Facebook Page
Track Cars

Velocipedes, Track Cars, and More
By Jeff Jargosch 6/2013

The RV's Sheffield Model 1 "backbreaker" with a young John Nees, Carl Nees' son.
Photo taken by William S. Young
Collection of Thomas T. Taber, III

A RV motorized trackcar.
This car was built by Northwestern in 1942 and had a Ford V-8 motor.

Photo taken by William S. Young
Collection of Thomas T. Taber, III

We’ve taken a look at the track workers and the tasks they hand-led in an earlier article (See I’ve Been Working on the Railroad). To aid them in their work, an assortment of vehicles were available. From the tiny velocipede to the motor cars, the Rahway Valley had a varied selection. During the original laying of track the railroad must’ve leased locomotives and flatcars, one of which hung around, in order to move 39-foot lengths of rail and numerous crossties. This flat could have been the elusive “number 101” car that was mentioned in some early rosters. When she finally rotted away, is still a guess.


The Buda Company track velocipede was acquired in 1943, supposedly, as an inspection car, and a cheap way to work from the Union home of George Clark. The run to Kenilworth was mostly down grade. To work this three wheeled car you pumped a rocker with your feet and arms, back and forth. Imagine coasting downhill with this bar swinging back and forth into your chest, and your knees flexing. A single wheel on an out-rigger kept it in balance. Obviously it proved a tougher trip home than Mr. Clark imagined, not mentioning crossing busy Route 22! The track velocipede spent its time in the engine house. Visiting kids were fascinated with it.


Next, and more practical, were the pump handcars. Four men could ride it’s roughly 5’ x 6’ foot platform, two to each end, manning the pump handles. Again, no easy task to run any distance. You could stack your tools behind the handles on the pump frame and your lunch buckets on the deck, but if you had to bring materials along you had to couple on a trailer. The trailers were just a flat platform on four wheels. You could not load it too heavy and still pump the car.


The next logical choice was the motor car. There were four or six cylinder gasoline cars, some built by Fairmont, which could zip up and down the line easily. The Rahway Valley had a rather crude car which appeared to be home built. It was sort of a big box, but still an improvement on hand power. Old records seem to show two of these in the 40’s. Later a fairly modern car was on hand to cover the track workers jobs. These cars could easily handle a trailer.


The RV had at least one more specialized car. It appears to be an air compressor mounted on track wheels. These could power air-tools; drills, wrenches, and tampers. The RV also apparently acquired tie saws in the early 70’s.


Also there was a truck as early as the 1940’s that was being considered for rail use – mounting railroad wheels. A “teal” pick up was later in use for running errands . . . like “borrowing” air hoses and brake-shoes from the CNJ yard supply. Must have been a fast pick up!


In the engine shed we find the velocipede, handcar, and air compressor, sitting alongside #16. 1985. Photo by John Holmes.

The RV's Fairmont speeder. Earlier on the speeder wore a teal color, before being repainted red and white. Photo by Richard Dunbar. Collection of Frank Reilly.


As #13 emerges from the engine shed and gets her day started on this hot summer day, July 26, 1933, a small four wheel track car sits idle in the yard. Collection of Jeff Jargosch.

#15, stored inside the new three-bay engine shed, looms over a few pieces of track equipment. The 1942-Northwestern motorcar can be seen in the background while one of the trailers sits in the foreground. Used with permission of Gene Collora.

Head Back to the Station!