TILLAMOOK — It’s not quite a bike, and it’s not quite a railroad car.
The only thing certain about the wheeled contraptions that arrived on the Oregon Coast last month is that they are a lot of fun.
Oregon Coast Railriders, which set up shop on May 26, has brought a fleet of pedal-powered vehicles to a stretch of defunct railroad track between Bay City and Tillamook.
The wheeled railriders roll smoothly down the track on a two-hour tour that features views of Tillamook Bay, coastal forest, estuaries, dairies and a series of cool bridges that cross the Kilchis and Wilson rivers.
“We’ve been taught since the day we were born that we should never play on the railroad track — but now you can,” owner Kim Metlin said. “You’re out there cycling with no worries, no cars, no traffic. You’re just out there enjoying the scenery as it should be seen.”
The vehicles seat four people and cost $20 per person (12 years and older) or $10 (11 years and younger when accompanied by an adult). The railriders all depart together in a pod, starting at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. each day from Thursday through Sunday. Reservations are recommended by calling 541-519-3891 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s an idea geared to families. The railriders are so easy to power that, even with four people sitting in one vehicle, it only takes one or two people pedaling to move at a pretty good speed. Everyone else can lay back and enjoy the view.
“We can take everybody from a babe in arms to an old codger,” Metlin said. “It’s that easy, and a wonderful family outing.”
The idea originated in northeastern Oregon with Kim and his wife, Anita, who live in Joseph.
“A few years ago, while admiring the scenery along the miles and miles of unused track through the beautiful Wallowa Valley, we hatched an idea,” the couple wrote on their website. “Wouldn’t it be great to ride a bike along the railroad?”
After getting help with the design from a rail riding company in the eastern United States, the couple launched their idea as the Joseph Branch Railriders in 2014.
Grant's Getaways: Joseph Branch Railriders
The idea was so successful — an episode of "Oregon Field Guide" featured it — that tourism officials in Tillamook County campaigned to open a location in Western Oregon.
“They said, ‘Please come out and help us get some people off Highway 101 and onto the rails in Tillamook County,’” Metlin said.
A TRAIL RUN ON THE RAILS
Last week, I brought my family to the coast for the railriding experience. In one car were my parents, both in their late '60s. In another car was me, my uncle Matt and my brother Sam, who has cerebral palsy. None of us had any issues powering the railriders — we rolled down the track with ease.
The views also were nice, mixing in forestland, rivers and estuary. My favorite parts were the funky old bridges you pedal below while crossing the rivers. The trip is pretty simple — ride 6 miles in one direction, turn the railriders around and head back the way you came.
The downside of the experience is that you’re a bit close to the highway and there aren’t a ton of actual ocean views. It’s a bit like traveling through a green tunnel, with occasional views of cows and horses on local farms.
“If you like to bike, it’s a pretty great experience,” said my uncle, Matt Achor, about the ride. “I wasn’t wild about the traffic noise, but you only hear it, you don’t really see it.
“Overall, it was very easy, relaxing and really nice not having to worry about traffic. I’d give it a 9 out of 10.”
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Zach Urness or @ZachsORoutdoors on Twitter.
What: Pedal a “railrider” from Bay City to Tillamook
Departures: 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays
Cost: $20 per person (12 years and older); $10 (11 years and younger when accompanied by an adult)
Time required: 2 hours, 11 miles round trip
Reservations: Purchase tickets at Hayes Oyster Drive in Bay City, Oregon.
Contact for reservations: 541-519-3891, 541-910-0981 or email@example.com.