Saturday, December 1, 2007


I have discovered that in all my years of rail photography, I’d never taken a single solitary photograph of the ubiquitous "Speeder."

These little two-man – and more – gasoline powered devices were an efficient means to get from “point a” to “point b.” Equipped with grab handles to facilitate getting them off the tracks, a fellow had better know the train line up before venturing out onto the main line!

I’d heard of a couple of guys heading into Prince Rupert who inexplicably were confronted with an on coming “Extra” and had just enough time to stop and wrestle the Speeder into the ditch!

While there seems to be several manufacturers of this nifty self-propelled rail car, the major player appears to be the Fairmount Gas Engine and Railway Motor Car Company, who began production in 1911. Up to their absorption by Tamper – becoming Fairmont-Tamper in 1991 – they had produced upwards of 73,000 of these mighty mites in nearly a dozen different track gages (width between rails.)

It was a delightful surprise to learn that “Speeders” are still alive and well in the hands of enthusiasts, who not only lovingly restore them to their former glory, but also band together for “rides” much like motor cycle or automobile enthusiasts, only on rails!

You can read about the history of these rides at this link:

Now this is a pretty straightforward uncomplicated achievement on an abandoned rail line – if you can find one. But to stage a “ride” on an active railroad has logistical problems not for the faint hearted. In fact with safety concerns involving train movements and insurance questions, I was very surprised to see that these folk have worked out a way to enjoy their hobby, right down to the smallest detail – notice the green fiberglass outhouse!

Since I remember little about these machines except for the two-cycle “put-put-put” gas engines, I’m suggesting you click the link to Wayne Parson’s web site below, and enjoy a hot tea or coffee as you enter a world that is not only fascinating, but looks like darned good fun!

Oh, yeah, when you get to this page, under Trip Reports, be sure to look up the ride to Prince Rupert BC, which of course brings back wonderful memories of my cab rides on this wild west end of the Canadian National Railways back in the late 1950’s.

Finally, a special “Thank You!” to Wayne Parsons for providing the photos for today’s entry!

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