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Affordable private railcars!
November 15, 2012 1:57 PM   Subscribe

We have previously discussed private railcars on Ask Metafilter, but there is a growing hobby of people owning and running their own railcar speeders.

Speeders were the default maintenance-of-way vehicles prior to the railroad's adoption of pickup trucks on HiRail wheels. The North American Railcar Operators Association is the major organization promoting responsible and safe usage of privately owned rail speeders.

A Schedule of speeder runs.

Depot Days Speeder run in Brooklyn, WI.

A page about a speeder restoration.
posted by pjern (31 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hah, I knew I needed a new hobby!
posted by carter at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2012


some MeFites have their own trolley car
posted by exogenous at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2012


This reminds me of an early early memory of mine: I was about 3 or 5 years old, and we were driving to the Ice Capades at Boston Garden. My dad, who is an impatient driver, decided to use a "shortcut" and drive the car on some train tracks in the suburbs to get around some traffic and make it to the highway more quickly. I remember it being VERY bumpy, and for years afterward, especially when they were stuck in traffic, my mom would remind my dad of how he ruined the suspension on the car that day. If only we'd had one of these little jobbers!
posted by not_on_display at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2012


Yesterday, I had a reaction reading The Hater's Guide to the Williams Sonoma Catalog where I thought, "You know, I don't feel bad about not having a lot of money because, if I had more money than I knew what to do with, I'd probably end up spending it on useless stuff like what we're mocking here."

This post helps me realize that I was mistaken. Because speeders and private rail cars would be WAY up on the list. I'm pretty sure I've never regretted not being independently wealthy more.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:23 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I fantasive about owning a railcar every day.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:36 PM on November 15, 2012


OMG, my wife is going to hate me!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:48 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew I should have chosen to be rich instead of handsome.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:54 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I knew I should have chosen handsome over poor.

We once looked at a house for sale in a HOA neighborhood, where they couldn't tell us whether my hobby of rusty old cars (all inside kept) was going to be afoul of the rule against more than three cars per house. It was, as it turns out, but another house in the neighborhood had a full size railroad (narrow gauge) running around the perimeter of the property. We're talking about two acre parcels, here, so it was pretty tiny. The guy had a speeder-like locomotive he took out on it.

In conclusion: HOAs which arbitrarily enforce rules suck (as they do in general), and good on fuck-you-I'm-having-a-damn-train-anyway guy.
posted by maxwelton at 3:58 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


When SuperTrain comes, I'm gonna be ready.
posted by modernserf at 4:07 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if a train comes?
posted by sneebler at 4:17 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I imagine the test they mention is on railway signaling? It's not the same as road traffic signals. Or would they just only let you run on a completely clear line?
posted by ctmf at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2012


want!
posted by percor at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2012


Malcolm wannabes...
posted by pompomtom at 4:43 PM on November 15, 2012


I imagine the test they mention is on railway signaling?

There is a whole set of uniform operating rules for railways.
posted by sneebler at 4:57 PM on November 15, 2012


Shitfire, like I needed something else to want.
posted by Mooski at 4:58 PM on November 15, 2012


What if a train comes?

It's my understanding that there's a plethora of abandoned track, especially out East and in the South. Also, the schedules for the trains are fairly well organized; I doubt these folks are taking their rigs out with the possibility of collision. Or maybe that's the fun part?

Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:59 PM on November 15, 2012


What if a train comes?

Trains don't just tool around; they work on tight schedules. That includes speeders; if you take one out onto a track without arranging for detailed permission first you will find yourself in so much trouble you'll WISH a train would come and put you out of your misery.

There's a big group of enthusiasts here in Western Washington; I found out about them when we encountered what must have been two dozen of them in Shelton, WA one fine day. It looked like a lot of fun.
posted by Fnarf at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2012


When SuperTrain comes, I'm gonna be ready.

I asked Roderick on Twitter if we had reached peak Supertrain. Everyone wants on board, as of course do I.

He assured me that one cannot apply for a seat. So I guess what I'm saying here is you better have a plan. And if you do, take me with you. I can sell one of my kids for bribe money.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2012


When I was working at the railroad museum, we had a little Fairmount speeder that we used to fuck around on on non-operating days. It was belt-drive with a 2 cycle motor, IIRC, and that little sumbitch could really scoot down the rails. It was noisy, windy, rough, and fun.
posted by pjern at 6:25 PM on November 15, 2012


The $5 was worth it for this post alone.
posted by dry white toast at 6:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, when one has a private railcar, what does one do when one reaches one's destination?

