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Monday, 04 March 2019 19:53

Skunk Train Introduces New Railbikes

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Skunk Train Introduces New Railbikes Railbike photos by Brendan McGuigan

TASTE News Service, March 5, 2019 -- Since 1885 California's renowned Skunk Train has been transporting passengers along the world-famous Redwood Route.

The views on this scenic stretch of track are nearly the same as they would have been more than a century ago – the result of visionary forest stewardship and a dedication to the natural wonder of the redwoods. Some of the trees along the route are more than 1,000 years old and reach more than 300 feet tall. They have awed passengers both young and old riding on the back of the Skunk for generations and remain as delightful today as they were for those first riders. And this month the Skunk Train has introduced a new and interactive way to traverse the world-famous Redwood Route – railbikes!

Skunk Train rail car close up Picmonkey

A New Way to Travel the Rails

Now there's a new way to experience the Redwood Route – on the back of a custom-built railbike. These two-person railbikes sit securely on the track, allowing passengers to make their journey in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere unlike anything else found on a railway.

Travelers depart as part of a small group, with a trained guide overseeing everything and leading the way along the track. Since the track is owned and operated exclusively by the Skunk Train, they are able to guarantee no trains or other traffic along the route. The guide is there to help out should anything come up, but these bikes are incredibly easy to ride – perfect for all ages and skill levels.

They even come with an electric assist – ideal for taking a relaxing breather while still moving along the track, or for a little bit of extra oomph while you make your way up the gentle grade on the return trip. The seven-mile trip isn't too tiring, so the electric motor probably won't be necessary for most people – but it can certainly provide a nice break along the way.

The Pudding Creek EstuarySkunk Train rail car scenic 1 Picmonkey

The Skunk Train rail line follows the Pudding Creek Estuary for many miles from the mouth of the river in Fort Bragg inland through the redwoods. The trip is beautifully scenic, with a large verdant waterway that still features old wooden pilings from long-forgotten trestle bridges. A bounty of wildlife calls the estuary home as well, and these railbikes are quiet enough that it's likely you'll see a great collection of animals, including blue herons, osprey, egrets, deer, river otters, and more.

Glen Blair Junction

The current end of the line is Glen Blair Junction, 3.5 miles along the Redwood Route. This historic site has been transformed into a wonderful stop, with a gentle meadow, picnic tables, and miles of easy-to-hike trails into the redwoods. It's here that the railbikes are lifted off the tracks and turned around for the return journey.

Fun for the Family

This really is a great excursion for families. The two-person bikes mean it's easy for an adult to travel with a younger child, and the electric assist means even young kids will be able to make their way up the gentle slope of the line. Larger families can rent multiple railbikes and travel as a group, remaining near each other while still being able to move at their own pace.

Although the train remains the traditional and popular way to experience the beauty of the redwoods, this new trip offers a truly unique way to see the beauty of Mendocino County.  

Skunk Train PicmonkeyAbout the Skunk Train

Located in the redwood forests of Northern California's Mendocino County, the Skunk Train is a heritage railroad that has been operating since 1885. Trains depart from the railroad's headquarters in the coastal town of Fort Bragg, as well as from the frontier town of Willits. This scenic railroad experience has been regarded as one of the "10 Best Rail Tours in the Country" (USA Today 2015), and one of the "Top 10 Family Activities in California" (National Geographic Traveler).

Riders of Mendocino's celebrated Skunk Train journey into Redwood forests on vintage steam locomotives while enjoying 40 miles of scenic delights, 30 bridges crossing mountain streams, and an 840-foot tunnel. Initially used to move redwood logs to the Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country, the Skunk Train has become one of the most beloved attractions in Northern California. The railroad was built in 1885, and 133 years later, it has retained all of its original charm – minus the pungent smell the engines used to emit, when people used to say you could "smell the Skunk before you could see it." Operating year-round, the Skunk Train is a multi-generational experience, and riders can even bring along the family dog.

The nickname Skunk originated in 1925 when motorcars were introduced (which today are sometimes referred to as rail buses). These single unit self-propelled motorcars had gasoline powered engines for power and pot-bellied stoves (burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm). The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks, "You could smell them before you could see them."

The view from the Skunk Train's restored rail cars remains largely unchanged since the late 1800s. Regardless of the departure point, riders experience a journey back in time, while the California Redwoods provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for this rolling piece of American history.

For more information visit www.SkunkTrain.com

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