More rail bikes…

Bikes Energy & Sustainability Fun & Games
More rail bikes…

Awesome, we posted up an old photo from 1895 of a “Railway velocipede” and of course, turns out, there are makers out there building and using these. Here are a few that were sent in.

  • Railbike along the scenic Willamette River between Lake Oswego and Portland – Link.
  • Krazmo writes – “This guy has well thought-out railbike plans for sale, as well as some interesting stories of his railbiking adventuresLink.
  • Somewhat related: Icebike racing – Link.

20 thoughts on “More rail bikes…

  1. philipforget says:

    Are there any legal issues to riding around on train tracks, besides the safety issues that are more than clearly apparent?

  2. eightlines says:

    For some of the Icycle racing shots we did in Toronto this year check out the Toronto Cranks photo gallery. Technically the recumbents looked impressive but they were no match for the two wheeled versions. I just don’t think there was enough room to get up to speed. As for myself I had enough speed to do myself some injury in the rubber tire race finale. No studs, just feeble attempts at keeping your balance.

  3. wolfharper says:

    Huge legal issues. Serious penalties. Even if the line is abandoned, a museum etc.

    There are active groups of people who solicit permission to ride on various railways. One such group is NARCOA, who organizes meets for powered “track speeders”, and sorts out details of logistics, insurance etc.

    Others have found creative ways to strike bargains with freight railroads. For instance some enterprising folks got permission from the Susquehanna Railroad to cut trees along an overgrown, dormant line in exchange for getting to use track speeders to do it. Win/win, it allowed the railroad to easily reopen the line for freight. I know of several such arrangements.

    Many railway museums are volunteer-run, and this offers many opportunities to ride as well.

    Of course, all of these might involve volunteer work at museums, or travel of hundreds of miles to find a suitable line. Bandit running can be tempting. But they were harsh on bandit runners in the past, and even moreso now that there are so many legit opportunities (and 9/11 has raised security concerns to near paranoia.)

    The track speeder hobby has seen some terrible, bloody accidents from “bandit runners” on “flying shingles” (homemade, unsafe contraptions.) Some years back a flying shingle collided with a heavy speeder on the Adirondack RR, and the victims had to wait hours, in agony, to be flown out by med-evac helicopter. That would not be fun.

  4. wolfharper says:

    Yes, big legal issues. Very big. Federal big. Don’t go there.

  5. wolfharper says:

    Yes, big legal issues. Very big. Federal big. Don’t go there.

  6. wolfharper says:

    Sorry for the dupes. On the subject of safety, there are several areas of concern:

    1. Small vehicles.
    Railbikes (and speeders) don’t weigh 80 tons and don’t have standard wheel profiles, so they can do unpredictable things anywhere that isn’t straight track. Switches (turnouts), railroad-to-railroad crossings, derails, drawbridge mitre rails, spring-loaded switches and frogs — even in perfect condition, these can cause a light vehicle to derail. This calls for going verrrrrrry slooooooowly across any such fixture. I mean the speed of a slow walk.

    2. Little-used track.
    We tend to ride on track that’s in disuse, and that means dirt-packed highway crossings and all manner of junk on or around the rails. In my experience there isn’t time to watch the scenery; you have to watch both rails like a hawk for a misplaced (or deliberately placed*) stone or twig that will derail you, and you frequently have to stop and clear branches, weeds, junk from the track. On disused lines, you might be doing this every 200 feet.

    * the people placing junk on the track aren’t meaning to derail a small vehicle, they’re aiming to see a big train pulverize the object.

    3. Highway crossings.
    Motorists are highly unpredictable. That itself is a huge risk. And if the crossing is packed with dirt, small railcars are not geared properly to push their flange through dirt at 1 mph. You often have to get out and push!

    4. Dilapidated track.
    There can be misaligned switch points or frogs, and gage that’s wildly narrow or wide. Which will derail you. I’ve also seen paved-over or cut highway crossings, and even missing rails!

  7. John Swansey says:

    we need to get people together and get the railroad companies to save some tracks for bike riding in all states . how can we do this

  8. tony says:

    There are official ‘velorail’ tracks in france where you can hire a railbike. I want to make my own railbike and use it unofficially on unused tracks of which there are several in my area (dept79).

  9. ian says:

    hi, can anyone tell me how i can get in touch with the guy who made the railbike i the photo?



    1. Michael Rohde says:

      Hey Ian, I made the railbike in the photo. It was the first recumbent that I built. I have a website at for more information. I am presently designing a railbike kit (front wheel drive recumbent). You can see a video on Youtube of the tours I was running in Costa Rica. Search for “railbike Costa Rica” on Youtube. Contact me if you have questions.

      Michael Rohde

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