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A new way to ride the rail

By Carter Eckl ceckl@nevadaappeal.com

With the abundant amount hiking trails and open land in Northern Nevada, it’s tough to find a viewpoint that’s inaccessible to any determined member of the public.

Friday afternoon, the V&T Railway Commission along with the Carson City Chamber held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Eastgate Depot for their new rail bikes that will allow visitors to explore the Carson River Canyon.

Getting into the canyon is only accessible on the railroad and finding a new, family friendly way to see the canyon was the goal behind the addition of the rail bikes.

Elaine Barkdull-Spencer, the general manager of V&T Railway, said she had been trying to get rail bikes to Carson for the last two years, but COVID-19 worked out to be the perfect storm for a new feature.

“If there is any positive about COVID-19, its that we’ve been talking about it for two years since I started with the railroad,” said Barkdull-Spencer. “We had to cancel all the trains (this year) and I said, ‘what do you guys think, rail bike time?’”

Since V&T Railway was forced to shut down its trains for safety precautions, the rail bikes offer a whole new way to experience the canyon.

After partnering with Freedom Rail – based out of Utica, New York – in June, the V&T Railway now has six rail bikes for the public to use to access the canyon.

Barkdull-Spencer said V&T’s goal is to eventually have 15 rail bikes for public use.

What is a rail bike?

Barkdull-Spencer stated the Freedom Rail bikes were custom designed for the railway in Carson. Each bike has four seats attached together with pedals for visitors to bike their way through the canyon.

“We started working diligently to get these custom bikes for us here. They are lightweight, polyurethane wheels, aluminum frame. They are very comfortable and they have motors,” Barkdull-Spencer said.

Those motors add an assist feature to help get visitors through the canyon that aren’t necessarily looking to pedal throughout the entirety of the 90-minute tour.

“(It’s) good for all ages except those who can’t sit by themselves in a seat,” said Barkdull-Spencer.

Opening up access to new views

Though Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony just gave chamber members a limited taste of what to expect, the rail bikes opened for public use Saturday morning.

V&T Railway has taken extra steps to make sure each bike is sanitized properly before use.

The biggest push for Barkdull-Spencer to get the rail bikes was to give more access to the Carson River Canyon, only accessible on the railway.

“The destination, being that it’s the Carson River Canyon, there are people that have lived here forever who have never been in that canyon and the only way to get there is on the rail,” said Barkdull-Spencer.

Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, who attended the ribbon cutting Friday, expressed his excitement for the new rail bikes.

“This is a great day for Carson, train buffs … and let’s make sure that we spread the word,” said Crowell.

Tickets run $45 per seat for the rail bike tour and can be found and booked online at vtrailway.com.