New local outdoor adventure: the bike-rail [column] | Outside
Rail biking – pedaling a steel-wheeled platform over railroad tracks – is a new outdoor pastime sweeping the country, and two of the three places to do it in Pennsylvania are located next to the county. of Lancaster.
York and Berks counties have opened rail bike experiences where people of all ages can leisurely pedal through countryside and historic landscapes.
I recently traveled to western Maryland for my first rail bike trip and was totally smitten. My wife and I sat upright in seats cannibalized from a boat that were mounted on an open-air aluminum platform fitted with four steel wheels. We pushed forward with bicycle pedals and braked when needed with handbrakes designed for motorcycles.
For 10 miles, about 30 of us, spaced out, rode on rails laid 175 years ago. Unlike biking, we didn’t have to steer or keep our balance, which allowed us to admire the mountains and wooded ravines on either side.
A cooling breeze from riding the tracks countered the hot summer air and the metal wheels clicked the rail joint, just like you were on a train. The rhythmic movements rocked us in serenity.
Many of the rail bike tours that are popping up across the country share the tracks with vintage railroad rides that have been running for years, though some follow abandoned rail corridors.
In my opinion, late summer and the upcoming fall foliage would be a splendid time to try this new adventure. Here are the details of the two rail bike offerings in our backyard.
Secret Valley Bike Tours
This 4-mile round trip between Boyertown, Berks County, and Pottstown, Montgomery County, follows a railroad hewn out of rock by Civil War veterans in the late 1860s. The Colebrookdale Railroad has been running track tours since 2014.
During the hour-long journey, you’ll pedal through deep forests, cross bridges, ride along streams, and pass the remains of America’s first iron industry. You’ll see where magnetic rock gave rise to iron factories that provided cannonballs for George Washington and lured Thomas Edison on a quest for a special ore he needed for an invention.
The rail bike tour is organized by Secret Valley Rail Bike Explorers, a non-profit group of women who work on powered rail bikes that can be made available to people with autism and other disabilities.
Four-seat bikes are $155. You don’t have to have four people on the bike. Or you can rent a three-person bike for $120 and a crew member will do the pedaling. A minimum height of 4 feet 6 inches is required and the maximum weight for riding a rail bike is 250 pounds. Trips are available on Saturdays and Sundays through October 30. All trips depart from 1410 Glasgow Road, Pottstown. For available dates, to order tickets and for more information, go to colebrookdalerailroad.com; 610-367-0200.
American Rail Bike Adventures
There are three rail bike tours to choose from. The Countryside Tour is an 7 mile round trip between Stewartstown and Anstine Village in southern York County on the historic Stewartstown Railway, a shortline and passenger railway built in 1884. The journey passes through thick forests and crosses an old iron railway bridge. . Deer and other wildlife are frequently sighted. In Anstine, a turntable will be used to turn the bikes. The cost is $129.99 for a bike that seats up to four people.
The Howard Tunnel Tour is an 7 mile round trip from Seven Valleys on the North Central Railway to the tunnel, the second oldest railroad tunnel in the United States and through which Abraham Lincoln’s casket was carried in 1865. The ride is through scenic farmland, colonial stone houses, and old villages dating back to the 1700s. The cost is $129.99 for a bike that seats up to four people.
The New Freedom Tour is a five-hour, 16-mile round trip from Stewartstown to New Freedom and includes a section on the North Central Railway that has not been used since damage from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The route passes through scenic farmland. and dense forests and by a former industrial area, train stations and railroad sidings that once served bustling factories. It includes time to eat and walk around New Freedom. The cost is $299 for a bike that seats up to four people.
For all tours, riders must be at least 4 feet tall and no more than 250 pounds. Visits mainly take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until October 30. For tour availability, to order tickets and more information, go to americanrailbike.com and click on “excursions”; 717-993-4213.
Ad Crable is a LNL | Outdoor Writer LancasterOnline. Email him at [email protected]