains were occasionally fitted to be able to travel on train tracks. As its name indicates, the Evans autorailer (or auto-railer) was bimodal, and could be quickly reconfigured to travel, as needed, on either rails or roads.
The phrenetic churn of the internet is such that, at any given moment, images of/information concerning these bimodal vehicles may be available (only to vanish when dreaded link-rot strikes, a moment later). Assembled here is a collection of data both useful and somewhat stable (it is hoped) from a number of sources.
•a fluctuating assortment of supplemental links pertinent to the autorailer:
(1) a former NOVA autorailer (“Vienna” destination still showing) photographed in Indiana in 1963;
(2) an advertisement for the Evans autorailer which appeared in Fortune Magazine in the late 1930’s;
(3) a collection of images of various versions of the autorailer;
(4) the Wikipedia article on the road-rail vehicle;
(5) the autorailer was also known as a doodlebug (interestingly enough, a term also applied to Hitler’s notoriously inaccurate V-1 flying bombs during WWII…), regarding which vehicle there exists a Wikipedia article. Edmund Keilty, as that article notes, authored three usefully illustrated, informative books on the subject between 1979 and 1988.
Anyone browsing this page who either knows of other images of autorailers on the web or has any that may be shared, contact, please, the manager of this site.
A potpourri of material concerning the autorailer
•A film (from the Prelinger Archives) produced by Chevrolet Leader News in 1935 promotes the Evans Autorailer•
•The apparent novelty of the vehicular hybrid is addressed in a semi-popular publication•
•An advertisement for the Evans Autorailer published in Life Magazine on November 1, 1943•
•Schematic of an Evans Autorailer 235hp 0-6-0Ds, USA/TC 7731-8•
At the end of World War II, Evans built for the U.S. military in Europe (specifically, the USA/TC) a small number of autorailers. These shunting diesel locomotives, small and bimodal, were particularly well suited to relatively easy conversion between travel on the railways and roads, either of which was in bad repair and considerably disrupted. All six wheels, ordinary truck tires upon which rested the entire weight of the car, were driven by a hydraulic transmission. Two retractable pairs of flanged guide wheels, 16 inches in diameter, assured bimodality; when not on the railway tracks, the vehicle was steered by the rear wheels beneath the cab.(Source for information above and schemata below: R. Tourret, Allied Military Locomotives of the Second World War . Thanks to Rudi Heinisch for the reference.)
•An erstwhile Alaskan school bus•
•A decaying autorailer in Superior, WI•
•The autorailer as an absurdist command car of quislings•
In Closely Watched Trains (1966; DVD ed. 2001 [04/20:10ff.]), director Jirí Menzel employs to an effect both comic and symbolic the cumbersomely bimodal variety of autorailer pictured below. Ordinarily an automobile thus adapted for travel on the rails would have retained its rubber tires, partially deflated; these would have been supplemented with smaller, retractable pilot wheels for steering. A more costly refitting had been omitted in this case, however, so that the rubber tires might be stripped from the car and re-appropriated for military use, thus leaving the vehicle to ride the rails on ludicrously large rims. In the following brief scene, set in the closing months of 1944 in a sleepy village in occupied Czechoslovakia, the car exits briskly in reverse from the train station and gently forces forward its occupants, quisling Czechs in the service of the Nazi occupation.