I mean, I figure you're being pulled along as freight, and they probably can find a siding somewhere to stick you on, but then what?

I'm been in freight yards, and they're not exactly pedestrian friendly if you want to get out for some food or supplies.
I guess you get a taxi?

Anyone done this? My idle daydreams depend on accurate information!
posted by madajb at 6:53 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, when one has a private railcar, what does one do when one reaches one's destination?


You know, steel wheels on steel tracks is a way more efficient combo than rubber on asphalt.

And the tracks are cheaper to maintain and build.

This is what we need to see running around our cities.
posted by ocschwar at 7:12 PM on November 15, 2012


So I spent basically the entire 20 minutes I was making dinner tonight discussing my new dreams of speeders and private rail cars this evening in a way that apparently seemed fanatical even to someone who knows my flights of fancy well.

Then I saw an ad for Saturday's $241,000,000 power ball jackpot. If my numbers come up, look out for the MetaFilter McNamara Express soon.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:47 PM on November 15, 2012


Personally, I've kind of always wanted a blimp more.
posted by wormwood23 at 8:06 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


madajb writes "I'm been in freight yards, and they're not exactly pedestrian friendly if you want to get out for some food or supplies.
I guess you get a taxi?
"

There are little sidings all over the place not just in freight yards. Many of them are located in old urban centers where you can just walk to where ever you want to get to.
posted by Mitheral at 8:42 PM on November 15, 2012


In my little inner fantasy world, there's still a tiny chance that I'll decide to play the lottery, hit a ridiculous amount of money, and (among other things) I'll be able to make a huge donation to the Museum of Science and Industry to get the Pioneer Zephyr out of their hands, make it rail-worthy again, and do a once-a-year trip across the country and back, picking up/dropping off friends and family along the way, along with various musicians and chefs that I'm paying to get on at one station, cook dinner for everyone/put on a show, and then either join us for the round trip back to their originating station or get dropped off at the next station down the line.

apparently I still haven't grown up as much as I've feared.
posted by davejay at 10:20 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, if I could tie several of those little speeders together into a train and made each one a little sleeping car, I wouldn't have to hit quite the same level of lottery winnings, and it would look hilarious. A clown train.
posted by davejay at 10:22 PM on November 15, 2012


I built a short rail line around the house, y'know for the kids, but I had all sorts of zoning problems and permit issues until congress passed some high speed rail legislation and gave me $173 million dollars. So I figured, hell, I'll just do mag-lev like the TGV. Looked for some "how to" videos on Youtube but I couldn't find any. So I just made sure the turns were really well banked. There's a coefficient for the ratio of the speed of the TGV, the energy being used and how high the turn has to be, but I figured I'd just eyeball it and save myself a few million on engineering. Cut government spending, right? So long story short it's wired into the power grid which is subsidized and can't be shut off by private utility without a public order through legislation. Which means we've got a pink and purple princess maglev train running 310 kph around the property line and we can't get out of the house. I still love trains, but ...
posted by Smedleyman at 8:08 AM on November 16, 2012


It's my understanding that there's a plethora of abandoned track, especially out East and in the South.

Not after these bastards* get hold of them.

*Note: sarcasm
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2012


There are little sidings all over the place not just in freight yards. Many of them are located in old urban centers where you can just walk to where ever you want to get to.

Indeed, we have some here, though they tend to still be in the industrial/commercial part and not particularly near downtown. I think most of the old sidings have been paved or built over.

I am oddly tickled by the idea of one of the mile-long freight trains stopping downtown, blocking traffic in both directions just to get me on to my siding so I can get a latte.

Plays into the whole industrial age/robber-baron/private train vibe.
posted by madajb at 8:34 AM on November 16, 2012


I got to ride one of these about thirty years ago. It was like a picnic table on wheels. Guy had it in a storage unit next to some little-used (but still used) tracks. He seemed to know the schedule but I figured, hey, if I have to bail into some blackberry brambles it'll be worth it. Hell of a lot of fun, that was.
posted by wallabear at 2:01 PM on November 16, 2012


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