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Tourism on the right track: Clay County welcomes railbike attraction

By Rick Steelhammer, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CLAY, W.Va. — A new railbike attraction that could put Clay County on track to developing a thriving tourism industry has begun operating on a stretch of rail line formerly operated by the Buffalo Creek & Gauley Railroad.

Rail Explorers, the nation’s largest railbike operator, is now offering 12-mile roundtrip railbike excursions on the historic rail line that began hauling coal and timber from the Buffalo Creek Valley between Dundon, on the outskirts of Clay, and Widen, 20 miles to the east, 120 years ago. The railroad was the last commercial line in the nation to operate exclusively with steam locomotives. It is now a branch of the Elk River Trail.

“We are so proud to reactivate this historic rail line that has been a lifeline in this community for more than a century,” Mary Joy Lu, co-founder and CEO of Rail Explorers, said during a dedication ceremony on Friday.

Instead of steam engines and gondola cars, the Rail Explorers fleet of rolling stock consists of custom-built, pedal-powered, electric motor-assisted railbikes with hydraulic disc brakes. Ten of the 20 railbikes now operating at Clay are quad bikes, holding up to four riders, and the other 10 are two-person tandems.

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