On a clear, sunny day at a vineyard in the northern California town of Ukiah, a most unusual train chugs through a field of barely budding syrah grapes. Well, it doesn’t chug so much as whoosh because this train—actually, a one-sixth scale train—doesn’t rely upon a diesel engine or electricity to get around. It uses vacuum power and heavy duty magnets.
The 89-year-old man who built it believes it could change how the world moves.
That man is Max Schlienger, an accomplished engineer who owns the vineyard and leads his family-run company Flight Rail Corp. Its sole product, the “Vectorr” system, uses a propulsion method like no other: Between the rails lies a PVC pipe, 12 inches in diameter, connected to a pump that can draw all of the air out of the pipe or fill it. Within the pipe you’ll find something Schlienger calls a thrust carriage, which is connected to the train with powerful magnets. This carriage is about the size and shape of a large watermelon and moves back and forth through the pipe under vacuum power, bringing the train with it.