What are Rail Speeders?
BY RILEY ZARM
6th Grade, NCSS
Do you remember the Rail Speeder? Rail Speeders are vehicles used to maintain the tracks. Although slow compared to a train or car, they were used on railroads around the U.S. by track inspectors and work crews to move flawlessly to and from work sites. Rail Speeders date back to at least 1896.
In the 1990s, speeders were replaced with trucks using flanged wheels that could be lowered on the track called Hy-rails. Speeders are collected by people who enjoy the weird and fascinating hobby, who refurbish them for excursions organized by the North American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) in the U.S. and Canada. Running a speeder costs considerably less than most hobbies although some think it’s a messy hobby!
NARCOA is a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation and the safe, legal operation of railroad equipment historically used for maintenance of way. The most important words in this description are “safe operation.” To participate in an excursion, you must go through a through training. NARCOA members operate privately owned railroad motorcars on railroads throughout the United States and Canada during railroad NARCOA excursions.
Members travel through some of the most picturesque areas of North America. Excursions vary from one-day, 10 to 25 mile trips between two towns or hobbyist’s go on multi-day, 1,000 mile trips covering several states! These excursions are organized by NARCOA coordinators. All excursions are approved by and coordinated with participating railroads.
The organization of NARCOA was started in 1980 as a small list of speeder owners, known as ‘The NARCOA Roster.’ In 1988, NARCOA was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of Delaware and started the NARCOA insurance program. Today, NARCOA has grown to over 1,800 members worldwide. Membership in the Association is open to anyone. No person is excluded from membership for any reason. NARCOA welcomes everyone and it is easy to join. To obtain membership information, visit the www.narcoa.org where you can download a membership form. As a member, you must pay annual dues, and during an excursion, you must follow all rules shown in the rulebook.
Do you want to drive a speeder yourself? For more information, go to www.narcoa.org.