A trackless train (or road train, land train, parking lot tram, Dotto train or Tschu-Tschu train) is a road-going articulated vehicle used for the transport of passengers, comprising a driving vehicle pulling one or more carriages connected by drawbar couplings, in the manner of a road going railway train.
Trackless train or land train are descriptive terms for the rubber tired road-going vehicles to distinguish them from rail mounted trains. The Tschu-Tschu train and Dotto train names stems from genericized trademarks of trackless train manufacturers, although Deltrain and The Railroad Factory also are manufacturers. Parking lot tram is a common name in the US, reflecting its use in parking lot transport. The lack of a generic name for trackless trains often leads to them being called trams, people movers or road trains. Due to cultural terminology differences, trackless train, tram and parking lot tram usages occur in North America, while land train, road train, Tschu-Tschu train and Dotto train are used in Europe.
A trackless train usually consists of a tractor unit unit pulling a number of articulated trailers or carriages in the manner of a locomotive hauled railway train. The tractor unit can be powered by a combustion engine or an electric motor.
Carriages may seat between 6 and 40 persons, and can be roofed or not, featuring open or closed sides and various levels of interior comfort such as padded seats. If open, depending on climate they may feature plastic sheeting to cater for rain. Carriages usually contain lockable doors or chains to act as safety measures to prevent exit while in motion. Carriages and tractor false bodies are constructed in either fibreglass or aluminium, and may feature levelling suspension.
As in a regular road vehicles, the tractor unit is steered through the front wheels by a steering wheel by a driver, and powered by its rear single or double axle. The following carriages are then steered through the drawbar couplings between the carriages. Simple trains with few carriages or short in overall length may feature single or double axle carriages with just front axle steering only. Larger or longer trains feature four wheel steering by way of mechanical linkages. Four wheel steering ensures longer trains need less clearance while turning, as the carriages are able to maintain the same path, describing a constant radius of arc. This adds to the impression of the vehicle being on rails. The drawbar connections on more complex trains may feature a shock absorber to mitigate the effect of acceleration or braking.
Trackless trains are often used for the transport of tourists instead of other public transport modes. These may be seasonal services, linking attractions such as museums and zoos or other tourist destinations with central areas. Often, the train ride itself is a tourist attraction, offering sightseeing along scenic routes as well as a transport service. In the Swiss town of Gruyères, a trackless train is the only vehicle allowed in the pedestrianised streets.
Trackless trains are also often operated for the exclusive use of customers of resorts or amusement parks, both as internal transport systems entirely within their premises either from parking areas and between attractions, or as rides in themselves. A particularly heavy user of trackless trains has been the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts where they are used to move guests between the outlying parking lots and the park entrances. Disney, Universal, and other movie studio theme parks also use trackless trains on their studio backlot tours.
While some trackless trains are functional or modern in appearance, many are often constructed with false bodywork and are painted to look like nineteenth century steam trains. Others may feature decorative or fun paint schemes to appeal to children. Certain models of trackless train may look the same as narrow gauge rail guided amusement park trains, due to the common manufacture of both vehicles. Some fifth wheel coupled trailer buses may also be similarly decorated.
Airport baggage trains
The steering mechanism on longer trackless trains operates in a similar manner to airport baggage carts, although the tractor units are commonly designed to be frequently detached from the baggage carts to be used for other purposes. Carts are also detachable to be left in loading areas. Airport baggage trains are often also much longer than the passenger type. (See Ground support equipment).
- "Dotto Trains - Company Information". Dotto Trains. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- Eastbourne's Dotto Train web page, accessed 17 September 2008
- South West Trains website, information page for connections to Isle of Wight Zoo
- Road Trains Tschu-Tschu - Company Information
- West Cork Model Railway Village Tschu Tschu
- Dotto trains technical specification page for a carriage
- Deltrain website technology page
- Petit train de Gruyères website