Monday, December 12, 2011

Subcompact Train Culture: Speeders

Speeders on the old Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad in Wheeler, Oregon - Subcompact Culture
Mercedes and I were driving north on Highway 101 heading into Garibaldi, Oregon on Saturday when something small and yellow caught our eye zooming down the railroad tracks along side us. Then we noticed a few more of them, this time in orange. A couple years ago, I saw a few of these diminutive rail cars in Portland, and was equally curious then, but wasn't able to stop. What the heck are these things? Oh well; they'd alluded us again, or so I thought.

We pulled into Garibaldi and noticed a large old locomotive billowing steam into the air. Being somewhat of a closet railfan, we decided to stop and check out the steam-powered locomotive and vintage railcars. Lucky for us, the little vehicles we'd just seen pulled into the station. I had to find out more.

This little speeder is powered by a two-stroke engine.
I ran up to a gentleman exiting the tiny yellow car, which looked like the front of a cab-over semi truck. He was getting ready to load it onto a trailer.

"So what exactly are these?" I asked while snapping photos.

"They're called speeders," he said. "They were used up until about the Reagan era as railway inspection vehicles."

Ah ha: mystery solved. I mentioned I'd seen them before in Portland, and he said that they indeed had a meet up there at some point.

Loading up a speeder - Subcompact Culture

The speeder I photographed above is powered by a small two-stroke engine that runs on mixed gas. The speeders seemed to be moving along at a decent clip, although I don't know the top speed.

Speeders in Wheeler, Oregon

A little research shows that speeders were replaced by rail trucks—those pickups you see from time to time with both tires and rail wheels. As you can see in the photos, there were all different shapes and sizes. I believe the gentleman with the yellow speeder said it was from the 1950s.

The people using these speeders were running them on the old Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad line, now used primarily by Oregon Coast Scenic Tours. This line was devastated in a 2007 storm, and was never rebuilt. It does, however, allow for a place for speeder fans to use their tiny vintage vehicles.

A small orange speeder in Wheeler, Oregon

Speeder Railway Car
Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad

No comments: