4

Some 15 years ago, I read an article on "rail biking" and as part of the article it showed pictures of soldiers riding the rails on rail bikes! I believe the photos were from between 1850 and 1950.

This website show what rail biking is all about.

Rail biking

Four people rail biking!

A rail bike ready to go!

A rail bike ready to go!

Can anyone point out a source of information of a particular country employing such bicycles in their armed forces?

  • 5
    Never heard of such a thing employed by a military or on any large scale. Seems impractical. You'd need specialized equipment. Rail lines usually have a service road paralleling them you can just as easily ride on. And, since at war trains are heavily used to move troops, equipment, and supplies around, there's the problem of being hit by a train. I assume rail bikers use inactive lines. Much more practical to just put soldiers on the train. – Schwern Jul 3 '16 at 1:55
  • 1
    @Schwern I doubt it was on a large scale. – Ken Graham Jul 3 '16 at 1:59
  • 2
    What advantage would a rail bike have over a conventional bike for the military? The dis-advantages would seem to be the extra equipment needed (and the added weight), the lack of flexibility (can only go along established rail tracks) and potentially limited speed (a slow mover will hold up everyone behind). As already noted, a conventional train would be far more practical, and re-useable, for moving troops along an existing track. – Steve Bird Jul 3 '16 at 9:02
  • 1
    As the safety bicycle wasn't developed until the early 1880's, it would not have been possible to perform rail biking (on anything mechanically resembling a modern bicycle) until then. Overall, the concept seems much more suited for leisure than work. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 3 '16 at 14:07
11

From the Military History Journal (Volume 4 No 1 - June 1977) there is an article entitled BICYCLES IN THE ANGLO-BOER WAR OF 1899-1902, by D.R. Maree, which seems to fit this question.

The "War Cycle"

The 'War Cycle' carried several men on the coupling-framework in addition to the eight riders, could be fitted with a Maxim gun, and was capable of a speed of over 48 kmh. Photo: Africana Museum

A special 'War Cycle' was built for use on railway lines, and a prototype of this 8-man bicycle can be seen at Fort Klapperkop Museum. It was introduced into South Africa by the Royal Australian Cycle Corps and had a detachable rim which was fitted to the pneumatic tires, enabling it to be used on rails. When the rim was removed the bicycle could be used on normal roads. These cycles were used for reconnaissance, for carrying despatches, checking the railway line for demolition charges, and also for removing the wounded from a skirmish taking place near a railway.

  • 1
    Not quite the same thing as pictured in the question. In what kind of numbers were these things manufactured and deployed? – KillingTime Jul 3 '16 at 18:41
  • 2
    Nice find on an obscure topic. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 3 '16 at 22:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.