Cutting edge to the cutter’s torch. (A repost from 2011)

What happens to old transportation technology?

It becomes less valuable than scrap!

The Birmingham airport MAGLEV was cutting edge transportation technology in 1984 (two years before the SkyTrain Expo Line opened) but by 1995 was scrapped as obsolete.

This is reminiscent of another cutting edge transportation technology more than a century ago, the atmospheric railway. Touted in the 1840′s as a replacement for the new steam railway, a decade later it became but a bad memory for its promoters. The first practical use of the system was on the Dublin and Kingstown Railway’s Dalkey Atmospheric Railway between Kingstown (DA?n Laoghaire) and Dalkey, Ireland. This 1.75-mile (2.82 km) line was built by Vignoles and surprisingly operated between 1844 and 1854, only slightly shorter than the eleven year run of the Birmingham Airport MAGLEV. The few other atmospheric railways built barely lasted a year in operation.

The lesson to be learned in this sad tale is that today’s ‘state of the art’ transit system is tomorrow’s obsolete transit system, something that TransLink hasn’t realized with the automatic proprietary SkyTrain light-metro system.

Birmingham Airport’s MAGLEV carriage resold for A?100


Birmingham Airport's Maglev carriage
The MAGLEV carriage has been lying in an disused corner of Birmingham Airport for the past 10 years


A magnetic carriage that transported people from Birmingham Airport to its railway station sold for just A?100 after a A?25,100 eBay bid was not paid.

The airport used a Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) line between 1984 and 1995 before replacing it with cable cars.

The Maglev carriage attracted 35 bids and was sold on the internet auction site eBay in November for A?25,100.

The bidder defaulted but Andy Jones from Warwickshire snapped it up and is moving it to his home near Kenilworth.

Mr Jones said: “The Magnetic Levitation Line came out of use back in 1995 and was put to one side by the Birmingham Airport people and at the back end of last year they decided to sell it on eBay.

Maglev memories

“The bidding went up to A?25,000 but whoever bought it the deal didn’t go through so it went back on eBay again at the start of this year for Help the Heroes and a hospice.

“So I thought I would get things going by putting in an opening bid of A?100 and nobody else bid for it.

“As a consequence I’ve got a five tonne train to get shifted into a field opposite my house and I’ve now got to find a suitable use for it.”

He said he used to be a frequent flyer from Birmingham Airport and remembered riding on the Maglev.

He said: “As a British invention of its day I thought it was absolutely tremendous. It was the forefront of its technology and a high speed Maglev has just been opened up in Shanghai which I think is a direct development of what took place in the old days.”

He plans to work with local companies to refurbish it and to install lighting and seating and said he wanted to hear from any groups who thought they could put it to good use.


One Response to “Cutting edge to the cutter’s torch. (A repost from 2011)”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I was on that line in 1992 after spending 3 months in a exchange program between Ryerson and Central England University in Birmingham. Boy where those cars small! The line ran well enough but, it always felt like it was about to stop, it was very quiet though.