Ever seen a romantic old railroad track and wanted to follow it for a bit? That’s the magic of Rail Explorers – a pedal powered vehicle that rides on railroad tracks, with 4 steel wheels, hydraulic disc brakes, and 2 or 4 comfortable seats.
Riding the rails is actually pretty easy, as the terrain is mostly flat and unlike other bikes, you don’t have to steer. This leaves your hands conveniently free for your camera, which is important as the route is spectacular – a 6-mile ramble along gorgeous Narragansett Bay that traverses private waterfront estates, two golf courses, the Newport Preservation Society Topiary Garden and the Audubon Society Nature Preserve. (For the record, there’s also a Southern Circuit out and back from the Portsmouth Grove Station that enjoys incredible water views over Narragansett Bay.)
The whole adventure takes about 90 minutes, with about an hour on the rails. (The Northern Ramble is one way, with a shuttle bus the other.) The explorers leave at the same time, with individual cars leisurely spread out by about a football field; large parties can link together if it’s more fun to travel as a unit. Kids are welcome, but must be accompanied by someone at least 16 years of age to handle the brakes. Price is by vehicle, with a tandem going for $80 one way, plus a $3 online booking fee. In the spring, Rail Explorers generally run 4 days a week – Thursday through Sunday, with the occasional Monday or other weekday thrown in; by summer it’s a daily offering. On May 16, two Northern Rambles are offered – one at 10 AM, another at 11:30. Advance reservations are recommended.
By the way, while there are no trains running on the tracks you’re pedaling (thank goodness), you may be able to combine your Rail Explorers experience with a trip on an actual train depending on the day and time you depart. The Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad, which has an ice cream train for kids and an elegant dinner train called the Grand Bellevue, also operates out of Portsmouth. For more, www.trainsri.com