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October 7, 2009 > Niles Canyon Railway offers rare Speeder and Velocipede rides

Niles Canyon Railway offers rare Speeder and Velocipede rides

By Meenu Gupta

One of the best ways to enjoy scenic Niles Canyon is on a relaxing vintage train ride which travels the eight miles between Niles and Sunol. However, a surprise is waiting for those looking to make this trip with a bit more spice! A rare alternative is being offered on Sunday, October 11, when passengers can take historic Speeder and Velocipede rides. Proceeds will support Niles Canyon Railway, which provides historic train ride experiences between the 1880s depot in Sunol and Niles Station.

Six Speeder rides, each 50 minutes long will run at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. between Niles Station and Brightside Yard. Boarding is at the Niles Canyon Railway Station. The experience of riding a speeder is different from a train ride. "First of all you are in a very small car then you can see the rails in front of you, unlike in a passenger train when you can only look to the sides, so you see the rails coming right at you. You are real close to the ground and it seems like you are going 50 miles an hour but you only go 20-25 miles an hour," said Al McCracken, station agent for Niles Canyon Railway.

"Speeder rides are seldom offered to the public," noted McCracken. "Last year we offered it only once all year. This is not museum equipment, and speeders are privately owned." In the 1980s speeders or motorcars transported railroad crews on the tracks for inspection and repair. Later on they were replaced by hi-rails - pickup trucks with rail wheels that travel on both roads and rails. For $25 ($15 for children ages five upto 12 ), enjoy the enthralling round trip experience, which is especially beautiful this time of year. Reservations are highly recommended, as speeder rides sell out each year. Plan to show up at least 15 minutes before departure. Children must be at least 5 years old. A signed waiver, long pants, and closed-toe shoes are required.

"Speeders are a lot of fun to ride," said Patrice Warren, volunteer and member of the Pacific Locomotive Association. The association operates Niles Canyon Railway to preserve a living history of Pacific Coast railroading from 1910 to 1960. Educational programs, community events, railroad artifacts, and exhibits at the Sunol Depot have informed people about railroad's development over the years. He added, "We are all volunteers." Pacific Locomotive Association volunteers worked hard to rebuild the line between Sunol and Niles so the public could enjoy rides and share America's railroad heritage. Members help restore equipment, build track, operate trains, and perform other tasks necessary to run a railroad. No experience is necessary. Anyone interested in volunteering can call McCracken at (408) 249-2953. "Minors may apply, but they need their parents' consent. Adults, especially seniors, are welcome," he continued. "We appreciate the efforts of our volunteers, speeder owners and operators who are volunteering their time and the use of their machines," he said.

Two velocipedes, built around 1927 and privately owned by McCracken will also be available for riders. "It is a single man hand car and is very rare. I guess there are only between 20 and 30 in entire California," he said. "They are powered by a rowing motion, you have to row it back and forth." Velocipede is also an umbrella term for any human-powered land vehicle with one or more wheels. Bicycle is the most common type of velocipede today. Don't miss the fun, register today by calling (408) 249-2953.

Annual Historic Speeder Rides
Sunday, October 11
9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Niles Station
37001 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(408) 249 2953

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