Railway Velocipede & Handcar
The Rail Yard
About the Railway Velocipede & Handcar
The handcar, considered to be the oldest of railway vehicles, came to be associated with the drudgery of maintaining the railway. The hand car carried repair and inspection parties down the railroad line. Two to four men made up a repair gang that manually propelled the hand car along a three to six mile section of track. These crews were known as “section gangs.”
Replacing lengths of rail, renewing the gravel ballast between the ties, repairing bridges and tunnels, maintaining signal lights- these other duties all fell to the men of the section gang. Without their labor, the trains could not have run.
The velocipede is a one-person vehicle similar to a bicycle with a stabilizing outrigger wheel attached to one side. The larger hand car develops more power and can be teamed with a pushcart to carry tools and equipment. Both vehicles require some strength and skill to operate, but on a good day, a scenic mountain ride could be a welcome and exhilarating experience.