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Cars Without Tires Are Trains

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Shredded your tires? No problem! Just hop your bare rims on to those convenient railroad tracks!

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
jaytee on Aug 16th 2011 at 10:59:15 AM
Last Edited By:
foxley on Dec 1st 2017 at 1:17:53 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Do We Have This One?? I couldn't find it, but that doesn't mean it isn't here somewhere.

Needs a Better Title.

In Real Life, rails are made for trains, roads are made for cars. In fiction, this line gets blurred.

Basically, if you've seen train tracks so far in the film, and then the hero's tires get shredded, you can bet that the car is going on those tracks. There's no explanation for why any car's rims will fit standard-gauge train track as if it were built for the task, except that it's cool.


Needs More Examples

Film - Animated

  • This happened to the villain's limousine in the ending of Oliver & Company as Sykes chases Fagin's scooter into the subway. Roscoe and DeSoto fall off the car in the struggle and land on the subway's third rail, electrocuting them. Sykes' car eventually drives straight into the path of an oncoming train, killing him and throwing him and his car into the East River.
  • In Cars 2, one of the activities that Mater drags Lightning into in the beginning of the movie is driving on abandoned railroad tracks without tires.

Film - Live Action

  • In Back to the Future III, the Delorean fits perfectly onto the train tracks. This example is possibly justified, given that Doc is established as an excellent blacksmith with the capability to create Steam Punk Applied Phlebotinum, but it's not addressed in the film.
  • This happened in the James Bond movie Octopussy. This is after he drives across some "severe tire damage" spikes on the Russian/Eastern bloc border. He then drives the car along the tracks to chase Octopussy's circus train. He manages to jump from the car to the train just before the car is struck by a train coming the other direction.
  • Played deadly straight in the Get Smart film. 23 takes 99 hostage and flees in a vehicle. After a chase, Max manages to rescue 99, but in the struggle, the car is set on fire and forced onto railroad tracks. Max kisses 23 to distract him, a trick learned from 99. He and 99 are thrown off the vehicle before it collides with a freight train, killing 23.
  • In XXX State Of The Union, Deckert and Cobb abduct Sanford while he is making the State of the Union Address. They escape on a bullet train. Jackson arrives with a car, and Stone uses it to infiltrate the train by driving along the tracks.
  • The "train" at the end of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a retrofitted truck.

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of Top Gear involved a car being modified to pull a train. Hilarity ensued.

Real Life

  • In Real Life, a small number of Jeeps have been outfitted to work on railroad tracks in military service.
  • Some cars and trucks have been fitted to run on rails, used largely for railroad maintenance. These are called draisines (or "speeders" in the United States).
  • In World War II, the Russians had a variant on their standard heavy armoured car, the BA-10, that had both rail and road wheels. This enabled it to be driven onto a railway track, where the rail wheels were lowered into place and the armoured car then became a self-propelled railway wagon and could be sent ahead to check the track for obstructions, enemy activity and so on. If it also triggered any mines planted by the Germans, the theory ran, it was still cheaper than losing a whole train.

I know I've seen this elsewhere, but I need help with examples.

Feedback: 28 replies

Aug 16th 2011 at 12:11:17 PM

This happened in the James Bond movie Octopussy. This is after he drives across some "severe tire damage" spikes on the Russian/Eastern bloc border.

Aug 16th 2011 at 1:12:02 PM

This happened to the villain's limousine in the ending of Oliver And Company.

Aug 16th 2011 at 3:41:46 PM

I think Doc did modify the Delorean's wheels- see here.

Aug 16th 2011 at 5:15:39 PM

^You may be right. I just watched the movie yesterday, and there was a shot that I could swear was just bare rims on train track, but this definitely looks otherwise. I'll modify the entry to list it as possibly justified.

Aug 16th 2011 at 5:30:58 PM

I did a google search and found this, which is a few railroad enthusiasts discussing the possibility of doing this in Real Life. Turns out it's plausible.

Aug 16th 2011 at 5:34:10 PM

And as possible page image: [1]?

Aug 16th 2011 at 6:08:38 PM

Some cars and trucks have been fitted to run on rails, used largely for railroad maintenance. These are called draisines (or "speeders" in the United States).

Aug 17th 2011 at 12:44:59 PM

An episode of Top Gear involved a car being modified to pull a train. Hilarity ensued.

Aug 17th 2011 at 10:06:21 PM

The "train" at the end of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a retrofitted truck.

Aug 18th 2011 at 8:17:59 AM

I think a screenshot of Sykes' car in the railroad tracks in Oliver And Company might make a good page image, actually.

Aug 18th 2011 at 11:18:36 AM

^Do you think you can track one down for us? I haven't seen Oliver And Company in years and don't recall the scene.

Aug 26th 2011 at 2:03:34 PM

So maybe this one isn't quite as common as I thought. Still, four fictional examples is enough for a trope.

Before this launches, any last minute additions? Thoughts on title, description?

Aug 26th 2011 at 7:40:30 PM

@ Iron Lion actually it was two cars Top Gear adapted, Jeremy thought the first version was too train-like and set out to make his car-train more of a car (although, agreed on the Hilarity Ensuing).

Aug 27th 2011 at 11:24:13 AM

I've read somewhere that this trope is actually justified in most works in that the width or the wheel-to-wheel distance for locomotives, cars, other vehicles and even the rockets used by NASA was "standardized" long ago because of the width of a donkey's ass, or something, so the only modifications usually needed are the ones to link the vehicle's wheeling to the rails. Could this be researched and, if confirmed true (wow) noted in the article or in its Analysis page?

Sep 11th 2011 at 4:10:59 PM

Happens in XXX: State of the Union.

Sep 11th 2011 at 8:06:05 PM

If I remember right, there's an instance of this in the 1986 buddy cop movie Running Scared.

Sep 12th 2011 at 1:59:21 AM

^ According to the description and Laconic, in order for this trope to apply the tires have to be shredded. In Running Scared they weren't.

Jul 1st 2012 at 10:00:16 PM

@Silent Reverence: There are several different wheel-to-wheel distances (called "gauge" in railroading and "track" or "tread width" for road vehicles); the latter can differ front-to-rear in the same car.

Jul 1st 2012 at 10:19:11 PM

Only you can stop zero context examples. details!

Jul 2nd 2012 at 4:24:01 AM

Real Life: in WW 2, the Russians had a variant on their standard heavy armoured car, the BA-10, that had both rail and road wheels. This enabled it to be driven onto a railway track, where the rail wheels were lowered into place and the armoured car then became a self-propelled railway wagon and could be sent ahead to check the track for obstrctions, enemy activity and so on. If it also triggered any mines planted by the Germans, the theory ran, it was still cheaper than losing a whole train.

Nov 29th 2017 at 11:29:54 PM

Thread necromancy.

I'm assuming this is Up For Grabs.

Nov 30th 2017 at 12:11:58 AM

  • In Cars 2, one of the activities that Mater drags Lightning into in the beginning of the movie is driving on abandoned railroad tracks without tires.

Nov 30th 2017 at 1:05:00 AM

Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.

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