A couple weeks ago, the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay (OIPCB) and Coos Bay Rail Link (CBR) hosted the National American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) group on the Coos Bay rail line. NARCOA is a national non-profit organization that is “dedicated to the preservation and safe, legal operation of railroad equipment historically used for maintenance of way.” There are about 1800 members worldwide with 800-900 of these members owning their own motorcar. NARCOA members take trips to railroads all around the nation and even internationally to places like Canada and Mexico to enjoy travel by rail on their motorcars.
In the past, motorcars allowed rail track inspectors and work crews to move quickly along the railroad to perform various maintenance tasks. They obtained the nickname speeders because they were the fastest way to move along the tracks but were replaced by trucks in the 1980s. Now, rail operators such as CBR use a hi-rail which is a truck that is fitted to run on the rail to perform various maintenance tasks. The decommissioned speeders are very popular among hobbyists who buy these old motorcars, renovate them and then through organizations like NARCOA, take trips in them along various railroads.
Bill Andrews is the regional director for the Pacific Northwest Region and coordinates trips in states like Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Recently this year, NARCOA did a 250-mile run in Idaho and a 500-mile run in Montana. The Coos Bay rail line run is about 240 miles which they complete in three days. The first day goes from Vaughn to Coos Bay. The second day is a more restful day consisting of a round trip from Coos Bay to Coquille. Then they head back to Vaughn from Coos Bay the last day. Bill says the Coos Bay rail line is very enjoyable as they pass by many lakes, sand dunes, and forest land. On the most recent run, there were about 36 motorcars and twice as many participants in this trip. All motorcars are individually owned and each operator is licensed and insured through NARCOA. Many owners will choose to customize their motorcar which is why if you see them running on the rail line, they will come in all different shapes, sizes and colors.
For every trip that NARCOA does, its members try to help the local community as well. For example, a few extra people signed up than anticipated which allowed them to donate some funds to the Coos History Museum. Also, by staying at the local hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores NARCOA members also help contribute to the local economy during their stay.
Bill says that everyone in the group comes from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. In talking to a few of them while riding with them, there were people from Alaska, Idaho, California and Washington. One member got into NARCOA because his uncle used to own and operate a speeder. Another said that he just happened to see the speeders one day, reached out to NARCOA, and is now an active member. Whether it is for the scenery, travel experience, or spending time on a railroad, there’s no doubt that traveling by speeder is quite a unique way to see the world.
If you would like to find out more on how to get involved, go to www.narcoa.org. The website has information on how to become a member, lists motorcars for sale, and much more. If you would like to see these one of these motorcars yourself, make sure to follow OIPCB on Facebook and Twitter (@portofcoosbay) as we will be posting when and where the NARCOA group will be stopping in Coquille or Coos Bay to show their motorcars on their future trips along the Coos Bay rail line.