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What was the railroad velocipede?

Read about the vehicle of yesteryear known as the railroad velocipede.

The railroad velocipede resembles a bicycle with a third extended wheel. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The railroad velocipede resembles a bicycle with a third extended wheel.

In the nineteenth century, railroad track maintenance workers used a three-wheeled handcar to speed their way along the track. The handcar was used for interstation express and package deliveries and for delivery of urgent messages between stations that could not wait until the next train.

Also called an "Irish Mail," this 150-pound (68 kilogram) three-wheeler resembled a bicycle with a sidecar. The operator sat in the middle of the two-wheel section and pushed a crank back and forth, which propelled the triangle-shaped vehicle down the tracks. This manually-powered handcar was replaced after World War I by a gasoline-powered track vehicle. This, in turn, was replaced by a conventional pickup truck fitted with an auxiliary set of flanged wheels.

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