Rail Biking: New Essex Steam Train & Riverboat becomes popular during the pandemic

Destination New England

ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — When the train is away, these new contraptions will play! Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s new Rail Bike attraction has gained popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I came here 29 years ago, I never thought I’d be sitting on a rail bike on a Thursday evening here on the Valley Railroad,” says Vice President of Track and Property Rob Bradway. A small fleet was acquired by the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat last fall which turned out to be a lucky purchase.

“They’ve certainly come in handy during the pandemic when it has been the only thing we could run,” he explains.

When a participant sits in the bike, the right fit is key.

“Just be sure you’re not overextending your legs and feet are on the pedals,” says Bradway. “Keep your hands clasped so they’re not hanging over the side of the bike.”

Folks set-off from Goodspeed Station, engineering an adventure that’s scenic and active.

“Off to the right is the beautiful Connecticut River and homes along Main Street in East Haddam,” says Bradway.

The terrain is level and not too strenuous as participants roll along at about eight miles per hour past spots both serene and busy.

While the train is now running again on a limited schedule, the bikes are still going strong. Organizers are offering four, six, and ten-mile adventures all throughout the season.

“They’ve just fit in real well – the perfect antidote for Connecticut residents looking to get out and do something,” he says.

All rail bikes are thoroughly cleaned in-between trips. During group outings, bikes are properly spaced apart. Family members – kids through seniors – can abandon masks when they ride together.

“This is great! My granddaughter is doing most of the pedaling, so, I’m just coasting around for the ride,” says Bernie Grapski of Haddam.

“Out and about is awesome, especially cause you’re stuck inside all the time so this is a little break which is awesome,” says granddaughter Emily Allen, also of Haddam.

As the saying goes, driving the train doesn’t set the course. Trust the tracks during this unique experience.

“I’ve always found there to be a romance to the rails,” says Bradway. “I like the idea on the railroad: it’s wherever the rails are going, that’s where I’m going. I like the idea of something taking me for the ride.”

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