LACONIA – A new outdoor experience will help local residents and visitors enjoy the beauty of the Lake District at a leisurely pace.
On Friday, the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Railroad will present its Rail Bike Adventures attraction in downtown Laconia.
People will be able to travel in specially constructed, pedal-powered four-person wagons for a 5-mile round-trip excursion along a stretch of railroad that passes some of the city’s historic industrial buildings and then along the shores of Lake Winnisquam, the fourth largest lake in the state.
“This is a perfect opportunity to bring an attraction to the outdoors, suitable for families and socially remote,” said Paul Giblin, director of marketing and business development for Hobo & Winnipesaukee Railroad.
The new venture is also being hailed as it will add another attraction to the city’s downtown area.
“Not only does it give people another way to follow the lakes, it also brings them closer to our business community,” said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lake District Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Andrew Hosmer and members of City Council, as well as state officials and representatives from various local businesses, are expected to be on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday which will officially mark the opening of the attraction.
The ceremony will not only be an opportunity to exhibit the rail bikes, but also to show off the restored rotunda of the historic downtown train station, which will serve as a ticket office, waiting room and gift shop for the rail bike attraction.
The attraction will operate Tuesday through Sunday, with tours departing downtown at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Rail cyclists will cross the trestle over the Winnipesaukee River, pass Bartlett Beach, and continue along the shore of Lake Winnisquam to a point behind the Belknap Mall in Belmont, where cars will be returned on a special hub and the runners will be able to take a 15-minute break in the new rest area when they can take in the lake views, Giblin said.
All outings will be supervised by trained guides at the front and rear of each group, as well as a flagperson at all level crossings. Riders will be split during the guided tours, typically with 200 feet between each rail bike, allowing riders to enjoy the experience and the view at their own pace.
Each visit will last between 1 hour and 30 minutes and 1 hour and 50 minutes, Giblin said.
Planning and preparations for the rail bike tours have been underway for 14 months, Gilbin said.
The idea arose out of a discussion that took place in 2019, initially on the possibility of resuming the trails between Lakeport and Weirs Beach in order to extend the WOW Trail. This idea was soon abandoned. But it prompted City Councilor Bob Hamel to ask railroad officials why, given that they were determined to preserve the railroad, they weren’t running excursion trains to downtown Laconia. , instead of ending them at the lower end of Paugus Bay.
“I am very happy that the Clark family (who own the railway) chose Laconia to have this attraction,” Hamel said.
Like Gifford, Hamel sees the appeal and gives new impetus to downtown businesses.
The rides are open to adults and children. However, riders must be at least 4 feet tall and weigh less than 250 pounds. Advance reservations are required and can be made online at hoborr.com/rail-bike-adventures. The rides will be offered until the end of October.
Further information is also available by calling 603-745-2135.