Vicinal railroad, any equivalent in North-America ?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Biased turkey, May 21, 2006.

  1. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Right after WW2, ( I was born in 1948 ) , some small cities could not afford a "real railroad" , so the Belgian gouvernment invented the "Vicinal railway " like a Narrow gauge riding along the road
    Was there such a thing in North America ?
    View attachment 27019
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not sure, but I think the closest thing to that would be the "Galloping Geese" on the Colorado Southern. In the late 20s and early 30's the Colorado Southern was almost bankrupt. They saved money by dropping passenger trains, and replacing them with self powered rail cars built from Packards, Buicks, and maybe some others. Some were just cabs like pick ups with truck type van boxes behind for freight. Others had front and rear seats with the box behind the seats so that they could haul passengers and freight. Sometimes rail diesel cars, or rdc's would be operated in pairs, but I've never heard of any trains in the U.S. like your picture.
  3. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Probably the term 'vicinal railway' was coined from laying the track in the immediate vicinity of an existing (automobile) road. The advantage would be that the RR builders could use the already graded roadway, perhaps only widening it a little bit, and then adding RR tracks. (Makes sense after a war when money is scarce, like it must have been in Belgium.)

    I can't speak for America, but in Europa such vicinal railways, mostly narrow gauge (meter gauge) were and still are quite common - even when there was no war beforehand.

    BTW - this is great for pacing a train, particularly when they run a steam locomotive! :thumb:

  4. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    As a more modern example of a standard gauge vicinal RR here in Switzerland, there is the so-called 'Seetalbahn' (Lake Valley Ry.). This line is notorious for lots of train/automobile accidents, because many access roads to private homes without any protection to speak of are crossing the tracks. Now a big reconstruction program is underway, eliminating most all of these death-traps.

    The pics show three generations of passenger trains along the road-rail-right-of-way: The so-called Seetal-crocodile engine, then a more modern passenger train (here you see two of these dangerous RR corssings) and finally the most modern railcar for commuter service along the open line between two villages.


    Attached Files:

  5. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Thanks Russ and RailRon for taking some of your time to reply my post.
    It looks like here in North America the idea of mixing road and railroad didn't have any reason to exist.
    By the way RailRon, thanks for the pictures.
    I remember 50 years ago in the Marklin catalog the "crocodile" was so impressive ( and expensive ) it was any European kids dream
    Modeling a Vicinal railway should be a real challenge because everything should be scratchbuilt.
  6. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    I believe the narrow gauge logging railroad's here in the US did do something simular. They hauled their workers and families to the logging camps. Unlike Europe, the United States wasn't devastated like Europe was after WWII. All cities where connected by rail. The smaller areas had their branch lines. Maybe someone who knows more about American Logging-Railroad History can fill in the gaps.

  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I think the closest equivalent we had would be some of the interurban lines -- intercity small electric lines, but bigger than a streetcar. Not many narrow gauge, though.
    One major difference in North America is that the railroads often went in first -- before the roads. Then the government built the roads and put the railroads out of business.
  8. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Many cities in the United States have electric urban light rail transit that runs along/on streets... Off the top of my head, San Diego CA, Buffalo NY, Hoboken/Newark NJ to name a few. San Francisco CA has its unique cable-driven street trolleys. And of course mass transit systems with dedicated rights of way are pretty common too (NYC Subway system, Boston and Chicago EL's, Washington DC Metro, San Francisco BART, etc.)
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    San Francisco also has conventional street cars on tracks and electric busses that ride on standard bus tires and steer like busses, but are powered off of overhead wires. The difference between these systems and the Vicinal railroad is these are generally a single unit or in some cases a powered unit and trailer.
  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

  11. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    MasonJar, the link you posted about NY streets is very interesting.
    As an European born, I couldn't imagine that trains were running right in the middle of NYC.

    Vicinal railways were generally linking 2 cities with "real railways"

    If some other people are interested in Belgium vicinal railway, here is an interesting link:
    It was the vicinal around my hometown Esneux in the Ourthe valley ( Belgium ) where stone extracting ( quarry ? ) was the main business.
    I used to do a lot of hiking and backpaking in the area around 1970 , and still remember seeing the abandoned tracks along the road but nobody was able to tell me the exact story about it.

    Now 30 years laters, with the magic of the internet, I can understand the whole story
  12. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    It isn't anymore? :-O

    Well, truth be told, it's impressive but I'd rather have something else on my RR. Firstly because having an electric loc would tempt me to set up a catenary system, and second because the Croc is notoriously demanding in terms to turn radii
  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    The whole forgotten-ny site is very cool - lots of interesting stuff that makes NY more attractive in my opinion. It's not all about "the Donald"! ;)

    I think that in North America the attitude has been that we have so much space that road rights-of-way and railway rights-of-way are separated as much as possible between cities. Same goes for power lines, gas pipelines (underground) and so on. They are only ever in the same place where they have to be.

  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I suppose I'm not really clear on what a "vicinal railway" is--it looks like the rails run alongside the tracks, not directly in them. Plenty of short-line industrial railroads ran in the streets in American cities, serving local industries. Some were owned by larger railroads, others were independent operators serving the local community. In San Francisco, there was an industrial belt line running through Fisherman's Wharf that was taken out about 20-25 years ago. (Incidentally, cable cars were not unique to San Francisco: they, along with rail-borne horsecars and steam dummies, were common in many cities until the introduction of overhead trolleys in the 1880s.)

    In many places, railroads run alongside roads, but frequently the railroads were there first.

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