I began working on the Railplane around the year 2000 and since that time I have studied hundreds of other similar projects and learned from their successes and failures.

Although I went to university to study aeronautical engineering, my professional career has been as a cabinetmaker and construction supervisor. I also have experience as an electrician and machinist. From this diverse background and perspective, I have concentrated my efforts in designing and refining the basic PRT format in a way that first and foremost takes into account the construction, maintenance, and cost of the rail infrastructure, something that has been the Achilles’ heel of virtually every other project.

From the beginning, I had the idea of using a 3-D printing process to create the rail but I needed something to print onto. Because the rail needed to be curved, that something needed to be flexible, and because the design required a great deal of this material, it needed to be cheap.

The solution I came up with is a technology called strawjet which involves machinery that processes agricultural residue such as wheat, hemp, palm fronds, etc. into a tightly compressed cable 2 inches in diameter. I built several prototypes and formed a company around the project. In 2006 the technology won the Invention of the Year Contest sponsored by the History Channel and TIME Magazine.

RailPlane might have followed shortly thereafter but the 2008 meltdown delayed further development.

It is only now that the economic climate is ready for this sort of project. Over this past year the focus of the work has been the design and modeling of the rail fabrication technology. This has emerged as two distinctly different methods. The first, which is the one shown on this website, is the automated first-world version. The second, which will be available for public viewing shortly, is the simpler technique, but one that requires more labor and therefore suitable for less developed countries.

David Ward