Explore Aquidneck Island by Rail

These pedal-powered rail sleds offer stunning, unadulterated views.

Photograph provided by Alex Catchpoole.

To hear and feel the clackety clack of steel wheels on a railroad track is one thing. To be the literal driving force behind it is quite another.

At Rail Explorers in Portsmouth, part of the Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad, you pump bicycle pedals that turn the wheels to propel a heavy steel custom-made rail sled along a six-mile stretch of track. Rail Explorers was founded in upstate New York by husband and wife team Alex Catchpoole and Mary Jo Lu, who opened in Rhode Island this summer.

“It’s an hour side of scenery that we guarantee you’ve never seen from this vantage point,” Catchpoole says as we glide by Narragansett Bay, sitting inches above the ground, clanging through the woods under our own power.

The cars are kept a few hundred feet apart to give you room to slow down and look. The northern route meanders by islands Hog, Bristol, Prudence and Patience, and traverses private waterfront estates, the Newport Preservation Society Topiary Gardens, the Audubon Society Nature Preserve, and goes under the Mount Hope Bridge. The one-way trip ends near the Sakonnet River and a bus brings you back to the starting point, Portsmouth Grove Station. A separate southern route runs July and August. Reaction to this unusual transportation thus far has been great, Lu says.

“Even the grumpiest husband dragged along by his wife ends up smiling,” she says. “We’re selling a unique experience here, and people are loving it.” railexplorers.net