What is a Trackless Train?

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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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A trackless train is a motor vehicle, often powered by an electric engine, that pulls around multiple linked carts behind it — in essence, a train on wheels. Many such vehicles are used at tourist destinations, such as theme parks, for the purpose of taking people on scenic and informative tours. At airports, trackless trains are used for the transportation of people as well as baggage. Some public transportation buses also are linked together like trackless trains to pack in more people per trip. Trackless trains go by many different names, such as the tschu-tschu train, tourist trolley, overland train, dotto train and parking lot tram.

To many people, the term trackless train may sound unfamiliar, an oddity considering that most people have been transported around by trackless trains at one time or other. Still, the term is hardly used. In fact, no one term is used most frequently to describe trackless trains. Instead, there are over half a dozen terms that may be tossed around, depending on the location and purpose for which a trackless train is being used. In North America, trackless trains are more likely to be called trams, whereas the label of train is more common in Europe.


For a more specific example, a destination point with a giant parking lot may use a trackless train to transport customers from their parked cars to a building. When used for that function, trackless trains are often called parking lot trams. Other names are used in different situations. For example, when used to transport tourists through a historic part of town, trackless trains are likely to be referred to as tourist trolleys. Additionally, when used at an airport for baggage transportation, a trackless train might be called an airport baggage train. The names are different, but the vehicles are essentially the same thing.

Trackless trains, like different car models, come in many different shapes and styles. Tourist trolleys often have carts with open sides, and sometimes open roofs, to give passengers the best view of their surroundings. Many are made to look something like actual trains, with replicas of steam whistles and train-car designs. Others, used merely for transporting people from point A to point B, or for transporting goods, are usually more plain in design.

Like railroad trains, trackless trains are capable of transporting many people. Unlike railroad transportation, however, they are not used for high-speed transportation. When used for public transportation along an inner-city district, they might reach the speed of average inner-city traffic, but they're not used for transportation along faster roads, such as highways.


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