Seeing a potential for the unused E&N rail line on Vancouver Island, a Parksville resident has built a recreational rail bike to ride along the tracks of the once functioning railroad.
Russell Ramsden, 71, said he found plans for the Bentley Railbike while scanning the internet. He built the attachments for the bike using wood and metal and added an outrigger on the left side of the bike that attaches to the opposite track for balance.
“It’s just a bicycle with an attachment on the front,” Ramsden said. “I was interested in building this because the railroad bed is maximum a one-per-cent grade, so that’s pretty flat. I thought this would be a kind of cool way to look around and see what’s around here that you can’t see from the road.”
He said riding the bike along the railroad is surprisingly easy.
“It does glide very well,” he said. “The one down side… there’s a fair bit of growth on the tracks in certain areas which is really too bad. (The bike) has a little cow catcher on the front which pushes stuff out of the way. When you hit some broom or something it’s pretty tough stuff.”
Ramsden, who is a former college woodwork teacher, is in the works of making another railbike for his wife and is also planning on making a four-person bike.
“That railroad is just sitting there, it has such a huge potential,” he said. “All our politicians don’t seem to be able to reach an agreement with what to do with that. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of, once I get the four-seater bike done, possibly thinking about a tourist attraction using the rails if we can get permissions.”
“If you look up rail parks online you’ll see there are lots of areas where there are abandoned rail lines where they’re being used for tourism.”
Ramsden has not yet received permission from the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) to ride along the tracks.
“I’m sure (getting permission) would take forever. (The ICF) had seven years to do something with it. Why can’t we use it and get some use out of it? Ramsden said.
Phil Kent, co-chair of the ICF, said the rail is private property and still considered active.
“There could be maintenance vehicles moving up and down the rail. I would suggest that (a railbike) is not safe and it’s certainly not an approved use,” Kent said. He said that people who want to access the rail should go through the ICF.
“They would be referred to the rail operators who are responsible ultimetey for safety and liability on the rail,” Kent said. “It’s not that somebody couldn’t get permission to use the rail but there’s a process for that.”