Today I rode a pedal powered railbike, or as it’s called here in France, a vélorail. With peddling assistance from Leia, the pair of us trundled along a decommissioned railway line through the French countryside that was baking under the late summer sun.
Run by volunteers, the vélorail starts at the once busy station of Pont-sous-Gallardon, that used to be a stop en-route to and from Paris. The vélorail ride takes peddlers on a 6.2km (8.3 miles) trek to Coltainville, a journey of about an hour and forty five minutes.
The ride is actually one of a number of vélorail rides in France. It was a fun and rather clattery ride that cut a line through the countryside, passing through fields, under road bridges, and ‘tunnels’ formed out of trees and bushes. As we peddled we watched gliders coming into land at the airfield of Bailleau-Armenonville, and peered nosily into the garden of an old station house that’s been converted into a home.
While paddle-powered rail cars are not new, the vélorail is a relatively new innovation on this particular stretch of rail track. However, it’s not the first time something other than a steam or diesel-powered train has used the track. Back in the 1930’s a local train service was run on the track using a converted truck.
After the ride, we wandered over to a rather sleepy aviation and bike museum that was actually a real gem of a find. I nearly featured a propeller assisted bicycle from 1919 as my ‘picture of the day.’
I’ll definitely look out for other railbike routes around the world because this was a pretty fun activity.